Home > The Compelled (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #6)(13)

The Compelled (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #6)(13)
Author: L.J. Smith

The thought fil ed me with hope as I took my place, crouched at the top of the stairs. Mary Jane stood on the landing below, her eyes closed. She rocked back and forth on her heels and seemed as though she were concentrating deeply.

I closed my eyes briefly as wel and tried to muster my Power, hoping I could send it to Mary Jane for strength.

Al of a sudden, we heard the whinnying of horses, fol owed by the ominous thud of one boot, then another, hitting the pavement.

Samuel was here.

Three knocks sounded at the door, fol owed by Damon’s voice, muffled through the wood.

“Mary Jane!” Damon cal ed. “Stefan’s waiting for you outside.”

That had been the agreed-upon code that would cause Mary Jane to open the door. I held my breath as I heard the floorboards creak and the door slowly swing open.

Moonlight flooded the landing as Samuel rushed through the door, his eyes gleaming in excitement. Seaver was at his side. At the sight of them Mary Jane gasped, a theatrical effort that impressed me. I leaned forward, my theatrical effort that impressed me. I leaned forward, my heart surging in my chest. This was going to work.

“Mary Jane. Final y, we meet again.” Samuel leered as he pul ed a glittering silver knife from inside his jacket. I clutched the stake in my hand. I wouldn’t jump unless Damon faltered.

As if on cue, Damon pul ed a stake from inside his vest.

“So stupid, Samuel,” Damon whispered, a smile crossing his face. But Samuel was faster than Damon had anticipated, and before Damon could stake Samuel, they were caught in a struggle. My breath caught in my throat. I knew what I was supposed to do now: kil Seaver. But with Damon in trouble, my rationale quickly fel by the wayside. I couldn’t let Damon die at Samuel’s hand.

“You thought you could get the best of me?” Samuel asked, elbowing Damon away. Damon lost his footing and fel to his knees, and I used the opportunity to lurch toward Samuel, grabbing his neck in a choke hold. The knife clattered to the floor, and I hastily pul ed out the stake that I had stashed in my boot.

My arm around his throat, Samuel gasped. I pressed tighter, al owing the point of the stake to graze Samuel’s chest.

Just then, Seaver rushed through the door and tackled Mary Jane. She tumbled to the ground, screaming, as he held her nose with one hand and pul ed a vial from his cloak with the other. Mary Jane gasped for breath, and at that moment, Seaver forced the liquid down her throat, chanting loudly the whole time.

“Help!” Mary Jane shrieked.

“Help!” Mary Jane shrieked.

“Stefan!” I barely heard Lavinia’s throaty voice as she clattered through the doorway. It was clear the witches thought the plan was already going awry. But I couldn’t focus. Instead, I pressed against the base of the stake. But I didn’t have a good angle, and it kept sliding sideways instead of down. I was surprised at how little Samuel was fighting. Did he recognize the futility of the fight? Was he surrendering? Focus. I repositioned the stake, ready to drive it into Samuel’s chest.

“Asporto!” Seaver’s deep voice yel ed, and instantly, I was pushed against the wal as if by an unseen hand. My temple cracked against the wooden wal and blood spurted from my forehead, obstructing my vision. When I went to wipe it away, I found myself unable to lift my arm.

“Help!” I cal ed in a ragged voice, hoping the other witches waiting in the al ey would hear. A few feet away, I saw Samuel had gotten hold of Damon. I closed my eyes, trying to draw my Power up from my center and push it toward him as Damon wrestled loose from Samuel’s grasp.

He lunged, but Samuel dodged, and in the process grabbed Mary Jane from where she stood behind Lavinia.

Stil , I was frozen to the spot, unable to do anything to save Mary Jane.

“Concisio!” a female voice yel ed. Then I heard a sound like a gunshot, fol owed by a bril iant white light. It lit up the smal room like a firework before once again plunging it into darkness. I turned around. It was Jemima.

“You’re free. Kil the witch!” she shrieked. I lunged forward, suddenly unshackled. I plunged the stake I held into Seaver’s back, twisting it until his body fel to the ground. The stake may not have been meant to kil a witch, but it certainly did the trick. At impact, I saw another flash of lightning.

Then I heard Jemima’s scream, over and over again.

Damon was standing dead stil , his eyes locked on Samuel.

“That’s right, Damon. Stay where you are like a good boy,” Samuel said smoothly. Blood was dripping from his lips, and his entire body seemed to glow. He tapped his long, tapered fingers together as he surveyed the room. My eyes tracked his gaze and I saw Mary Jane lying crumpled on the ground. My knees buckled under me. There was a crater in the center of her chest. Her amber eyes were open, her face an unmoving mask of horror. Rivulets of golden liquid were streaming from the hole where her heart should have been. Samuel had done the unimaginable.

He’d eaten Mary Jane’s heart.

“No!” Lady Alice shrieked, throwing herself on top of Mary Jane’s body. I stood, frozen in place, as Damon grabbed the stake from Lavinia’s hand and lunged toward Samuel.

“Run!” I pul ed Lady Alice from Mary Jane’s body. Her robe was smeared with gold-tinged blood as though her heart, too, had been torn out.

“You can’t run. Stay stil . You too, Stefan,” Samuel said smoothly. Damon stopped midstep, confusion on his face.

Samuel had compel ed us both. I wil ed my feet to move, but nothing happened. I was stuck. I felt my stomach and heart clench. The orphans rushed in, too late to the scene, and looked on in horror, although I couldn’t tel if they were paralyzed by fright or magic.

Samuel laughed. His lips pul ed back from his teeth, revealing fangs that glowed gold. “You see, I got what I came for. And you did, too, even if you’re too stupid to realize it. I won’t kil you. In trying to betray me, you stil fulfil ed your end of the bargain. Of course, your good-for-nothing brother kil ed Seaver, but that’s neither here nor there. He was no longer useful to me, so it’s just as wel .

You’re free to leave. And I’m feeling magnanimous, so I’l let your brother loose, too. I feel you may have new enemies to keep you busy now,” he said with a demonic laugh.

In the moments since he’d eaten the heart, Samuel had changed. He was tal er and stronger, and seemed to be glowing from within. I tried to avoid staring in his eyes, doing anything to resist potential compulsion. Damon blinked, for once at a loss for words.

Samuel kicked Mary Jane’s prostrate body and snorted derisively. “What’s one less witch? You al should feel jealous that she died and got to escape this slum. If I were a nice man, I’d give you the same opportunity.” At this, Jemima and the other orphans fled the scene, terrified. I didn’t blame them. “But I have much to do, and none of it includes spending a second longer here than I have to,” Samuel concluded. He roughly picked up Seaver’s stil -

bleeding body and hauled it over his shoulder, walking out and making sure to close the door gently behind him. I heard the whinny of a horse, fol owed by hoof-beats.

Damon and I locked eyes, and as if by mutual agreement I grabbed the stil -keening Lady Alice, and Damon grabbed Lavinia. Together, we made our way to the river. With every footstep, I imagined the agony Mary Jane must have felt in the instant her chest had been ripped open and her heart pul ed from her body. I wanted to dive into the inky blackness of the Thames and swim as far as I could, to where the river met the Atlantic and I could swim onward to America.

Final y, when we had put enough distance between us and the house, we stopped. For the moment at least, we were safe. Unlike Mary Jane…

I careful y placed Lady Alice on her feet.

“I’m sorry,” I said, knowing the words meant nothing.

Anger flashed in her eyes.

“You did this,” she spat.

“I tried my best. I kil ed Seaver. What else could I have done?” I said. My voice was angry, not soothing.

“You could have kil ed Seaver before he removed the spel on Mary Jane. That was your job. But no, you had to go after the glory and try to kil Samuel. That wasn’t your place, vampire,” Lavinia said, her voice dripping with hate.

“Calm down. You need to be rational,” Damon said, placing a hand on Lady Alice’s shoulder.

“Stop!” she screeched. “Don’t touch me. None of you touch me. You broke your word. Stefan was supposed to fol ow our plan. He was supposed to kil Seaver. He did it too late and ruined everything. And in doing so, he broke the spel . No more vinculum. We have nothing to do with each other now, vampire.”

Lavinia nodded, her eyes hol ow. “Stefan gave his word Mary Jane would be protected. She wasn’t. How could you have been so foolish? Only thinking of yourself, and of your brother, when an innocent girl had to pay the price,” she said in disgust. “Vampires can’t be trusted.”

“I’m sorry!” I said again, helplessly. “But we can’t just lash out at each other. Don’t you see? We have to work together. None of us are safe. Seaver may be dead, but Samuel’s stil out there, and now that he can compel vampires…”

“Then maybe you’l final y learn how to fol ow directions.

We’re done, vampire,” Lady Alice said, her voice cold as ice. Lavinia nodded, glaring at me in silent judgment.

“We’ve just begun,” I shouted, desperate to get them to realize how vital it was that we work together. “Don’t you see? He can compel anyone now. And that’s why we need you more than ever. We need to come up with another spel . Anything to hold him back. And then Damon and I wil …”

“Wil do what? Nothing. You’l do nothing. I want you both to suffer the way Mary Jane did,” Lady Alice yel ed.

“Deletum vampiro!” Lavinia intoned, flinging her arms in our direction. As she said the words, the ground beneath us cracked and green weeds began sprouting through the new openings. They quickly grew thicker and tal er. Tiny purple flowers sprung from the green stems, and a sickly sweet smel fil ed the air. They were vervain plants, larger then I’d ever seen, and they were circling Damon and I, creating a cage. Terror flooded my veins as the scent stung my eyes and made me feel weak. I wanted to col apse, to al ow the vervain to overpower me. That was what the witches wanted. It would be so easy to succumb, to final y al ow the death I’d escaped for so long to overtake me. Maybe I deserved it.

But not as much as Samuel. The thought tugged against my brain and made me force myself to my knees. Then, I fel back. I was too weak.

“Let’s go!” I felt a tug on my arm. Damon.

“I can’t!” I protested. The vervain had rendered me nearly unconscious. I felt as though my skin was separating from my body. The only thing I could focus on was the pain penetrating the very core of my being. It was as if I were being burned alive, and I could hear my breathing, wet and ragged, below the sound of Lavinia’s demonic laughter.

“Get up!” Damon commanded as he dragged me to my feet and pul ed me past the vervain plants. The pain intensified to a place beyond agony. I felt my body being hoisted on top of Damon’s shoulders as he broke into a run.

My eyelids fluttered closed. My mind wandered back to Mystic Fal s on a moonless night.

I was frantically riding Mezzanotte through the forest, an unconscious and transitioning Damon splayed over the saddle. Jonathan Gilbert and the other townspeople were in pursuit close behind us. Mezzanotte galloped, jumping over felled trees and sidestepping branches. But she was wounded by their bullets, and foam spewed from her mouth. The townspeople’s anger spurred their adrenaline, and they were gaining on us. I drove my heel into Mezzanotte’s flank as another fallen tree blocked our path.

She gracefully leapt over the trunk, but then collapsed.

“No!” I protested. I didn’t want Mezzanotte to die. I shifted and fell to the ground with a thud, alongside my dead horse…

I opened my eyes and found myself staring up at the inky black London sky. I looked down and saw raised vervain welts on my hands and arms.

“Final y. You’re up,” Damon said disgustedly, but I could see the relief in his face.

I blinked. We were on the lawn of a wel -kept house in a quiet square. The house was red brick and three stories tal , set back from the road and ringed by a black iron fence. Several large oak trees fil ed the smal front yard, giving the house even more privacy.

“Where are we?” The large trees brought to mind the graceful townhouses on the outskirts of New Orleans, while the three-story townhouse reminded me of some of the ones in New York. How long had we been running? I wondered if maybe we weren’t in London at al , and that somehow, everything had been a horrible dream.

“Bedford Square,” Damon said dismissively. “It’s rather smal . The Earl of Erne lived there, until the latest scandal stripped him of his title and home. He won’t be back for a while.”

I nodded. I knew Damon wanted me to be impressed by his acquisition, but I couldn’t stop thinking about Samuel and Mary Jane.

“It’s over,” I said slowly, the events coming back to me in hideous clarity. Mary Jane’s heart. Samuel’s triumph.

Lavinia’s spel and Lady Alice’s sorrow. “Either the witches wil kil us, or Samuel wil .”

“No. Samuel won a battle. He didn’t win the war. And this is war, brother.”

“So what are we going to do?” I asked.

“Whatever it takes,” Damon said. Angry red burn marks from the vervain crisscrossed his hands and face. I looked at my own skin. Compared to my mental anguish, these wounds were the equivalent of mosquito bites.

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