Home > The Compelled (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #6)(17)

The Compelled (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #6)(17)
Author: L.J. Smith

“Two eggs, then? They’re in the icebox behind you,” Cora dictated.

I passed the eggs to her and she expertly cracked them in the bowl before taking the vervain out of the vial. She bit her lip and squinted at the bright purple blossoms. “Should I pretend they’re berries? I’m not sure how many to put in.”

“Wel , I guess as much as possible. Remember, humans can’t taste vervain, so it doesn’t matter,” I said.

“We can’t take any chances or make any assumptions,” Cora said. “Every part of a plan has a purpose. For al we know, he could simply kil the guards when he can’t compel them. In which case, we need to make sure we bring stakes to attack. It won’t be ideal, but it’l have to do.” She had a point. Everything was important. I began to have the faintest glimmer of hope that this plan, as crazy as it was, might just work. “How else can I help?” I asked.

“Just watch,” Cora said. “I like having company in the kitchen. Violet and I always used to cook together.”

“I’m sorry,” I said automatical y as soon as she mentioned Violet’s name.

Cora turned to me, holding her spoon as if it were a weapon. Despite myself, I laughed at her serious demeanor.

“Stop it! You could say ‘I’m sorry’ for eternity. But you didn’t do any of this. Samuel did. And he’l be stopped.” As if to prove her point, she put the spoon down, picked up a knife, and cleanly sliced through a stick of butter.

Just then, the door burst open and Damon walked in. He was stil in his tuxedo, but his bow tie was hanging loosely around his neck.

“Hel o!” he said, walking into the kitchen and surveying the scene. “What is this? Have we abandoned revenge to open up a bakery? How quaint!” Damon’s sarcasm didn’t go unnoticed. He peered into Cora’s bowl.

“None for you,” Cora swatted his hand away. “Stefan and I have a plan.”

“Al right, you’ve piqued my curiosity,” Damon said, sitting expectantly at the table as Cora scooped spoonfuls of the mixture onto a large baking sheet.

“Samuel’s next target is the prime minister’s house, and presumably, the prime minister himself. We’re going to bring these vervain-laced cookies to the guards at Downing Street, to protect them from compulsion, and ask them to deliver more cookies to everyone inside. After that, we’l wait for Samuel and then make our move.”

“I’l go with you,” Damon said, surprising me with his wil ingness. “In case things start to go sour, I’l be there to compel whomever necessary.”

“Al right, then. That’s why I’m glad you’re here,” Cora said sweetly as she pushed the baking sheet into the oven.

Soon, the air was fil ed with the sweet scent of cookies. The plan could have been bril iant, or it could have been desperate. None of us had any idea how it would play out.

But no matter what, we were al in it together.

The next afternoon, we fol owed Cora toward the prime minister’s house. She was carrying a basket of cookies.

Above us, the sun was sinking low in the sky, but the air was warmer than it had been lately. I hoped the fine weather was a good omen. I needed something to believe in.

As we approached 10 Downing Street, I saw two fur-hatted guards standing at attention next to a simple gate. I glanced up, expecting to see a castlelike structure. But the prime minister’s home was a modest brick building even smal er than the Bedford Square house we’d taken residence in.

We paused behind a tree on the opposite side of the street.

“Are we clear on the plan?” I asked.

Cora nodded, and I noticed her fingers holding the basket handle were trembling. At least Damon would be going with her.

“Al right. Good luck,” I said. My heart was pounding, even though we weren’t doing anything near as dangerous as we had in Mil er’s Court.

“Hel o there!” Cora cal ed across the lawn, swinging her basket as though she were Little Red Riding Hood from the fairy tale. Only our tale was far more horrific. I shook my head. Focus, Stefan.

The guards stood at attention. “Yes, miss?” His gaze cut toward Damon suspiciously.

“I brought you cookies, something to say thank you for your service,” Cora said sweetly, trying to distract their attention from Damon.

“That’s very nice of you, miss,” said one of the guards.

“But I’m afraid we can’t accept gifts. I’m sure you understand.”

Damon smoothly stepped in front of Cora, ready to compel. “My sister baked cookies for Mr. Cecil and his staff. She would be most obliged if you would take them, eat what you’d like, and then distribute the rest.”

“Al right,” the guard said slowly, reaching toward the basket. “If you insist.”

“Wait!” a tal guard cal ed from across the lawn, marching toward the front door. “Can’t just take anything that’s given. It’s orders to refuse it al . Can’t be too careful.” Damon swiveled toward this guard, locking eyes. “Take one,” Damon snapped. He was losing his patience. I hoped he would keep it together long enough to get Cora out of there safely.

“Of course. As you were!” The guard saluted his col eagues and turned to take the basket.

“Thank you!” Cora curtsied as the basket was lifted from her hands. The guard took a large bite, a vacant expression on his face as he stared into the distance and chewed.

“Give my regards to the prime minister!” Cora cal ed over her shoulder. The guard nodded as crumbs rained down into his bushy black beard.

Damon and Cora nodded to each other, partners in crime, as they turned to meet me back behind the tree. We weren’t especial y hidden, but the street was crowded, and the guards seemed busier posing for delighted tourists’

entertainment than protecting the door.

“It worked,” Cora breathed.

“Not yet.” Damon set his jaw. “That’s our insurance policy. But we need a main event so we can cash in. We need Samuel to come so we can end this once and for al .” I slid to the base of the tree and continued to watch the house from a hole in the bushes.

We didn’t have to wait long. As soon as the sun had set and every streaky orange ray had disappeared from the sky, an elegant carriage rode up to the entrance, pul ed by two pitch-black horses. Samuel’s coach.

The driver jumped down and set a stool alongside the edge of the passenger car. In a moment, two women stepped out, fol owed by Lord Ainsley and Samuel. The two women were wel dressed, but I didn’t recognize them from the party the night before. I wondered whether they were down-on-their-luck girls from the East End or noblewomen, and then realized it didn’t matter. They were vampires, and vampires crossed al class lines.

“Are you a good girl, Mol y?” Samuel asked, caressing the neck of one of the girls.

“I am your good girl,” Mol y responded in a singsong voice. She hungrily licked her lips, a clear sign she was ready to feed on anything or anyone.

“And what about you, Josephine?” he asked the other girl lecherously. He was showing off for Lord Ainsley, but I also sensed he enjoyed the act of compel ing. That was a difference that made him truly inhuman.

“I’l do anything you ask,” she purred, lurching toward him and throwing her arms around him.

“I’m glad to hear it from both of you,” Samuel said, gently prying Josephine’s arms off his neck. “But only one of you can be my new right-hand woman. I’ve devised a little test.

Would you girls like to hear it?”

Mol y nodded eagerly.

“Terrific. Whoever can get inside and have Mr. Robert Cecil come to the door and invite me in wil receive a very fine reward indeed. Now go. Make me proud,” he said, sending them both off with a tap on each of their backs.

Mol y turned and practical y skipped toward the guards.

She was humming under her breath, and any casual observer would assume she was drunk. Josephine slowly fol owed after her, glowering the whole way.

Samuel stepped back toward Lord Ainsley and smiled, as though they were his two prize show ponies being sent into a ring. “Lesson number one, Ainsley. Get the girls to fight each other. One of them wil get us invited inside.

Because the only thing more fearsome than a vampire is two female vampires with something to prove.” The two men guffawed as hatred wel ed within me. I wanted to spring forward now and tear Samuel limb by limb. I wanted to pluck his heart from his chest with my bare hands, then parade it around town.

“Coward!” Damon hissed. I’m sure he was having similar revenge fantasies.

Cora shook her head, then held her hands together as if in prayer.

The two women approached the guards, neither of them seeming especial y aware of the fact that this was the prime minister’s home or that it required more security than a simple residence.

“Hold up!” a guard cal ed, raising his arm toward Mol y.

“I need to get in,” she said slowly. Each word was over-enunciated. The guard’s gaze flicked to his partner, then locked on to her. I held my breath. The vervain would protect the guard from compulsion. But what would Samuel do when he realized they’d been dosed? It wouldn’t take long.

Cora gripped my arm so tightly her nails dug into my skin.

Quickly realizing her Power wasn’t working, Mol y made her exit and shuffled back to the waiting coach. Josephine seized her opportunity and ran, shrieking, up the path to the guards. “Help! Please! I need help!”

“What’s the matter, miss?” the guard asked, focusing his attention on Josephine.

“I’m being chased!” she said in a breathy voice. “This man has been running after me for blocks—I’m afraid he’s the Ripper! Please, help me.”

The guards turned to each other and had a hushed conversation before the guard stepped aside and nodded to Josephine.

A crack of thunder fol owed by scattered drops of rain sealed the decision.

“Al right, come in,” he offered, opening the door and ushering her inside.

The door closed with a thud. Damon and I locked eyes.

Josephine had gotten in, and there was nothing my brother or I could do about it.

“Cora, you’l have to go in after her. Stefan and I won’t be able to compel our way inside without an invitation,” Damon said under his breath.

Cora nodded, but she was visibly nervous. I grabbed her hand and squeezed it once to comfort her, before we stealthily made our way along the line of bushes toward the back of the house. Samuel’s hawklike gaze was trained on the front door, so we slipped by unnoticed. Around the perimeter of the lawn, large plants were covered with heavy burlap sacks to protect them from the frost. In the darkness, the covered plants looked like tombstones.

“I’l get rid of the guard,” Damon said tersely as he brushed the dirt off his hands and strode up to the man protecting the home’s back entrance. Midway up the slate path, he locked eyes with him.

“You need to leave this post,” he said.

“Who are you, sir?” The man squinted suspiciously at Damon as he reached for the nightstick that hung by his side. The compulsion wasn’t working.

Without bothering to answer, Damon charged toward him at vampire speed and knocked him to the ground, his head smashing into the stone. His body fel limp.

Cora’s hand flew to her mouth in fear. “Is he dead?” she asked.

“No,” I said, hoping that was the truth. I squinted and saw the man’s chest rising and fal ing. He was merely unconscious.

I raced up the garden path with Cora, not wanting to waste another second. I was simultaneously horrified and impressed by Damon’s quick actions. I sometimes forgot that we didn’t always need to rely on magic or compulsion to get what we wanted.

Another crack of thunder sounded, and Damon quickly punched a downstairs window during the noise.

Somewhere in the distance, a dog barked. Damon turned toward us, his eyes wild.

“You don’t have much time,” Damon said, grabbing a fal en tree branch and cracking it over his knee. He handed it to Cora. “Go in and kil the vampire. And then we’l kil Samuel.”

I shot him a look. Leave it to Damon to be as delicate about our situation as possible.

“Cora.” I turned to her. “You’l be great. You’re strong. But if there’s any hint of danger, promise me you’l run right back here. We can figure out another way.” Cora nodded resolutely and hoisted herself through the broken window.

“And now, the games really begin.” Damon slid into a seated position next to me. He rifled through his pocket until he found a smal pouch of chewing tobacco. “Want some?” he asked, like we were just two men whiling away the hours.

I shook my head silently, al attention and Power focused on Cora inside the house.

“Suit yourself,” he said, putting a large wad in his mouth.

“Aren’t you proud of me, brother? Going along with this whole ‘saving the prime minister’ plan? Even if it might be among your most ridiculous.”

“I don’t real y care what you think,” I murmured reflexively.

“Stefan.” Damon shook his head. “Always wanting to get the last word in.” He chuckled.

“Right,” I said shortly. “Let’s just focus on Cora and the task at hand. Shouldn’t we protect people while we stil can?”

Damon shrugged. “We’re vampires, Stefan, not gods.

We’re merely death’s messengers.”

That was the difference between me and my brother. I believed we did have a choice. We may have been meant to die that night in Mystic Fal s. But certainly, al of our victims over the past few decades weren’t fated to be food and Power for monsters.

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