Home > The Compelled (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #6)(4)

The Compelled (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #6)(4)
Author: L.J. Smith

“And your parents…?”

“Are dead,” she said flatly.

“I’m sorry,” Cora and I said in unison.

A flicker of a smile crossed Mary Jane’s face. “Or they might as wel be. They might be alive somewhere, but I don’t rightly know. I don’t know anything about my parents. I only know that I’ve always had a sense about people, and animals, and can sometimes have them do what I want.”

“Do you think you can help us?” I asked eagerly. My stomach rumbled, and I had to turn away to avoid automatical y reaching out and kil ing the rodent cupped in Mary Jane’s hands.

“I could try. I’ve never real y used my spel s on vampires before,” Mary Jane said uncertainly. “I’ve never used them for anything important. Just for little things. To make the rent col ector go away, or to get a rat to do tricks like this. But I don’t know if I’m strong enough to defeat a vampire.

Unless…I have friends who could help,” she finished, letting the rat free. It squeaked, then skittered away into the shadows. “Only I’m not sure they’l like you. We keep to ourselves, mainly. But I’l tel them you saved me. I can’t say whether that’l sway them, seeing as you kil our kind, but I can take you to them.”

“That would be very kind,” I said. “Are your friends like you?”

“You mean, are they witches?” Mary Jane asked matter-of-factly. “Why, I suppose so. Although I don’t know what makes a witch a witch. But I do know we al have magical powers,” Mary Jane said, giving me a lopsided smile. I smiled back encouragingly.

“How many?” Cora breathed.

“Not many. There’s just five of us. Me, Bil y, Gus, and Vivian. And Jemima of course, but she’s…”

“She’s what?” I asked.

“She’s the one who might not like you,” Mary Jane said.

“She doesn’t trust others. But when I tel her that you saved my life, she might reconsider.”

“But the rest of them?” I asked.

A fond smile crossed Mary Jane’s face. “They’re lovely.

They’re my family, real y. I never had a proper one. When I was twelve, I thought I’d be adopted. I used to dream about what it’d be like to have a mother, a home, and a bed with a feather mattress…” Mary Jane shook her head and set her mouth in a firm line. “That didn’t come true. But I got something better. I got people who’d never let me down.” I nodded. I had so many questions and scarcely knew where to begin. A memory from years before flashed through my mind. I’d been sitting on a rock in the middle of the forest on the edge of Mystic Fal s, listening to Katherine explain how she’d turned others into vampires like her. But witches were different. They didn’t become witches—they were born witches. The craft was in their blood.

“How did you find the others?” Cora asked softly. Her knees were pul ed close to her chest, and she looked like a child being told a bedtime story.

“Wel , once you know what you’re looking for, you start to notice things,” Mary Jane explained. “Jemima and I found each other first. We were in the same orphanage together, and as soon as she came in, I realized she was special.

She could fix things. Her chores would magical y get done while she was up in bed sleeping. Or she’d accidental y spil ink on a book, and seconds later, it would look good as new. I final y got the courage to ask her about it, and then we started working on spel s together.”

Hope flickered in me. It sounded like Mary Jane and Jemima were both very powerful. If so, then maybe we real y did have a chance of defeating Samuel. Although he was strong, magic overrode al other Powers. We had to do anything we could to get Jemima to agree to help us.

“What about the others?” Cora asked.

Mary Jane wrinkled her forehead. “Wel , I saw Vivian making a concoction with some leftover whiskey at a tavern where she was a scul ery maid. Gus was a paperboy who Jemima saw talking to sparrows in his spare time. And we found Bil y putting a spel on a rol he was eating outside a bakery. Before he took the last bite, he conjured up four more fresh ones.” Mary Jane smiled.

“It wil be a pleasure to meet them,” I said. A witch, a human, and a vampire, teaming up to fight evil. It sounded like the premise of a penny-paper serial. But thanks to the monster who was plotting our deaths, this was our lives.

4

The next day, Cora and I fol owed Mary Jane to the home she shared with the orphans. The foggy, gray morning matched my mood. What if Mary Jane’s friends wouldn’t help? Or what if it was too late to save Damon? Out of the tunnel, I could see the dark circles under Mary Jane’s eyes, the frayed hem of her faded brown dress. She looked every inch the orphan she was. No matter how hard I tried to push it out of my mind, I kept wondering: If she was so powerful, why wasn’t she able to rise in society? Why were she and her witch friends living in a slum at al ? Damon would have asked. But I didn’t. Because why did it matter? The point was, she was al we had.

“Here we are. Home sweet home,” Mary Jane said brightly as she turned a tight corner into a tiny al ey. The buildings on either side of the street were dilapidated, with boarded-up windows and, in some cases, huge holes in their outer wal s.

She pushed her shoulder against a door and let Cora and me step inside.

I blinked inside the dark foyer of the hovel that Mary Jane cal ed home, taking in the uneven ceiling, the sloped floor missing half its boards, and the endless strands of cobwebs glimmering in the darkness.

“Shh.” Mary Jane put a cautionary finger to her lips as she crept up the staircase—if it could be cal ed that. The banister had been ripped from the wal , and several steps had rotted away. The ones that remained were off-kilter, and it seemed a miracle—or magic—that the entire house hadn’t col apsed.

At the top of the stairs, Mary Jane opened a thin door.

“I’m home!” she announced grandly.

I blinked. In the center of a room was a fire, ringed and contained by concrete slabs most likely stolen from the street. A skylight was directly above it. The glass must have fal en out long ago, leaving only a gaping hole that offered a view of the cloudy sky. Around the fire sat two boys and one girl, al no older than eighteen. One of the boys, the youngest, looked like he was only twelve. The room smel ed of mildew and damp. I coughed.

“Mary Jane!” The youngest boy sprang up and wrapped his bony arms around Mary Jane’s waist. She smiled fondly and ruffled his blond hair. “You’re home! I thought the Ripper got you!”

“Don’t be upset, Gus. I’m home now. But it’s al thanks to Stefan here. If it wasn’t for him, I would have been hacked to pieces,” Mary Jane explained.

“By the R-r-ripper?” Gus asked, stuttering in fear.

“Worse than that,” Mary Jane said. “Stefan and Cora, this is Gus, Vivian, and Bil y. My family. Jemima must be in another room,” she said, making a short introduction to the group sitting around the fire. I wondered whether Mary Jane would tel them I was a vampire. I wondered if they, too, knew just by looking at me.

“What’s worse than Jack the Ripper?” the girl, who must have been Vivian, asked in disbelief. Her lilting voice held an Irish accent similar to Cora’s. Cora perked up, but didn’t speak.

“A vampire,” Mary Jane said simply. At the word, the orphans al turned to stare at me. Gus’s jaw dropped, and I wondered if, like Mary Jane, they immediately knew my true nature.

“While I was on my way to meet up with you lot last night, I got taken from the streets and brought down to the docks,” Mary Jane explained. “Luckily, Stefan here saved me before my attacker could do any real damage.”

“Yes, but why was Stefan there in the first place?” the older boy asked, rising to his feet and glaring at me. “He’s a vampire, too, you know.”

I stepped forward, turning my palms to the air as if to show I had nothing to hide. “I am a vampire, it’s true. But that vampire, Samuel, kidnapped my brother. He’s evil, and he’l stop at nothing to get what he wants. And what he wants includes Mary Jane. I was only able to wound him, and he’l be back. Soon.” My gaze flicked between the witches. I knew I had to somehow convince them that Samuel was a worthy enemy—one we needed to work together to defeat.

“So why are you here?” Gus asked. It was clear from the tone of his voice that his terror had turned into mistrust. He was wearing spectacles, and the flames reflected in them gave his moon-shaped, pimpled face a vaguely sinister sheen.

“Because we need witches on our side to fight Samuel,” I said simply.

“What if we say no?” the older boy asked, crossing his arms and stepping up toward me as if he were chal enging me to a fight.

“Bil y!” Mary Jane said sharply, putting her hands on her h*ps and glaring at him. Then, she turned toward me.

“Sorry. As I’m sure you know, we don’t trust vampires as a rule. But you’re different than most. We just have to adjust.”

“If you saved Mary Jane, then I trust you,” Vivian said shyly. She looked about fifteen years old and had long curly brown hair that fanned over her thin shoulders. The irises of her eyes were so dark her pupils seemed to disappear into them.

“Vivian helps with our spel s,” Mary Jane said by way of introduction. “She reads everything, then she works out how to say it.”

The girl nodded proudly, a flicker of a smile crossing her face. “I do,” she affirmed. “Mostly I’m successful, but I’l admit there are stil some improvements I could make.”

“She set the last place we lived on fire,” Gus piped up.

“I did not! It was just a little hole in the floor. Gus, stop being dramatic.”

“Wel , whatever spel s you can do would be a huge help,” I interrupted before the conversation turned into a verbal sparring match. “We know where Samuel lives. We know he’s the culprit behind the Jack the Ripper kil ings. And we know that something Mary Jane did staved him off. Now al we have to do is figure out how we can strengthen that spel and find a way to catch him off guard.”

“What did you do?” Gus asked Mary Jane suspiciously. I noticed he was wearing newspapers tied to his feet instead of shoes and I wondered how badly off the orphans were.

Couldn’t they use magic to procure clothes, or did some code of honesty prevent that?

“Wel , that’s just the thing, Gus. I don’t know. He attacked me and threw me to the ground, and I kept thinking of the magnets Vivian had shown us a while back,” Mary Jane explained as she sat and warmed her hands by the fire. I noticed Cora hugging her body tightly. I heard the wind whistling around the room and could see Mary Jane’s breath as she spoke. I nudged Cora, urging her to stand nearer to the fire, but she stayed at my side.

Vivian leaned excitedly toward Mary Jane. “So the repel spel worked?”

“Wel , sort of,” Mary Jane said. “I couldn’t hold it for too long. Samuel broke through and was about to kil me, but then Stefan stepped in.”

“Al right,” Gus said, turning his attention to me. “So, let’s say we do come up with a few spel s to defeat Samuel and help you save your brother. What’s in it for us? Why should we risk our lives for you?”

“I can get you out of here,” I said confidently. “Into a far better home.”

“Can you, vampire?” The door slammed shut as a girl entered the room. She strode toward me and pressed her index finger into my chest. Her face was al angles, reminding me of a bird, and her dishwater-blond hair was lifeless and strawlike. She wasn’t pretty, except for her large gray eyes, which darted back and forth as if she were a wolf tracking its prey. It was clear that Jemima acted as the ring-leader of this particular group, simultaneously serving as both mother and disciplinarian. I knew she was trying to protect the house, but I stil didn’t appreciate her distrustful gaze.

Beneath her touch, my skin began to burn. I shifted uncomfortably. What was she doing?

“I’m Stefan, and this is my friend Cora. We’re friends of Mary Jane’s. I saved her life last night.”

“So I heard. The house isn’t exactly big. I know who you are. And how exactly do you plan to get us out of here? Wil you lie? Compel? Kil a family, then steal their home?”

“Jemima, stop it,” Mary Jane said sharply. “We owe him something.”

“I don’t owe him anything,” Jemima said, keeping her steady gaze on me. “Mary Jane, you almost got kil ed. I know he saved you, but how do you know he has your best interests at heart? You know vampires don’t have beating hearts, let alone souls. That’s why…” She stopped short.

“That’s why I need to ask him a few questions. Get him to reveal his intentions,” she said cryptical y.

“Go ahead, I have no secrets,” I said. The truth shall set you free. It had been one of my father’s favorite quotations and his motivation for naming our Virginia estate Veritas—

Latin for “truth.” I hoped the wisdom applied equal y to vampires and humans.

“How many people have you kil ed?” Jemima asked, her voice dropping to a whisper.

voice dropping to a whisper.

I glanced around the room, knowing nobody would like my answers. Even Cora was gazing at me quizzical y, a hardened expression in her eyes. In the semidarkness, surrounded by six pairs of glittering eyes, I felt like the witches could peer into my mind and know what I was thinking even before I said it. I had to tel the truth. But I wasn’t even sure if I knew it myself.

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)