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

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

I glanced up and gasped.

Instead of seeing Damon, I saw Samuel clinging like a spider to the underside of the bridge. He jumped down on top of me, throwing me off balance. I landed on my back with a thud.

“And so we meet again,” Samuel said, standing over me, his face a blank mask that betrayed no emotion. Our eyes locked, and for a fraction of a second it was as if time stood stil . Then, Violet emerged from behind a pil ar, smiling maniacal y, her white fangs glittering. Violet was a completely different creature than the frightened girl I’d rescued a month earlier. In a white fur coat with her red curls piled on top of her head and her lips painted a deep crimson, she looked like a painting come to life. She wasn’t the innocent Irish barmaid I’d met at the Ten Bel s Tavern.

She wasn’t the giddy show-off who’d blushed and twirled when I’d given her a new dress at Harrods. And she certainly wasn’t the human girl who’d looked at me with tears in her eyes as she transitioned into a vampire, begging me to kil her rather than al ow her to live a life of destruction. That Violet was dead. The fiend in front of me was al vampire.

Samuel shifted, and I used the momentary movement to spring to my feet and lunge, surprised at how fast the eleuthro had made me. Grabbing his shoulders, I wrestled him to the ground. Samuel twisted free and I hurled myself at him again, smiling when his head smacked against the concrete bridge with a satisfying crack.

“Stefan!”

I whipped my head around at the sound of my name.

Damon was fixed to the scaffolding by vervain-soaked ropes as if he were a sacrificial figure primed for an ancient ritual. He exhaled in wet gasps, and blood-tinged foam frothed at the corners of his mouth. The veins around his temples were bulging and were an unnatural bright blue color. He looked minutes away from death.

“Help him!” I cal ed toward the witches. I couldn’t save him right now, not with Samuel here and Damon covered in vervain. Bil y raced past me with a knife held aloft, ready to cut Damon loose from the ropes that bound him.

I gripped my stake and reared back, about to strike, when suddenly I was hit from behind. Violet must have caught up with us. I landed on my chest, my body only mil imeters away from fal ing on the stake. I struggled to a sitting position, but Violet threw herself on top of me, pinning my shoulders to the ground as she groped for the stake.

I heard a splash. Samuel had thrown Vivian and Gus into the cold water. They were sputtering while Jemima and Mary Jane were fighting Samuel off with the repel spel . It was almost working. But not wel enough.

I knew Violet was out for blood, and if she couldn’t get mine, she’d think nothing of taking her sister’s. With a surge of effort, I wriggled out of Violet’s hold and managed to pin her hands to the ground above her shoulders. “Samuel wil die tonight. I’l make sure of it. But I’m giving you one last chance,” I said, searching for any trace of humanity in her bloodshot eyes. But al Violet did was laugh in response.

Just then, I saw Cora racing toward us, far faster than a normal human could move. “Cora, get away!” I shouted.

Violet was strong and I doubted that Cora would come close to matching her, even aided by eleuthro.

“No. Violet, listen to me,” she said, throwing her arms around her sister’s waist. “I’m your sister. I know you. And I know you have a chance for redemption. Please, stop what you’re doing and take it.” Cora’s voice dropped to a whisper. “Or else I’l kil you myself.” At this, Violet stopped writhing and turned to face her sister.

“Not if I kil you first.” Violet growled as she lunged toward Cora, her fangs dangerously close to her sister’s throat. Her eyes were large and red, and in that moment, she was a vampire intent only on her kil —even though her prey was her own flesh and blood. I clutched the wooden stake in one hand as I grabbed her from behind and threw her on her back.

I was about to bring the weapon down when another stake sliced through the air and plunged into the rich fabric of Violet’s coat. Violet unleashed an agonized shriek before fal ing limp. Her skin quickly turned ashen and veiny, her mouth frozen as if gasping for air. She was dead.

Cora sat back, a hand to her lips in shock. She was staring, unblinking, at the body of her sister. The sister she had just kil ed.

Not able to take even a moment to grieve Violet’s tragic, if necessary, death, I turned to aid Mary Jane and Jemima in fighting off Samuel. This fight wasn’t over.

But Samuel was no longer standing with the witches.

Instead, he was high above, teetering on the edge of the bridge. Before I could begin to scramble up the scaffolding, he dove into the water, as graceful y as a gul swooping down to catch a fish. A splash, and Samuel was in the middle of the Thames, arms stroking toward the opposite bank.

I blinked in disbelief. The repel spel Mary Jane and Jemima had used was working—Samuel had run away.

Stil , I didn’t feel victorious that he’d retreated from the fight.

Samuel must have realized he was outnumbered and didn’t stand a chance against us. But although we may have won this battle, Samuel was preparing for war. At least we saved Damon, I thought as I hurried over to where Jemima was inspecting his injuries.

“Brother.” Damon nodded. Angry burn marks circling his wrists oozed blood; his skin was pockmarked with burns, scrapes, cuts, and dirt; his lips were cracked; and one of his eyes was swol en shut. He looked in worse shape than he had when he’d been beaten, starved, and bitten by al igators at Gal agher’s Circus in New Orleans. He needed blood—a lot of it.

My heart thudded in my chest as our eyes met. I’d saved his life. So why did I have nothing to say?

“Go feed,” I said roughly. Seeing him so weak shook me. I knew that if we’d waited only an hour longer, chances are he’d have been dead. And that was a possibility I wouldn’t let myself think about. “You’l find some victims further down the pier.”

But Damon didn’t move. I was the one who looked away, turning my attention to Cora, kneeling next to the body of her sister. Cora slowly took Violet’s hands and rested them in a praying position on her stil chest. Then she turned to me, her face slicked with tears.

“She’s real y dead. I kil ed her,” she said quietly.

“You didn’t kil her. Samuel kil ed her. What you kil ed was the monster in Violet’s body,” I said. But it wasn’t that simple. I knew better than anyone that your soul didn’t simply disappear when you became a vampire. Violet had been in there, somewhere, but most likely her spirit had been beaten badly as a result of committing far too many murders. I knew she would never have been the same.

“No, Stefan.” Cora looked up and shook her head sadly.

“I kil ed her. And now there’s no hope she’l ever become a vampire like you. One who cares about others. And that’s al my fault. I’l never forgive myself.”

“Don’t do that,” Damon rasped. Cora turned to him questioningly. “Say good-bye to Violet, then let her go. She wouldn’t want you to hold on. Letting go is the only thing you can do,” Damon said thickly.

can do,” Damon said thickly.

Damon picked up the lifeless body and brought it to the edge of the river. On the bank, the witches were standing with their backs toward us, giving us privacy by ensuring the circle spel remained in place.

Cora nodded and brought her lips to Violet’s forehead.

“Good-bye,” she murmured.

Then Damon threw the body into the river. It rose once to the surface before sinking into the murky water. As soon as it did, Cora broke off into a torrent of sobs. I pul ed her toward me, smoothing her hair.

Your first death changes you.

It was something Damon told me when I’d mourned my fiancée, Rosalyn. At that point, Damon had already seen countless deaths on the battlefield. But so, I realized, had Cora. She’d been pul ed into our war as an innocent bystander, and already she’d witnessed the murders of two friends and the torture and death of Samuel’s brother. But Violet was different. Violet was her sister, and Cora had been the one to kil her.

She continued to sob into my chest.

“Damon needs your help,” I said final y, pul ing back.

“I know.” She turned away from Violet’s watery grave and fol owed me toward my brother. Cora was strong—I only wished we hadn’t learned that the hard way.

6

The woman thrown into the rushing river with a stake protruding from her chest was a monster who would have killed her own sister if given half a chance. She was bloodthirsty, angry, and savage; a beast in the guise of a beautiful girl.

Twenty years ago, my father created his own history for Damon and me, one in which we were glorious, fallen heroes. He’d wanted Jonathan Gilbert to write in the town ledger that Damon and I had died fighting in a skirmish against Union soldiers. He had wanted his sons to be good, upstanding men. Not protectors of monsters, which was how my father saw my brother’s and my desperate attempts to save Katherine, the woman we loved.

I knew how he felt. Because more than anything I wished Violet had died as the epitome of evil incarnate. But I knew I had to think of the true Violet. Yes, she was a bloodthirsty monster, but she’d also been the young, idealistic girl who had set sail across the Irish Sea with her sister in search of fame, fortune, and romance.

The thought led me again to Katherine. She was the truth at the center of an infinitely complicated riddle. Because of her, I no longer knew good from evil. After all, there was an undeniable monstrous, murderous streak within me. I only hoped I could draw on it to bring down Samuel and live a legacy of honor and victory.

The next morning, I woke up and found myself staring at a vaulted, rotting ceiling high above me. I was back in the witches’ slum, and although Damon was free, Samuel had escaped into the Thames. A few feet away, I could see that Bil y, Vivian, and Jemima were sitting around the open fire.

“They need to leave,” a voice near the fire murmured.

The witches clearly weren’t aware I was awake. I knew the voice belonged to Gus. He must stil be wrapped in blankets and shivering in front of the fire after his fal in the river.

“They have nowhere to go,” Mary Jane’s voice said firmly.

“But Gus and Vivian were almost kil ed last night. We spent long enough forming this family. I won’t just watch it be destroyed.” Jemima didn’t bother keeping her voice down, and the message was clear: We weren’t wanted and she wanted us to know it.

I struggled to sit up, surprised to see Cora sitting next to the fire, flanked by Jemima and Mary Jane.

“Stefan saved Mary Jane’s life. He deserves your help,” Cora piped up.

“We settled that debt. We helped him get his brother back—and we’re close to pneumonia for our efforts. At the end of the day, Stefan is a vampire. Look where helping him got you,” Jemima said to Cora, not unkindly. “You took a chance on him, and he forced you into battle with your sister.”

“He didn’t force anything. And I wouldn’t have kil ed Violet if she’d truly been herself. But my sister died weeks ago—that was a demon who died back there,” Cora countered.

“Whatever gets you through the day,” Jemima said dismissively.

I staggered to my feet. “There’s no need for us to stay.

We’l go. Thanks for al your help,” I said. In truth, I was eager to get back to the tunnel. It may not have had creature comforts, but I felt like it was far safer than a room ful of witches.

Just then, Damon unleashed a guttural groan from the corner of the room. Sweat poured from his hairline and Cora rushed to tend to him. “He’s burning up. He should be healed by now. I’m going to give him more blood.” Cora slicked back the hair from his forehead. Despite my suggestion at the bridge, he’d never properly fed. Even when Cora had cut her skin and held it up to his mouth, he’d only taken a few tentative sips. Ever since we’d saved him, Damon had been quiet. And a quiet Damon always made me uneasy.

I didn’t stop her as she pushed up her sleeve and unwrapped a muslin cloth from her wrist, uncovering the wound she’d made yesterday. She scratched a scab, and a smal trickle of blood ran onto her skin. I quickly turned smal trickle of blood ran onto her skin. I quickly turned away. I wondered if she’d hidden the unhealed wound from me on purpose, so I wouldn’t be tempted. My heart twisted at the thought.

“Damon,” she said, shaking his shoulders slightly.

“Wake up.”

“Heart,” he murmured, thrashing. “He needs a heart.” I leaned down and tried to listen to the words. What did Damon mean? Who needed a heart?

“Shh, wake up,” Cora murmured, holding her wrist to his mouth. Damon began to drink, but his eyes were stil squeezed shut. Cora winced as Damon’s fangs grazed her skin, and I was aware of the rest of the witches watching us as though we were performing a macabre play. They shifted uncomfortably. Jemima huffed, and I knew she didn’t want blood-drinking to take place under her roof.

Damon paused mid-drink and a grimace crossed his face. Then, he curled his upper lip, as though readying for an attack.

“Cora!” I hissed.

“That’s enough,” Cora said firmly, extricating her wrist from Damon’s fangs.

Damon sat up and blinked, pushing the blankets away.

“Where am I?” he sputtered.

“You’re somewhere safer than hanging from the Tower Bridge, that’s for sure,” I said. Damon lifted his gaze to meet mine and nodded imperceptibly. His normal y blue eyes appeared muddy, as if they had witnessed a host of unspeakable horrors. My mind drifted to the latest theory the papers had printed regarding the Jack the Ripper murders: Some doctors believed people’s eyes recorded the last image they saw before they died. Physicians from London University Hospital postulated that al the London Metropolitan Police had to do to catch Jack the Ripper was to photograph the faces of his victims, examine the negatives, and identify any hazy figure reflected in their eyes. So far, they hadn’t had any luck with the theory, but looking at the despair in Damon’s eyes now, I could understand where the idea came from.

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