Home > The Compelled (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #6)(7)

The Compelled (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #6)(7)
Author: L.J. Smith

“Are you al right?” Mary Jane asked with concern.

“I wil be,” Damon said. His voice sounded rough and scratchy, as if he hadn’t used it in a long time. He spotted the crimson trickle of blood on Cora’s skin and reflexively bared his fangs. Not meeting his gaze, she careful y retied the muslin, which immediately bloomed with a rosette of fresh blood. I glanced away, but not before a terrible, unbidden thought once again crossed my mind: Why not drink human blood?

“I have a spel that might help,” Vivian said shyly. “It’s just some lilac water and words,” she added, pul ing a few sprigs of purple flowers from the pocket of her dress. She took a few of the leaves and dropped them in the pitcher that had held the eleuthro the night before. She swirled the mixture, muttering under her breath, then passed the concoction to Damon.

“You want me to drink your flower water?” he asked skeptical y. I was relieved to hear a trace of his old, caustic self in his voice.

“I do,” Vivian said, rocking back on her heels. Her voice was soft but steady.

Damon shut his eyes and gingerly took a sip. Damon, the man who could easily down a few stiff whiskeys, was nervous about drinking a potion.

“Finish it off,” Vivian urged.

He choked down a few more sips. Already, he looked better. The color had returned to his cheeks, and his eyes had lost their haunted look. He was definitely wel enough to make the journey back through London.

“I never thought I’d have to depend on witches to save me,” Damon said. “But I suppose we live in strange times.” He turned to Mary Jane. “Let’s just hope you continue to stay safe from Samuel.”

My ears pricked up. “What do you mean?” I asked urgently.

“He wants her,” Damon said. He jerked his elbow toward Mary Jane. “That’s why he’s been ripping humans apart.

He’s hoping one of his victims might be a witch.”

“What? Why me?” Mary Jane asked, her voice rising in panic. “I didn’t do anything to him.”

“It’s not what you did, it’s who you are,” Damon said cryptical y. “Apparently, you’re a purebred witch. And your heart is of great value to them.”

“A purebred witch?” I repeated dumbly. “What does that mean?”

“It’s a witch descended from the very first coven—the Original coven. Samuel and Seaver researched the blood-lines of purebred witches and discovered the last known lines of purebred witches and discovered the last known descendant had been living in an East End orphanage.

They believe you, Mary Jane, are the one they’ve been looking for.”

“It sounds like a load of nonsense, vampire,” Jemima said. “And I won’t have you saying things like that under my roof. Spreading lies and frightening everyone to death.”

“You don’t have to believe me.” Damon shrugged. “Al I know is what I heard them say.”

Mary Jane’s face turned white. “But I don’t know who my family is. How could Samuel?”

“Vampires are craftier than you’d think,” Cora said. I glanced sharply at her. “And Samuel can be relentless when he wants something.”

“You’re right.” Jemima nodded tersely. “If there’s a vampire after our Mary Jane, we need to get out of here as soon as possible. I’m sure he knows where we live. Mary Jane, you need to hide. I’l come with you.” She turned to me expectantly.

“We’l head to the tunnel now. Wil the others come?” I asked. It seemed the more witches we had, the easier it would be to protect Mary Jane from Samuel.

“No, it’s best if we split up,” Jemima said, then turned to the remaining witches. “You lot, stay behind and protect the house with vervain.”

“Vervain won’t work,” Damon said flatly. “He’s immune.” Jemima nodded once. “Al right then. I’l leave it to you to come up with something else. Maybe the impervio spel .

The protective spel ,” she added for our benefit. “But if he’s after Mary Jane, I doubt he’l stay around long once he realizes she’s not here.”

“I can do that spel ,” Vivian said uncertainly, as though convincing herself. Her face had drained of color. Bil y, on the other hand, had risen to his ful height and pushed his shoulders back, as if to show his strength was a match for Samuel’s.

“I’l come back each day to check in. I’m sure we’l have a plan to defeat Samuel soon,” Jemima said matter-of-factly. A shiver ran up my spine. Involving the witches meant even more lives were at stake, and we were past the point where running away was an option. Soon, someone would be dead. And I only hoped it would be Samuel—not one of us.

We made our way out of the house and emerged into sunlight. I pul ed out my pocket watch. It was two o’clock.

We’d slept for hours.

Silently, we walked along the Thames toward the tunnel.

The docks weren’t nearly as sinister in daylight as they were at night. Now, instead of being ghostly quiet, they were crammed with girls sel ing flowers, vendors hawking meat pies, and sailors jockeying for work. We easily blended in with the masses, and I was glad for it.

Cora fel into pace with Damon, and Mary Jane walked beside me, although none of us spoke. Jemima trailed behind us. Al I could do was stare at the rippling water, wondering where Violet’s body had come to rest.

We got to the tunnel, and Cora hustled Mary Jane and Jemima over to start the fire for a cup of tea. I think Cora also sensed that Damon was holding back what he knew about Samuel’s quest for a purebred witch. With Mary Jane out of earshot, maybe he’d be more likely to talk.

“Are you sure Samuel wants Mary Jane? How would he know he had the right girl? The purebred witch could be anyone,” I said.

“He already made five mistakes,” Damon said, arching an eyebrow. “But somehow, I think Mary Jane’s heightened power is a pretty big clue, don’t you agree, brother?” I ignored him and walked over to tend to the fire, using old newspapers that Cora and I had col ected. One of the pages caught my attention.

RIPPER RESPITE? read the headline, written in bold capital letters. It was fol owed by a line drawing of Damon. I skimmed the article.

“I’m committed to finding the beast and killing him,” says Samuel Mortimer, a generous benefactor of East End charity initiatives and a frontrunner in the election for councilor for the City of London. “Or else, rest assured, the beast will kill us.” Mortimer is not alone in this sentiment. Scotland Yard, the Metropolitan Police Force, and the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee are all working around the clock to catch the killer.

I crumpled the paper and threw it onto the fire. I watched I crumpled the paper and threw it onto the fire. I watched the flickering flames, wishing some sort of clue for how to fight Samuel would appear. But there was only smoke.

“I’ve been thinking,” Damon said, lowering his voice to a whisper more quiet than the crackling fire. “Should we speak to James?”

“I’m not sure if that’s a good idea,” I said, glancing meaningful y at Cora. Jemima was eyeing us suspiciously.

“James is a merchant who sel s to vampires and witches.

We don’t know where his loyalties lie; he might not be trustworthy. Besides, last time he sent us to Ephraim, and we have witches of our own now.”

“Plus, with Ephraim, we had to pay a price,” Cora piped up, turning to us from the fire.

“I gave him my blood,” I admitted. Before he would tel us where Violet was staying, Ephraim had demanded a vial of my blood as payment. At the time, I’d been so desperate that I’d given it gladly, but now I feared I’d been too hasty.

After al , if a witch’s heart was in such high demand, could it be possible that vampire blood also had its own nefarious purposes? I wasn’t sure, and I hoped that I wouldn’t come to regret having given mine to him.

“I turn my back on you for one week, and that’s what you do?” Damon asked, raising his voice. “We’re vampires, brother. We take blood. We aren’t supposed to give it away.”

Jemima cackled in the corner, but the laughter didn’t break the tension. “What would you have done?” I asked irritably.

“I don’t know. But I’d have thought twice before giving my blood to a raven-toting lunatic.”

“You never think twice. You’d probably have lunged at him with your fangs out and gotten into even worse trouble.

Created another mess that I’d have to clean up,” I said.

“You were quite the fighter yesterday,” Damon noted.

“Thanks,” I said stiffly. Damon and I didn’t do wel when we spoke earnestly, and usual y al it took was one misinterpreted statement to ignite a quarrel that would last for days.

“I don’t like the sound of Ephraim. There has to be another powerful witch in London,” Damon said. “Jemima, for one,” he added gal antly, nodding at her.

“Thank you for the compliment, but I’m only here to protect Mary Jane. And I don’t do dark magic if I can help it.” Jemima shook her head and shivered. Despite her tough exterior, it was clear she was just like the rest of us: terrified and completely out of her element.

“Wel , there has to be someone who can help us.

Everyone in London brags that this city is the finest and most sophisticated in the world, and I assume that includes its witch population,” Damon said, as if finding a witch was as easy as finding a fine wine.

“Actual y,” Mary Jane said hesitantly, “there may be someone who can help us.” Al four of us swiveled to look at her. She looked pensive and sat resting her elbows on her knees. She reminded me a little bit of Anna, the daughter of Pearl, the apothecary in Mystic Fal s. Both Pearl and Anna had been vampires and had always been so worried that people would discover their secret. I couldn’t help but wonder if that was Mary Jane’s fear, too.

“Besides your housemates?” I asked. If Mary Jane knew such powerful witches, why did she choose to live in a rotting slum with the other teenage orphans?

Mary Jane nodded. “I met my first witch when I was a child, only about eight or nine. I was living in an orphanage on Crouch End Row. It was rough place, and they worked us hard. The only times we’d ever have a break were when people came, looking to adopt us. Then the nuns who ran it would be as sweet as could be.” Mary Jane laughed bitterly. “They loved showing us off. We’d perform, almost as if we were trained animals. We’d recite poetry and say prayers and do anything we could to get ourselves chosen.

Except I knew no one would want me. People thought I was strange, with my eyes and the way I talked to animals. So mostly, I just kept to myself.” Mary Jane paused, lost in her own memories. “I enjoyed playing with the squirrels out in the courtyard, making them do tricks, that kind of thing. I was usual y so careful, making sure no one saw. But one day, a woman caught me. The surprising part was that she wasn’t shocked,” Mary Jane said in wonderment.

“What did she do?” I asked, caught up in the story.

“She laughed. And then she sat next to me and asked me if I could make the squirrel stand on its hind legs. So I asked it to, and it did. And then she said she could do it, too.” Mary Jane sighed. “Her name is Alice, and she’s the Viscountess of Cardiganshire. Her husband is Lord Lowson. She said she wanted to adopt me.”

“And?” Cora asked.

“She lied,” Jemima said flatly.

“Jemima’s heard the story many times,” Mary Jane said apologetical y. “But it’s true. She visited every week and told me stories about what it would be like when I moved in with her. I’d have my own room and as many animals as I wanted. I’d have a home. But then, it was final y the day that she was supposed to come to col ect me. I waited by the gate, and she never came. Not that day nor the next day nor the next. Final y, the nuns who ran the orphanage told me she wasn’t coming. And after that, I stopped even wanting to be adopted. So I stuck with Jemima. As soon as we could, we went out to the streets, and eventual y met Bil y and al them. They’re my family now.”

I looked at Mary Jane, unsure how useful this information would be. Alice had promised Mary Jane a life of luxury, only to yank it away. And if she could so cal ously break a promise to a child, how could we trust her now?

“Alice is just proof that not al witches are loyal to their own kind. We learned early that we should never trust anyone. It’s not a bad lesson to learn,” Jemima said flatly.

“So the question is, where is Lady Alice now?” Damon asked urgently.

Mary Jane shrugged. “She’s in the society pages al the time. She and her husband just had a Midsummer’s Bal .

The papers took pictures. She lives near Regents Park, on the Oval Road. I can take you to her,” Mary Jane said.

“You’l just be disappointed again,” Jemima said. “Why do we need her?”

“I’ve been waiting for a reason to contact her. Whether she likes it or not, she owes me. And now’s my time to cash in,” Mary Jane said, her lips flattening into a straight line.

“And if she doesn’t agree?” Jemima pressed.

“Then we’re no worse off than we are now,” Mary Jane said bitterly. “I’m being targeted by a murderous vampire. I need to try whatever I can. And if you can’t help me without being rude, than you should stay home.”

The two girls faced each other down, and Jemima was the first to look away.

“Fine,” Jemima said. “Let’s go.”

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