Home > Unseen (The Vampire Diaries: The Salvation #1)

Unseen (The Vampire Diaries: The Salvation #1)
Author: L.J. Smith Aubrey C

Chapter 1

Dear Damon,

Yesterday, I felt happy. Not my usual everyday glow, but a wild, fierce happiness that ran along my veins like fire.

I would have known, even without the slight tug of the bond between us, that it came from you. It felt like you. What were you doing? Where were you yesterday?

I'm glad you're happy, Damon.

I miss you. Thanks to the bond the Guardians forged, we're never really far away from each other. I'm constantly aware of you, with a low-level hum of Damon-ness running through me. But I'd like to see you in person.

I can't believe it's been four years. I think of how we said good-bye, that last evening at Dalcrest, the bond between our auras so new, and how I cried, and I keep wishing I could have convinced you to stay.

Stefan misses you, too. We keep saying that soon, we'll take a few weeks and come find you, wherever you happen to be. Stefan can show me around streets he hasn't walked for centuries, and you can take us to the hottest nightclubs, and we'll all be together again. Family.

Sometimes I feel like I'm losing so much of my past. Aunt Judith told me yesterday that she wants to sell our house in Fell's Church and move to Richmond. It makes sense: Robert won't have so far to commute, and my little sister can go to a terrific school in the city. And after all, I don't live there anymore.

But I can't help remembering how my mother and I redecorated my bedroom there before she died, how many nights Bonnie and Meredith and Caroline and I spent there, having sleepovers and telling secrets. How you and Stefan each held me in your arms there, at different times and for different reasons.

I can say good-bye to that house, even though it hurts, but I can't say good-bye to you, too. Please, Damon, promise me we'll see each other again.

Elena Gilbert groaned and ran her fingers through her long blond hair. Why was it so hard to get to the point? She was getting distracted by her emotions, when she had meant to e-mail Damon for a reason.

But you already know I miss you, she typed. Now there's something I have to warn you about.

Elena looked up from the laptop, glancing around her living room. Everything in her and Stefan's apartment was serene. Warm, golden lamplight illuminated the pale walls lined with framed reproductions from art exhibits she and Stefan had attended: an abstract of a couple embracing, their bodies melting into each other; a stern-faced Renaissance angel; a field full of wildflowers. Elena's little sister, Margaret, grinned up from her elementary school graduation picture on a table by the couch; in another photo, Bonnie and Elena stood in silver bridesmaids' gowns on either side of Meredith, whose face was lit up in a rare smile. Heavy brocaded curtains covered the windows, shutting out the darkness. Sammy, their long-furred white cat, stretched out luxuriously across the couch cushions, only a sliver of one golden eye showing he was awake.

On the top of a heavy mahogany cabinet rested the small collection of things Stefan had carried with him through all his years of roaming the world: a few gold coins, an ivory-hilted dagger, a stone cup mounted in silver, a gold pendant watch, and a small iron coffer. And finally, the most recent addition to his treasures: a silky apricot-colored hair ribbon, stained with mud, which Elena had once lost in a graveyard.

Elena remembered when she'd first seen these objects in Stefan's rooms in Fell's Church, back when he had been a mysterious, almost frightening, stranger. Now she knew the story behind each of them, understood all these talismans of Stefan's past.

The quiet apartment was practically the exact opposite of wherever Damon was right now, which was probably full of bright lights and fast cars. Elena had been so restless for so long-but, here, in the home she and Stefan had made together, she was content.

Of course, they were never completely safe. But since Klaus's defeat five years before, nothing more dangerous than a rogue young werewolf or newly made vampire had been drawn to the ley lines that crossed the Dalcrest area. They'd had to go farther afield to fight true evil; here they felt protected.

And she was happy. Mostly.

There was just ... a persistent sense of danger that had been creeping up on her lately, invading her dreams with shadows, tugging insistently at the corners of her mind. And in the middle of this danger, she repeatedly sensed Damon's dark, fiery presence.

Frowning, she began to type again.

Wherever you are now, Damon, please be careful. I just know that something is wrong. I've tried and tried to find out what it is-stretched my Guardian Powers to their limit and even called Andres in Costa Rica to see if he knew a way to pinpoint what I'm sensing-but I can't figure it out.

All I know is that something awful is going to happen. And, somehow, you're involved. Please, Damon, be careful. I need you to be safe.

Elena hit "send" on the e-mail just as a key rattled in the lock. Sammy leaped from the couch in one smooth flow of movement. Elena jumped up, too, and hurried toward the door.

"Stefan!" she exclaimed, pulling it open. "Welcome home!"

Even though Stefan felt as familiar and as essential as breathing by now, sometimes the sight of him still knocked Elena back a step. He was just so beautiful, with his classical Roman profile, his dark curls that made her want to tangle her fingers in them. His bottom lip dipped into a sensual curve as he smiled at her, his face opening in a way only Elena ever got to see, and she ran forward to kiss him. She threw all her love into the kiss and felt Stefan's love in response, warm and reassuring.

Sammy twined around their ankles, sniffing Stefan, and then stalked away, his tail waving.

Finally Elena pulled back to look Stefan over and saw that, despite the dark shadows under his leaf-green eyes, his face was serene. The hunt had gone well, then. He was safe; Meredith was safe. Elena sighed gratefully and laid her head against Stefan's shoulder. He was home, and everything would be okay.

His arms tightened around her. The leather of his jacket was smooth under her cheek. Then she felt something sticky against her face. "Stefan?" she asked, pulling back and touching the wet spot on his black leather jacket. Her fingers came away red with blood. "Stefan?" she asked again, her voice rising, and began to feel frantically over his chest and sides, looking for injuries.

"Elena, it's okay." Stefan took her hands. "It's not my blood." His smile widened. "We killed Celine."

Elena sucked in a breath of surprise. They'd been hunting Celine for months. She was an Old One, one of the Original vampires-an ancient, vicious monster who'd stalked the night of every continent for countless centuries. Celine was the last of the three Old Ones they'd been able to find traces of, the last they'd needed to kill to make this part of the world safe.

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