Home > The Ripper (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #4)(15)

The Ripper (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #4)(15)
Author: L.J. Smith

She kept blinking and tugging the chain around her neck. I watched, entranced. Had she been compel ed?

Just then, Damon sauntered up, carrying a bottle of champagne in one hand and champagne flutes in the other. Trailing him were Samuel and a tal man with short blond hair, wearing a top hat and suit.

"I've heard that there's cause for celebration," Damon said as he suavely popped the cork from the bottle. It exploded with a festive fizzing sound, and he began pouring glasses.

"This is my sister!" Violet explained, not tearing her gaze off of Cora.

"How nice," Damon said, leering. "Family reunions are lovely. And I knew I liked something about you," Damon said, draping his arm around Violet's shoulder. "Cora joined our little group just recently as wel , a friend of Samuel's brother. Now it seems we're just keeping it al in the family!"

"This is Cora," I said angrily. "Remember?"

Damon shrugged. "Like I said, not in the newspaper, not in my mind. My memory just gets worse and worse with age!" he exclaimed.

"Shut up," I growled.

"Is that any way to talk to a brother?" Damon responded, keeping a smile on his face.

"Here here!" Samuel said, raising his glass in a toast, unaware that anything was amiss. "To families. Including my own brother, Henry," he said, gesturing to the pale, blond man standing next to him. At first glance, he seemed to be about eighteen or nineteen.

"Pleased to meet you," I said, barely managing a polite tone. But Henry's face cracked into a wide smile, and he pumped my hand enthusiastical y.

"Pleased to meet you, too," he said in an aristocratic British accent that sounded just like his brother's. But his warm and almost na?ve expression was nothing like Samuel's - and immediately I noticed him casting his gaze on Violet.

"Hel o," he said warmly.

Violet turned to him, her upturned face ful of interest. I knew what I was witnessing was the lightning-quick passage of emotions that humans took for granted - the moments at which a stranger became something more, became someone a human could imagine growing old with. In the shadowy darkness, there was no way Henry could tel Violet was a waitress. Violet was speaking in her wel -modulated actress voice, and her new dress betrayed none of the stains of the Ten Bel s. This is a remarkable age. Just like George had told me, maybe Violet truly could transcend her class and find happiness. She deserved it.

Even though Cora had been found and seemed none the worse for the wear, I knew I couldn't leave until I cracked the mystery. Why was Damon being so cagey? There was no way he wasn't somehow involved with the murders. The question was, what had he done? And who had he done it with?

I looked at Henry and Violet again. They were engaged in conversation, their heads bowed as if they'd known each other for years. At least Violet was preoccupied and with someone safe, which gave me the chance I needed to search the party for the mysterious vampire who'd eluded me last night.

Moving through the crowded party proved fruitless. Girls so drunk they could hardly stand up were pawing at me, and the noise of the band overloaded my senses. I stepped outside the warehouse, thinking I would try to find the door he ran through last night. Perhaps he'd left something behind.

The fresh air helped clear my head. I started to walk around the warehouse, looking for a familiar window or door. And then, as the wind picked up, I smel ed it.

It was the scent of blood - warm, coursing, and close.

I gnashed my teeth together. The scent made me simultaneously eager to feed and nervous. The kil er must be one of the revelers inside the party. But who was he? Or - and this was the thought that fil ed me with terror - had he already made his move, and the fragrance in the air was a fresh kil ?

That possibility was what spurred me to race back inside the warehouse, tearing through the crowd, desperate to find the source of the scent. I didn't have any time to waste. It was as if I'd lived through the same scenario far too many times, always coming to the scene half a second, half a minute, or half a day late. But this time would be different, I thought wildly as I pushed past a dancing couple, the man whirling a woman faster and faster on his arm. I was no longer a "baby vampire," a term Lexi derisively used to use to describe me. I had wisdom, age, and blood behind me.

This time, I would stop evil before it started.

The warehouse was deceptively large, and I was shocked that the space kept going and going, each inch of concrete floor fil ed with people laughing, smoking, and drinking as if they didn't have a care in the world.

"Pardon me!" I yel ed in frustration, elbowing my way through couples and treading on people's shoes, only fol owing the ever more pungent scent of iron - until I ran into a solid mass.

I looked up. It was Samuel. Instantly, I stood to my ful height and gave him a tight smile. I knew that careening through the warehouse must have made me seem drunk or mad.

"Pardon you!" Samuel said jovial y, tipping back his whiskey. "You seem to be in a hurry," he added, a flicker of amusement on his face.

"I'm looking for a friend," I muttered, my eyes darting from one side to the other. I realized I hadn't seen Violet while I was running around. Now not only was I searching for a kil er, but for an innocent girl as wel . I had to make sure she was safe.

"Consider him here!" he said jovial y, blocking my path.

"Not you," I said, realizing only after the words left my mouth how rude they seemed. "I mean, I'm looking for Violet."

"Violet!" His eyes lit up in recognition. "Of course. I thought I saw her over by the bar . . . would you like to go with me?" I didn't bother to be polite as I took off toward the bar, desperately scanning the crowd. It thinned out as I ran, and final y, I could stand without being bumped or jostled. I al owed my eyes to readjust to the dim light. The far side of the warehouse had two open doors that led to the docks, and, beyond that, the water. The doors had been propped open with several wooden milk crates, presumably to al ow fresh air in. Stil , while the rest of the warehouse was crammed, this part was unlit and deserted. I could smel cobwebs and mold.

And blood.

Outside, the clouds shifted, and a shaft of moonlight reflected through the filthy windows at one end of the warehouse. My eyes fel upon a crumpled heap in the corner. At first, I hoped it was nothing more than a discarded pile of fabric, pushed aside for the party. But it wasn't. The material was bright green.

I blanched, already knowing what I'd see before I turned the figure over.

But when I did, I stil couldn't hold in my strangled cry.

It was Violet, her throat slit, her inquisitive blue eyes gazing, unblinking, at the throng of people dancing only yards away from her cold, white figure.

Chapter Thirteen

Ihad to get Violet out of there, before the kiler came back to finish her off with his customary mutilation. I hastily lifted her up and heaved her over my shoulder. Her body grew colder every minute and the touch of her skin against mine sent a shiver down my spine. She was dead. And the kil er was nowhere to be found.

I glanced around wildly. The band had shifted into a waltz, and the front of the warehouse was crowded with couples dancing in the darkness. It looked gaudy, like an act from the two-bit carnival I'd worked at in New Orleans. The murderer was somewhere in that throng, bowing and weaving through couples.

My fangs throbbed, and my legs ached with the urge to run or fight. But I could do neither. I stood, frozen in place. Droplets of blood scattered across the bodice of her dress, and the kohl she'd used to line her eyes had run, making her face look like it was painted with tears.

I didn't feel sorrow. What I felt was deeper, more primal. I felt anger at whoever did this, as wel as despair. This would always keep happening, and more victims like Violet would perish. It wouldn't matter if I journeyed back to America or went to India or just traveled nomadical y throughout every land. How many deaths could I witness, al the while knowing death would never come to me?

I glanced back down at Violet's limp body and forced myself to stop thinking those thoughts. Instead, I thought of Violet's short life. Her wide grin when she'd put on one of her fine dresses, the way her happy face shone with tears at the end of the musical review, the way she truly believed that there was good in the world. I'd miss her. Violet had been spritely and passionate and alive. She'd also been stupid and trusting and so vulnerable.

And she'd given up her vervain to her sister. Of course, she hadn't known it to be anything but a good luck charm, but stil  - if she'd had the vervain, she'd be alive now.

"'May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest,'" I said, quoting Shakespeare for lack of a prayer as I laid my hand against her cold brow and smoothed her loose curls off her forehead. The phrase echoed in my head, the words far more familiar to me than any of the sermons I'd sat through or psalms I'd heard when I was a human. I leaned down and grazed my lips against Violet's cheek.

Suddenly, she reared up, her body trembling al over, her eyes wide, her mouth frothing, as she lunged toward my hand.

Hastily, I fel backward, scrambling to my feet and retreating to the shadows.

"Stefan?" Violet cal ed in a high and reedy voice that sounded nothing like her Irish brogue. Her hand frantical y clawed at her throat, and her eyes widened in fright when she pul ed her hand back and saw it covered with blood. "Stefan?" she cal ed again, her eyes gazing wildly in al directions.

I watched in shock. I'd seen death countless times at this point, and I knew that Violet had been dead. Yet now she wasn't. This meant only one thing: She had been given vampire blood and then kil ed. She was in transition.

"Stefan?" she asked, grasping the air in front of her and gnashing her teeth against each other. Her breath was loud and raspy. She kept licking her lips, as though she were dying of thirst. "Help me!" she cal ed in a strangled voice.

Far off in the warehouse, I could make out the faintest sound of the band striking up another song. Everyone inside the party was blissful y unaware of the gruesome scene occurring in front of my eyes. I clenched my jaw. I wanted more than anything to be strong for Violet, but I was stil in shock.

I knew she wanted to feed. I remembered the agonizing hunger I'd felt when I'd woken up in transition. She was breathing in loud, staccato gasps as she rose to her knees, then her feet. I moved forward to help her.

"Shhh," I said, wrapping my arms around her body. "Shhh," I repeated, running my hands through her tangled hair, wet with sweat and blood.

"You're safe," I lied. Of course she wasn't.

A few yards away, on a neighboring dock, I saw a smal skiff, most likely used to transport cargo from one side of London to the other, bobbing in the gentle waves of the Thames. I had the wild thought to take it, to head as far as we could down the river, to just get away.

"What's happening to me?" Violet gasped each word, clutching her throat.

"You'l be okay, Violet. But please, tel me, who did this to you?" I asked.

"I don't know," she said, her face crumpling. Blood was running from her neck, drying into a pattern on the side of her dress that would have been almost pretty if one hadn't known how it was formed. Her face was white and chalky, and she kept licking her lips. "I was going to the bar. And then he pul ed me to him for a dance, and . . . that's al I can remember," Violet said, wringing her hands together and gazing imploringly at me.

"Who's 'he'?" I asked urgently.

"Damon," she said, hardly able to stifle her cries. A scene flitted into my mind: Violet, so excited to have Damon pay attention to her. Violet, al owing Damon to escort her to the bar and order her a drink. Violet, nervous and coquettish, waiting to hear what Damon had to say. And then Damon licking his lips, lunging, and drinking, leaving Violet behind for me to find.

You always help a damsel in distress. Damon's mocking phrase rang in my ears. He'd left her for me to find, just as if we were children playing hide-and-seek.

"I'm so thirsty," Violet said, leaning over the edge of the dock and cupping her hands to capture some of the dirty water flowing in the Thames. I watched as she put her hands to her mouth, and saw an expression of disgust cross her face. She knew something was terribly wrong. "Stefan . . . I don't feel wel . I think I need a doctor," she said, cradling her head in her hands and rocking silently back and forth.

"Come with me," I said, pul ing Violet into a hug. I could feel shivers wracking her body, and saw tears were fal ing from her large eyes. I knew she was confused and disoriented, and this filthy dock was no place to explain to her what was happening.

I hoisted her up and walked us to the skiff that was resting in the water. I gently placed her on its floor. She blinked a few times and let out a shuddery sigh.

"Am I dead?" she asked, her hand reaching out toward mine. I closed my fingers over hers. I tried to remember back to my own death. I'd felt hazy and confused as wel , coupled with the grief and guilt of losing Katherine. Then, when I'd made the ful transition, I'd felt fast, sharp. Inhuman.

"Yes," I said. "You're dead."

Violet flopped back down and closed her eyes.

"It hurts so much," she whimpered as she slumped against the side of the boat in exhaustion. Her body couldn't take the transition.

I felt anger slice through my stomach. Damon needed to pay for this.

I took a piece of muslin, most likely used to repair sails, from the side of the boat and pul ed it over her body like a blanket. She was sleeping now, and I knew she didn't have the strength to run off. She sighed and burrowed into the cloth while I jumped off the skiff and tore back into the party.

   
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
» Nothing But Trouble (Malibu University #1)
» Kill Switch (Devil's Night #3)
» Hold Me Today (Put A Ring On It #1)
» Spinning Silver
» Birthday Girl
» A Nordic King (Royal Romance #3)
» The Wild Heir (Royal Romance #2)
» The Swedish Prince (Royal Romance #1)
» Nothing Personal (Karina Halle)
» My Life in Shambles
» The Warrior Queen (The Hundredth Queen #4)
» The Rogue Queen (The Hundredth Queen #3)