Home > The Ripper (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #4)(16)

The Ripper (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #4)(16)
Author: L.J. Smith

As soon as I walked back into the smoky warehouse, I could hear my brother's voice above the din, laughing and making fun of the ridiculous expedition Lord Ainsley had planned in India. Not caring who saw me, I used my vampire speed to reach him. He was laughing with Samuel and Henry. Cora clung to his every word.

"You ought to go to India, too, Damon. You're always complaining you've had enough of London society," Henry said, raising his champagne toward Damon. "Maybe an adventure would do you good."

"Yes, you could try your luck at snake charming," Samuel suggested. "You already have proven your talent for charming women." At this, Damon laughed appreciatively. Fury rose up inside me. How dare he laugh and joke only minutes after he'd attacked Violet and set her on the path we'd both regretted taking.

"You," I growled, dragging my brother out by the arm and toward the al ey that led down to the docks, empty except for a far-off vagrant sleeping with a bottle of whiskey clutched against his chest.

"Ah, a moonlit conversation by the waterfront. How picturesque. What's the special occasion?" Damon asked, arching a dark eyebrow.

I recoiled. I hated everything about him. I hated his affected Virginia drawl that he put on in my presence as if to make fun of our polite upbringing, the way he twisted words even if he was the only one who'd get the joke, and the way he made a mockery out of everything, including human life.

"You are dead to me," I growled, grabbing him with al my might and throwing him toward the opposite wal , satisfied to hear his skul cracking against the concrete. He slumped, ragdol -like, before standing up, his eyes flashing in the darkness. He took a quick step toward me, then stopped and laughed softly.

"Someone's found his strength again," Damon said, stil rubbing his temple. The wound had closed almost instantaneously, leaving nothing but smooth, pale flesh. "Why so upset? Didn't find the murderer you were looking for?" Damon mocked in a low voice.

"No more games. You're the kil er!" I spat, rage boiling in my veins. I wanted to hurt him. But the trouble was, nothing would.

"I am, am I?" Damon asked nonchalantly. "Tel me, how did you reach that conclusion, Detective Salvatore?" So this was how he'd decided to torment me now. No more blows or fights or battles, just psychological torture. Wel , he'd succeeded.

"You framed me for the attack the other day. And you kil ed Violet," I said, my voice clear as a crack of thunder.

A mil ion expressions - hate, anger, annoyance - flashed across Damon's face before he lunged toward me, pinning me against the cold concrete wal , his face only inches from mine. I squirmed to get away, but he only held me harder.

"I've tried to be patient with you, brother," Damon said, hate dripping from his voice. "I thought that maybe a few decades had done us both good. But you're the same as you've always been. Always the one to come into a situation and think he knows how to fix it. Always the foolish knight in shining armor. Always the one who takes responsibility for the whole world on his shoulders. But . . ." Damon's voice dropped to a whisper, so only I could hear. "You are not innocent. You started al of this. And death doesn't begin and end with me. Get used to it, brother. People die, and you can't change it." He let go of my neck, but not before spitting in my face. "Be warned, next time I show up in your life, it won't be al parties and picnics. You can trust me on that." Damon turned on his heel and headed back to the party.

I watched him, fists clenched, stil ful y aware of the indents on my neck where Damon had pinned me. He was much stronger than I was, and I knew he didn't want me to forget it. My mind lingered on Damon's glee that Violet was dead. Of course, he would never change. He would forever enjoy seeing me in pain. He thought I had wronged him and would continue to destroy anyone I cared about. He would keep kil ing, and for what? To settle a score against me that could never, ever be settled. Because while I may have turned him into a vampire, he was the one who turned himself into a monster.

But now Violet was transitioning and the only thing I could do to make up for my mistakes was to try to help her through it. I hurried as fast as I could back to the skiff, where I saw slight movement from underneath the muslin cloth.

"Violet!" I said, sinking to my knees next to her.

Her eyes fluttered open, the pupils enormous and cloudy. I pul ed her tightly against my body, wishing there was something I could do for her. But the only thing I could do was give her the opportunity to leave this world as she came into it - as a human, without blood on her hands.

"Stefan," she croaked, struggling to sit up.

"We need to go," I said, dragging her to her feet. Damon would be looking for her now to ensure her transformation was complete. I knew I should double back in and find Cora, but I couldn't risk it. I had to hope the vervain was helping Cora when I could not.

I couldn't give Violet much, but I could at least give her a choice - and let her know exactly what would happen with either path she chose. It was an impossible, monstrous choice, but it was hers, and might be the last one she'd ever make. She deserved to do it in peace. I needed to bring Violet somewhere she could be safe.

"Come on," I said, helping her up and holding her close. I began to run, clumsily at first, until I gathered the speed I was accustomed to when I was ful y in tune with my Power. Once or twice, I thought I caught a glimpse of a curtain rustling, or a shadow too tal to be my own. I even thought I heard a racing footstep behind me. It only galvanized me to go faster, barely stopping before we reached the street in front of our hotel. I paused.

Damon knew where we were staying. It wasn't safe there. I looked down at Violet, who was stil disoriented and growing weak.

"The party?" Violet asked, sitting up and holding her hand to her head. "The champagne . . . did I get drunk?" she asked.

I wanted to say yes. I wished I could spare her the pain of the upcoming hours. But she deserved more than that. I hadn't lied to her when I'd found her and I wouldn't lie to her now. I would make sure she knew the choice she faced. It was the least I could do. I thought back to the way her face had shone when she saw the Gaiety Theatre, and an idea formed in my mind.

"Let's go to the theater," I said.

"The theater?" Violet blinked, as though she didn't understand my invitation. I didn't blame her. Her situation was dire, even she knew that, and yet it sounded like I was asking her to a church social.

I nodded and helped Violet to her feet. Together, we hobbled along the deserted cobblestoned sidewalks. It was nearly morning.

The lights in front of the Gaiety were off, but the stage door with its rusted hinges didn't take too much strength to force open. Once we were in the dark theater, I sighed. Final y, I felt we were safe from Damon.

"Is this another party? Because I don't think I'm up for it." My heart twisted at the innocent disappointment in Violet's voice.

I motioned for Violet to sit next to me on one of the crushed red velvet chairs facing the stage.

"I brought you here because I knew how much you loved it. And what I have to tel you won't be easy to process," I explained, blinking in the darkness. It was easier to have this conversation when we weren't facing each other.

"Damon . . ." Violet said, then shuddered. "He was so nice. He introduced me to al of his friends. And then . . ."

"He attacked you," I said dul y.

She grimaced, but didn't refute what I'd said.

"I remember drinking champagne. And I was laughing, and then . . . I don't know. It's as if my mind just goes blank," she said, helplessly shaking her head.

I rol ed my lapis-lazuli ring around my finger. Back when I had transitioned, Katherine's maid, Emily, had explained what was happening to me.

She'd been the one to give me the ring. Katherine had asked her to give one to me and one to Damon. Emily'd been cool, and calm, and had kept her distance while I suffered. I couldn't do that.

"Stefan? What's happening to me?" Violet asked, her voice cracking.

I laced Violet's ice-cold fingers through mine. "You're in transition. You were kil ed by a vampire," I said. "Damon."

"Vampires?" Violet said, her voice tripping over the word. "That's just from storybooks. What are you talking about?"

"No they're real. I'm a vampire. And so is Damon. He's my brother. My true brother," I said, staring straight ahead. I hated what I was saying, but knew it would be far worse to keep the truth a secret. "We look human. Once, we were human. We grew up together, laughed together, and were a family. But not anymore. We survive only because we drink the blood of others. I choose animals. But my brother doesn't."

"Does that mean I'm a vampire now, too, then?" she asked, her voice shaking.

I shook my head. "No," I said firmly. "Damon kil ed your human body, but gave you some of his blood first. To complete the transition and to ful y become a vampire, you have to drink human blood. If you don't, your body wil die," I said. The wal papered room felt like it was closing in on me.

"But, Stefan, I don't understand. If there's a way to live then why . . ." She trailed off, her voice sounding so innocent and lost that I felt my stomach clench.

"Because it's not that simple. Being a vampire is not like being alive. You're consumed by your desire for blood, your desire to kil . You become a completely different person . . ." I trailed off as Violet pressed her hand to my chest, gently at first, and then more and more insistently. I resisted the urge to pul away. It was an intimate gesture, one you'd imagine between lovers.

"I don't . . . I can't . . ." she said, horror dawning on her face as she continued to graze my chest with her hands. "There's no heartbeat," she exclaimed, now understanding what I'd been trying to tel her.

"No," I said patiently.

"What if I want to . . . turn?" she asked. "What if I want to become like you?"

"I would help you. That's your choice to make. But it's something to think about seriously before you do. It's not a real life. It's not a blessing to live forever. You witness so many people dying, and you're always a creature of darkness. You have to live in the shadows, only emerging at night.

And you shouldn't have to live like that," I said, squeezing her hand. "You belong in the light." Violet's sobs overtook her, and I knew she grasped the reality she faced.

"I was just starting to live . . ." she said wistful y and rubbed her neck gently, as if she were remembering a long-ago caress from a lover. Her hand dropped back to her chest. Then she looked at me, tears in her eyes.

"When?" she asked.

"Soon," I admitted. My eyes darted to the half-open stage door. I could see that the sky was getting lighter. We couldn't stay here. Violet needed to be somewhere safe, and there was nowhere in London that was safe from Damon.

Violet sniffled, and I saw two large tears rol down her cheeks. "I want to go home," she said in a smal voice. "I want to be with my mom and sisters. I don't belong here. If I have to die . . . and I want to die, I don't want to become a monster . . . then I want to die as myself. As Violet Burns. I want to be home. I want Cora."

I glanced at her as she stared bravely ahead. I wanted to charter a ship, or to swim across the dark Irish Sea myself to give her what she wanted. But I couldn't. And she knew that.

"I'm just rabbiting on. I just want to see my sister one last time."

"I know you do," I said. "But if we find her, then I think Damon wil find you. But Cora's al right. She's protected. The charm you gave her is fil ed with vervain. It's an herb that protects people from vampires. I didn't tel you because I didn't want to scare you, but . . ." Violet clawed at the hol ow of her neck. "It was my fault," she realized.

"No. You saved your sister. Whether or not you knew what the charm was, you knew it was good luck, and you gave it to her. That's love," I said, smiling at Violet. I wondered if I'd been in a similar situation, if I'd have done the same thing for Damon.

"Wel , I hope she thinks of me every time she wears it," Violet said. "And maybe I can write her a letter. And you can deliver it. Because she needs someone to look out for her," Violet said, piecing each sentence together slowly.

"Of course. I'l look after Cora, and I promise you, she wil be safe. And I know where I can take you," I decided, picking up her hand. I hoped the Abbotts' farm would remind her of the rol ing Irish hil s she'd told me about. It was a smal comfort, no replacement for the real thing, but it was the best I could do.

Violet nodded meekly. I looked down at her in agony, a tear threatening to escape my eye. I let it fal , watching it splash on Violet's hair, wishing there was something I could do. Al I'd wanted this evening was for Violet to be safe. And here she was stil in my arms - but ful of vampire blood. I had failed her.

Chapter Fourteen

There have been times in my life that I felt something, or someone, was watching out for me. Because how else could both Violet and I have made it to Paddington Station without being stopped by the police or a concerned passerby? It helped that we took a few garments from a traveler's luggage as they waited for their train, and were no longer wearing bloodstained clothes. But stil , I had to support Violet against my side, and even a casual observer could see she was close to death. And yet, no one had noticed us.

I didn't think of it as providence. Maybe I would have, at one point. But now I only felt it was evidence of my innate evil. I frightened people.

   
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