Home > Nightfall (The Vampire Diaries: The Return #1)(2)

Nightfall (The Vampire Diaries: The Return #1)(2)
Author: L.J. Smith

"Yes," she answered, wiping her eyes quickly, apparently seeing nothing unusual in his entrance by a third-story window. Their eyes locked. "Come in, Damon."

She had issued the necessary invitation for a vampire. With one graceful motion he swung himself over the sill. The interior of her room smelled like perfumes - and not subtle ones. He felt really quite savage now - it was surprising the way the bloodfever had come on so suddenly, so irresistibly. His upper canines had extended to about half again their size, and their edges were razor-sharp.

This was no time for conversation, for loitering around as he usually did. For a gourmet, half the pleasure was in the anticipation, sure, but right now he was inneed . He drew strongly on his Power to control the human brain and gave Caroline a dazzling smile.

That was all it took.

Caroline had been moving toward him; now she stopped. Her lips, partly open to ask a question, remained parted; and her pupils suddenly widened as if she were in a dark room, and then contracted and remained contracted.

"I...I..." she managed. "Ohhh..."

There. She was his. And so easily, too.

His fangs were throbbing with a kind of pleasurable pain, a tender soreness beckoning him to strike as quickly as the lunge of a cobra, to sink his teeth to the hilt in an artery. He was hungry - no,starving - and his whole body was burning with the urge to drink as deeply as he liked. After all, there were others to choose from if he drained this vessel dry.

Carefully, never taking his eyes from hers, he lifted Caroline's head to expose her throat, with the sweet pulse throbbing in its hollow. It filled all his senses: the beating of her heart, the smell of the exotic blood just under the surface, dense and ripe and sweet. His head was spinning. He'd never been so excited, so eager -

So eager that it gave him pause. After all, one girl was as good as another, right? What was different about this time? What waswrong with him?

And then he knew.

I'll have my own mind back, thank you.

Suddenly Damon's intellect was icy cold; the sensual aura in which he'd been trapped frozen over instantly. He dropped Caroline's chin and stood very still.

Hehad almost fallen under the influence of the thing that was using Caroline. It had been trying to snare him into breaking his word to Elena.

And again, he could just barely sense a whisk of red in the mirror.

It was one of those creatures drawn to the nova of Power that Fell's Church had become - he knew that. It had been using him, spurring him on, trying to get him to drain Caroline dry. To take all her blood, to kill a human, something he hadn't done since meeting Elena.

Why?

Coldly furious, he centered himself, and then probed in all directions with his mind to find the parasite. It should still be here; the mirror was only a portal for it to travel small distances. And it had been controlling him - him, Damon Salvatore - so it had to be very close indeed.

Still, he could find nothing. That made him even angrier than before. Absently fingering the back of his neck, he sent a dark message:

I will warn you once, and once only. Stay away from ME!

He sent the thought out with a blast of Power that flashed like sheet lightning in his own senses. It ought to have knocked something dead nearby - from the roof, from the air, from a branch...maybe even from next door. Fromsomewhere , a creature should have plummeted to the ground, and he should have been able to sense it.

But although Damon could feel clouds darkening above him in response to his mood, and the wind rubbing branches together outside, there was no falling body, no attempt at dying retaliation.

He could find nothing close enough to have entered his thoughts, and nothing at a distance could be that strong. Damon might amuse himself sometimes by pretending to be vain, but underneath he had a cool and logical ability to analyze himself. He was strong. He knew that. As long as he kept himself well nourished and free of weakening sentiment, there were few creatures that could stand against him - at least in this plane.

Two were right here in Fell's Church,a little mocking counterpoint in his mind said, but Damon shrugged that off disdainfully. Surely there could be no other vampire Elders nearby, or he would sense them. Ordinary vampires, yes, they were already flocking. But they were all too weak to enterhis mind.

He was equally certain there was no creature within range that could challenge him. He would have sensed it as he sensed the blazing ley lines of uncanny magical power that formed a nexus under Fell's Church.

He looked at Caroline again, still held motionless by the trance he'd put on her. She would come out of it gradually, none the worse for the experience - for whathe'd done to her, at least.

He turned and, as gracefully as a panther, swung out of the window, onto the tree - and then dropped easily thirty feet to the ground.

Chapter 2

Damon had to wait some hours for another opportunity to feed - there were too many girls in deep sleep - and he was furious. The hunger that the manipulative creature had roused in him was real, even if it hadn't succeeded in making him its puppet. He needed blood; and he needed itsoon .

Only then would he think over the implications of Caroline's strange mirror-guest: that trulydemonic demon lover who had handed her over to Damon to be killed, even while pretending to make a deal with her.

NineA.M . saw him driving down the main street of the town, past an antique store, eateries, a shop for greeting cards.

Wait. There it was. A new store that sold sunglasses. He parked and got out of the car with an elegance of motion born of centuries of careless movement that wasted not an erg of energy. Once again, Damon flashed the instantaneous smile, and then he turned it off, admiring himself in the dark glass of the window. Yes, no matter how you look at it, I am gorgeous, he thought absently.

The door had a bell that made a tinkling sound as he entered. Inside was a plump and very pretty girl with brown hair tied back and large blue eyes.

She had seen Damon and she was smiling shyly.

"Hi." And though he hadn't asked, she added, in a voice that quavered, "I'm Page."

Damon gave her a long, unhurried look that ended in a smile, slow and brilliant and complicit. "Hello, Page," he said, drawing it out.

Page swallowed. "Can I help you?"

"Oh, yes," Damon said, holding her with his eyes, "I think so."

He turned serious. "Did you know," he said, "that you really belong as a chatelaine in a castle in the Middle Ages?"

Page went white, then blushed furiously - and looked all the better for it. "I - I always wished that I'd been born back then. But how could you know that?"

Damon just smiled.

Elena looked at Stefan with wide eyes that were the dark blue of lapis lazuli with a scattering of gold. He'd just told her that she was going to have Visitors! In all the seven days of her life, since she had returned from the afterlife, she had never - ever - had a Visitor.

First thing, right away, was to find out what a Visitor was.

Fifteen minutes after entering the sunglasses shop, Damon was walking down the sidewalk, wearing a brand-new pair of Ray-Bans and whistling.

Page was taking a little nap on the floor. Later, her boss would threaten to make her pay for the Ray-Bans herself. But right now she felt warm and deliriously happy - and she had a memory of ecstasy that she would never entirely forget.

Damon window-shopped, although not exactly the way a human would. A sweet old woman behind the counter of the greeting cards shop...no. A guy at the electronics shop...no.

But...something drew him back to the electronics shop. Such clever devices they were inventing these days. He had a strong urge to acquire a palm-sized video camera. Damon was used to following his urges and was not picky about donors in an emergency. Blood was blood, whatever vessel it came in. A few minutes after he'd been shown how to work the little toy, he was walking down the sidewalk with it in his pocket.

He was enjoying just walking, although his fangs were aching again. Strange, he should be sated - but then, he'd had almost nothing yesterday. That must be why he still felt hungry; that and the Power he'd used on the damnable parasite in Caroline's room. But meanwhile he took pleasure in the way his muscles were working together smoothly and without effort, like a well-oiled machine, making every movement a delight.

He stretched once, for the pure animal enjoyment of it, and then stopped again to examine himself in the window of the antiques store. Slightly more disheveled, but otherwise as beautiful as ever. And he'd been right; the Ray-Bans looked wicked on him. The antiques store was owned, he knew, by a widow with a very pretty, very young niece.

It was dim and air-conditioned inside.

"Do you know," he asked the niece when she came to wait on him, "that you strike me as someone who would like to see a lot of foreign countries?"

Some time after Stefan explained to Elena that Visitors were her friends, hergood friends, he wanted her to get dressed. Elena didn't understand why. It was hot. She had given in to wearing a Night Gown (for at least most of the night), but the daytime was even warmer, and she didn't have a Day Gown.

Besides, the clothes he was offering her - a pair of his jeans rolled up at the hems and a polo shirt that would be much too big - were...wrong somehow. When she touched the shirt she got pictures of hundreds of women in small rooms, all using sewing machines in bad light, all working frantically.

"From a sweat shop?" Stefan said, startled, when she showed him the picture in her mind."These?" He dropped the clothes on the floor of the closet hastily.

"What about this one?" Stefan handed her a different shirt.

Elena studied it soberly, held it to her cheek. No sweating, frantically sewing women.

"Okay?" Stefan said. But Elena had frozen. She went to the window and peered out.

"What's wrong?"

This time, she sent him only one picture. He recognized it immediately.

Damon.

Stefan felt a tightening in his chest. His older brother had been making Stefan's existence as miserable as possible for nearly half a millennium. Every time that Stefan had managed to get away from him, Damon had tracked him down, looking for...what? Revenge? Some final satisfaction? They had killed each other at the same instant, back in Renaissance Italy. Their fencing swords had pierced each other's hearts almost simultaneously, in a duel over a vampire girl. Things had only gone downhill from there.

But he's saved your life a few times, too, Stefan thought, suddenly discomfited. And you promised you'd watch out for each other, take care of each other....

Stefan looked sharply at Elena.She was the one who'd made both of them take the same oath - when she was dying. Elena looked back with eyes that were limpid, deep blue pools of innocence.

In any case, he had to deal with Damon, who was now parking his Ferrari beside Stefan's Porsche in front of the boardinghouse.

"Stay in here and - and keep away from the window.Please ," Stefan hastily told Elena. He dashed out

of the room, shut the door, and almost ran down the steps.

He found Damon standing by the Ferrari, examining the dilapidated boardinghouse's exterior - first with sunglasses on, then with them off. Damon's expression said that it didn't make a great deal of difference whichever way you looked at it.

But that wasn't Stefan's first concern. It was Damon's aura and the variety of different scents lingering on him - which no human nose would ever be able to detect, much less untangle.

"What have you beendoing ?" Stefan said, too shocked for even a perfunctory greeting.

Damon gave him a 250-watt smile. "Antiquing," he said, and sighed. "Oh, and I did some shopping." He fingered a new leather belt, touched the pocket with the video camera, and pushed back his Ray-Bans. "Would you believe it, this little dust speck of a town has some pretty decent shopping. I like shopping."

"You like stealing, you mean. And that doesn't account for half of what I can smell on you. Are you dying or have you just gone crazy?" Sometimes, when a vampire had been poisoned or had succumbed to one of the few mysterious curses or illnesses that afflict their kind, they would feed feverishly, uncontrollably, on whatever - whomever - was at hand.

"Just hungry," Damon replied urbanely, still surveying the boardinghouse. "And what happened to basic civility, by the way? I drive all the way out here and do I get a ¡®Hello, Damon,' or ¡®Nice to see you, Damon'? No. Instead I hear ¡®What have you been doing, Damon?'" He gave the imitation a whining, mocking twist. "I wonder what Signore Marino would think of that, little brother?"

"Signore Marino," Stefan said through his teeth, wondering how Damon was able to get under his skin every time - today with a reference to their old tutor of etiquette and dancing - "has been dust for hundreds of years by now - as we should be, too. Which has nothing to do with this conversation, brother . I asked you what you were doing, and you know what I meant by it - you must have bled half the girls in town."

"Girls and women," Damon reproved, holding up a finger facetiously. "We must be politically correct, after all. And maybe you should be taking a closer look at your own diet. If you drank more, you might begin to fill out. Who knows?"

"If I drank more - ?" There were a number of ways to finish this sentence, but no good ones. "What a pity," he said instead to the short, slim, and compact Damon, "thatyou'll never grow another millimeter taller however long you live. And now, why don't you tell me what you're doing here, after leaving so many messes in town for me to clean up - if I know you."

"I'm here because I want my leather jacket back," Damon said flatly.

"Why not just steal anoth - ?" Stefan broke off as he suddenly found himself flying briefly backward and then pinned against the groaning boards of the boardinghouse wall, with Damon right in his face.

   
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