“Stefan?” Father called, glancing around the stalls. Even though he'd lived at Veritas for years, he'd probably only been in the stable a few times, preferring to. The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #1: Origins · Read more · Red Silk Diaries Vol Read more · Vampire Diaries #1: The Awakening · Read more. THE FURY The Vampire Diaries Book 3 By L. J. Smith THE VAMPIRE DIARIES The Fury Volume III L. J, Smith HarperTorch An.

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'Tis now the very witching time of night, When churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out Contagion to this world. N. 4 days ago The Vampire Diaries Stefans Diaries 1 Origins - [Free] The Vampire Diaries Stefans Origins [PDF] [EPUB] The Vampire Diaries is een serie. The first book in the New York Times bestselling series by L.J. raudone.infos is the first book in L.J. Smith's bestselling Stefan's Diaries series, whic.

She smelled like gardenias and bread just out of the oven. Her sister—they must have been sisters, with the same tawny brown hair and darting blue eyes—smelled richer, like nutmeg and freshly fallen leaves.

I nodded, running my tongue along my teeth, feeling my fangs. Little did she know that the ring had nothing to do with marriage and everything to do with being able to hunt girls like her in broad daylight.

She paused for a moment, then excused herself and went to find her aunt. I had no idea if I was compelling her or if she was simply following my orders, because she was a child and I was an adult.

The best part of feeding was the anticipation, seeing my victim trembling, helpless, mine. I slowly leaned in, savoring the moment. My lips grazed her soft skin. Her moans became screams, and I held my hand over her mouth to silence her as I sucked the sweet liquid into my mouth. She groaned slightly, but soon her sighs turned into kittenish mews.

I glanced out the window. Outside the window, New Orleans rose up as if in a dream, and I could see the ocean continuing on and on forever. It was like my life was destined to be: I strode out of the compartment, wiping my mouth with the back of my hand. The ginger-haired conductor nodded.

And I ask not to be disturbed, too. Later, if anyone asks, you say there may have been some thieves who got on the train outside Richmond. They looked suspicious. I sighed. In a flash I grabbed the conductor by the neck and snapped it as easily as if it were a sweet pea.

Then I threw him into the compartment with Lavinia and shut the door behind me. The train was slowing, and all around us passengers were gathering their belongings and lining up behind a conductor who stood in front of the black iron doors to the outside world.

I wanted us both to be long gone before anyone noticed anything was amiss. I had to take a firm hand. That was how Father used to train the horses. Denying them food until they finally stopped yanking on the reins and submitted to being ridden. It was the same with Damon. He needed to be broken. The train was still creeping along, the wheels scraping against the iron lengths of track. We scrambled back through the sooty coal to the door, which I pulled open easily.

Both of our knees hit the hard dirt below with a thud. I noticed his trousers had been torn at the knees from the fall, and his hands were pockmarked with gravel. I was untouched, except for a scrape on my elbow.

The whistle of the train shrieked, and I took in the sights. We were on the edge of New Orleans, a bustling city filled with smoke and an aroma like a combination of butter and firewood and murky water. But there was something else, a sense of danger that filled the air. I grinned. Here was a city we could disappear in. We made our way down Garden Street, clearly a main artery of the city. Surrounding us were rows of homes, as neat and colorful as dollhouses. Left and right, I could see alleyways leading down to the water, and rows of vendors were set up on the sidewalks, selling everything from freshly caught turtles to precious stones imported from Africa.

Even the presence of blue-coated Union soldiers on every street corner, their muskets at their hips, seemed somehow festive. It was a carnival in every sense of the word, the type of scene Damon would have loved when we were human.

I turned to look over my shoulder. She once lived here. What do we do? Show me this brave new world. I chose to believe the latter. I sniffed the air and immediately caught a whiff of lemon and ginger. Wordlessly, both of us spun on our heels and walked down an unmarked alleyway, following a woman wearing a satin lilac dress, a large sunbonnet on top of her dark curls. She turned around. Her white cheeks were heavily rouged and her eyes ringed with kohl. She looked to be in her thirties, and already worry lines creased her fair forehead.

Her hair fell in tendrils around her face, and her dress was cut low, revealing far too much of her freckled bosom than was strictly decorous. You seem like the type of boys who need adventure.

That right? A storm was brewing, and I could vaguely hear thunderclaps in the far distance. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Damon tighten his jaw, and I knew he was fighting the urge to feed. The house was well kept, but the buildings on either side seemed abandoned, with chipping paint and gardens overflowing with weeds.

I could hear the jaunty sound of a piano playing within. Chapter 7 The next evening I gazed contented at the sun setting over the harbor. The girls at her house were hospitable. I could still taste her wine-laced blood on my lips. Damon and I had spent the day wandering the city, taking in the wrought-iron balconies in the French Quarter—and the girls who waved to us from their perches there—the fine tailor shops with bolts of sumptuous silk in the windows, and the heady cigar shops where men with round bellies struck business deals.

But of all the sights, I liked the harbor best. Damon gazed out at the boats as well, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. His lapis lazuli ring glinted in the fading sunlight. I meant Katherine. If anything, last night had made Damon more malcontent than ever.

I want what I had—a world I understood, not one I can control. The wind shifted, and the scent of iron, mixed with tobacco, talcum powder, and cotton, invaded my nostrils. I gestured out to the sea. What does it matter if I relieve one wretched soul of its misery? His tongue darted out of his mouth to lick his dry, cracked lips.

Katherine never did that. The scent of iron was more pervasive now, curling around me like an embrace.

The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #3: The Craving

But instead he shook his head, the tips of his retracted canines just visible between his partially open lips. I shook my head in disappointment. You used to be so full of life, so ready for adventure. This is the best thing that has ever happened to us. Pick something, anything. Anything is better than just sitting here, letting the world go by. I grabbed Damon, who lagged a few paces behind me, until we found ourselves on a slanted lane out of range of the gaslights.

What little light there was gathered onto a single point: The woman looked up, her startled expression turning into a slow smile as she took in Damon. Even as a blood-starved vampire, Damon, with his shock of dark hair, long lashes, and broad shoulders, caused women to look twice.

Her uniform was spattered with blood. No matter how often I had seen it since changing, blood continued to awe me with its beauty. Damon grabbed my arm and started to pull me toward the lights of the hospital.

The nurse dropped her cigarette. The ash sparked, then extinguished. I felt the bulge of my fangs behind my lips. It was just a matter of time now. Damon struggled to his feet, crouching low as if I was going to strike him again. I grabbed her arm and pulled her to me. She let out one short yelp before I covered her mouth with my hand.

The liquid tasted like rotting leaves and antiseptic, as if the death and decay of the hospital had invaded her body. I spit the still warm liquid into the gutter and threw the nurse to the ground. Her face was twisted in a grimace of fear. Stupid girl. She should have sensed the danger and run while she still could. She groaned, and I wrapped my fingers against her throat and squeezed until I heard the satisfying crack of bone breaking. Her head hung at an unnatural angle, blood still dripping from the wound.

I turned toward Damon, who stared at me, a horrified expression on his face. Never me. And if our paths ever cross again, I swear I will avenge all of your murders, brother.

Father believed grieving was weak and unmanly, so Damon had been the one to comfort me. Damon had always been the strong one, my protector. But I was wrong. It is my own death that has shaped me. Now the tables have turned. But while I have always been grateful to Damon, he despises me and blames me for what he has become.

I had forced him to feed from Alice, a bartender at the local tavern, which had completed his transformation. But does that make me a villain? I think not, especially as the act had saved his life. Finally, I see Damon the way Father had seen him: And as I had also realized earlier this evening as I stood just outside the dim glare of the gas lamp, the body of the dead nurse at my feet: I am alone.

A full orphan. Just as Katherine had presented herself when she came to Mystic Falls and stayed in our guesthouse. They exploit vulnerability, get humans to trust them, and then, when all the emotions are firmly in place, they attack. So that is what I will do. I know not how or who my next victim will be, but I know, more than ever, that the only person I can look out for and protect is myself.

Damon is on his own, and so am I. I heard Damon steal through the city, moving at vampire speed down the streets and alleys. Then, nothing. Was he dead? Had he drowned himself? Or was he simply too far away for me to hear him? Either way, the result was the same.

Stefan Salvatore, the dutiful son, the lover of poetry, the man who stood up for what was right. I wondered if that meant that Stefan Salvatore, with no one to remember him, was really, truly dead, leaving me to be. I could move to a different city every year, see the whole world. I could be a Union soldier. I could be an Italian businessman.

I could even be Damon. The sun plunged past the horizon like a cannonball falling to earth, dipping the city into darkness. I turned from one gaslit street to the next, the soles of my boots rasping over the gravelly cobblestones.

A loose newspaper blew toward me. I stomped on the broadsheet, examining an etched photo of a girl with long, dark hair and pale eyes. She looked vaguely familiar. I wondered if she was a relative of one of the Mystic Falls girls. But then I saw the headline: Of course. I reached down and crumpled the paper, hurling it as far as I could into the Mississippi.

The surface of the water was muddy and turbulent, dappled with moonlight. Could I go for eternity, feeding, killing, forgetting, then repeating the cycle?

Every instinct and impulse I had screamed yes. The triumph of closing in on my prey, touching my canines to the paper-thin skin that covered their necks, hearing their hearts slow to a dull thud and feeling a body go limp in my arms.

Hunting and feeding made me feel alive, whole; they gave me a purpose in the world. It was, after all, the natural order of things. Animals killed weaker animals. Humans killed animals. I killed humans. Every species had their foe. I shuddered to think what monster was powerful enough to hunt me.

The salty breeze wafting from the water was laced with the odor of unwashed bodies and rotting food—a far cry from the aroma across town, where scents of floral perfume and talcum powder hung heavy in the air of the wide streets. Here shadows hugged every corner, whispers rose and fell with the flowing of the river, and drunken hiccups pierced the air. It was dark, here. I quite liked it. I turned a corner, following my nose like a bloodhound on the trail of a doe. I flexed my arms, ready for a hunt—a gin-soaked drunk, a soldier, a lady out after dark.

I turned again, and the iron-scent of blood came closer. The smell was sweet and smoky. I continued to walk, picking up my pace as I traced the scent to an anonymous back street lined with an apothecary, a general store, and a tailor.

The street was a replica of our own Main Street back in Mystic Falls. The rusty smell of iron was stronger now. I followed twists and turns, my hunger building, burning, searing my very skin until finally, finally I came to a squat, peach-colored building. But when I saw the painted sign above the door, I stopped short. This was a. I sighed in frustration but my hunger forced me to push the door open anyway.

The iron chain snapped easily, as if it were no sturdier than thread. Once inside, I gazed at the bloodied carcasses, momentarily mesmerized by the blood falling into the vats, one drip at a time. Then came the light shuffle of toes passing over concrete. I reared back, my eyes darting from corner to corner. All else was quiet. But the air around me suddenly felt thicker, and the ceiling lower somehow, and I became acutely aware that there was no back exit in this room of death.

And then came movement. Fangs, eyes, the thud of footsteps closed in around me from all corners. A low, guttural growl echoed off the bloodstained walls of the shop, and I realized with a sickening jolt that I was surrounded by vampires who looked all too ready to pounce.

Chapter 9 I crouched low, my fangs elongated. The heady scent of blood permeated every corner of the room, making my head spin. It was impossible to know where to attack first. The vampires growled again, and I emitted a low snarl in response. The circle closed in tighter around me. There were three of them, and I was caught, like a fish in a net, a deer surrounded by wolves.

He looked to be in his midtwenties and had a scar that ran the length of his face, from his left eye to the corner of his lip. He wore glasses and a tweed vest over a white-collared shirt. I kept my face impassive. He looked not a day over fifteen. His face was smooth, but his green eyes were hard. The older one stepped forward, poking his bony finger against my chest as if it were a wooden stake.

What do you think? I tried to kick him, but my foot simply flopped harmlessly against air. The elder vampire chuckled. Impulsive, this one. I hit the plaster wall with a crash and fell on my shoulder, my head cracking against the wooden floorboards. I cowered beneath my attackers, the realization sinking in that if I were to survive this encounter, it would not be by might. The sound of wood breaking assaulted my ears.

I flinched. Would one vampire stake another? This was not a question I wanted answered the hard way. I pressed my spine into the damaged wall. So this is how it would end. With me dying on a makeshift stake, killed by my own kind. Two hands crushed my arms, while another two pinned my ankles together so forcefully that it felt as though I were stuck under boulders. I closed my eyes. An image of Father lying prone on his study floor swam to the forefront of my mind, and I shook my head in agony, remembering his sweating, terrified face.

I squeezed my eyes tighter, trying to evoke some other memory to the fore of my mind, one that would take me to another place, another time. But all I could think of were my victims, of the moment when my fangs sliced into their skin, their plaintive wails descending into silence, the blood dripping down my fangs and onto my chin.

Immediately, the vampires let go of my hands and feet. My eyes sprang open, and I saw a woman gliding through a narrow wooden door in the back. She was tall, though slight as a child, and all the other vampires shrank away from her in fear. They were clear and curious, but there was something about them—the darkness of the pupils, perhaps—that seemed ancient and knowing, which stood in sharp contrast to her rosy-cheeked, unlined face.

She ran a finger gently along my jaw, then placed her palm against my chest and she pressed me against the wall, hard. The suddenness of the movement stunned me, but as I sat, pinned and helpless, she brought her other wrist to her mouth, using her fang to puncture the vein. She dragged her wrist along her teeth, creating a small stream of blood.

I did as I was told, managing to get a few drops of the liquid down my throat before she yanked her hand away. That should fix your wounds at any rate. Not in his weakened state. The blond vampire wrinkled her nose as she leaned even closer toward me. She nodded, a hint of a smile on her lips, and stood, surveying the shop. The plaster wall was partially caved in, and blood smeared the floor and speckled the walls, as though a child had stood in the center of the room and twirled around with a wet paintbrush.

She tsked, and the three male vampires simultaneously took a step back. I shivered. With a sigh, the youngest vampire produced a long carving knife from behind his back.

They were both bullies, always ready to kick a kid in the schoolyard and then turn around and tell a teacher they had nothing to do with it. She took the knife and stared at it, running the pad of her index finger over the gleaming blade.

Then she held it back out to Percy. He hesitated a moment, but finally stepped forward to take it. With a growl, she stabbed Percy right in the chest. He fell to his knees, doubled over in silent agony.

He grimaced as he pulled the knife out with a sucking sound. Despite her youthful look and apparently violent temper, she also had a mothering quality that the other vampires seemed to accept, as if her stabbings were as normal to them as a light swat would be to a high-spirited child. She turned toward me.


Now, can I help you be on your way? I looked around wildly. She glanced toward the other vampires, who were now huddled in the corner of the room, heads bent in conversation. My leg was fine, but my arms shook, and my breath came erratically.

With local vampires watching my every move, where would I go? How would I feed? She pointed to the young vampire and the one who wore glasses. We walked down street after street until we neared a church with a tall spire. Her boots echoed against a slate path that led to the rear of a house. She opened the door, and a musty scent greeted me. Buxton immediately walked through the parlor and up a set of stairs, leaving me and the young female vampire alone in the darkness. Find one that suits you.

Black velvet curtains fastened with golden rope blocked every window. Dust motes floated in the air, and giltframed paintings covered the walls. The furniture was threadbare, and I could just make out two sweeping staircases with what looked like oriental runners and, in the next room, a piano.

Though at one point this must have been a grand house, now the soiled walls were cracked and peeling, and cobwebs draped over the gold-and-crystal chandelier above us. Never draw back the curtains. Do you understand, Stefan?

I turned to face her, nodding in agreement. My panic had subsided, and my arms no longer trembled. From my window, I could see the goldfishorange sun sinking low behind a white steeple. Then everything came back: As if on cue, she glided into the room, barely making a sound as she pushed open the door. Her blond hair was loose around her shoulders, and she was wearing a simple black dress. If looked at quickly, she could be mistaken for a child.

She perched on the edge of my bed, smoothing back my hair. She clutched a tumbler of dark liquid between her fingers. I nodded. But here no heartbeats had kept me from slumber.

I pushed it away. The blood in it smelled stale, sour. I brought the tumbler to my lips and took a tiny sip, fighting the urge to spit it out.

As I expected, the drink tasted like dank water and the scent made me feel vaguely ill. Lexi smiled to herself, as if enjoying a private joke. Or the soul. But I brought the cup to my lips once more.

Lexi sighed and took the tumbler, placing it on the nightstand next to me. I was rewarded with a rich laugh, which was surprisingly loud and throaty coming from her waif-like body. Get up. After changing, I followed her down the creaking wooden stairs to where the other vampires milled about in the ballroom. Hugo sat at the piano, playing an out-of-tune rendition of Mozart while wearing a blue velvet cape. Buxton, the hulking, violent vampire, was wearing a loose, ruffled, white shirt.

When they saw me, the vampires froze. Hugo managed a slight nod, but the rest merely stared in stony silence. Each entryway led to a dimly lit bar, from which inebriated patrons stumbled out into the night air. I instantly knew why Lexi took us here. Despite our odd attire, we attracted no more attention than any of the other lively revelers. As we walked, the others flanked me, keeping me in the center of their circle at all times.

I knew I was being watched sharply, and I tried to remain unaffected by the scent of blood and the rhythm of beating hearts. I was impressed by her boldness—back in Mystic Falls, only women of ill repute would ever enter a barroom. The floor of Miladies was caked with sawdust, and I winced at the overwhelmingly acrid smell of sweat, whiskey, and cologne. The tables were packed shoulder to shoulder with men playing cards, gambling, and gossiping.

The Union army had captured the city some months back, and soldiers stood sentinel on nearly every corner, maintaining order and reminding Confederates that the war they were fighting looked to be a losing cause.

You know what that means, right? Aside from the soldiers, it was a solitary crowd. Single men drowned their loneliness at wooden tables, barely acknowledging their neighbors.

The bartenders filled glasses with a mechanical air, never seeming to register the people for whom they poured their wares. I understood immediately. Buxton cleared his throat in disapproval. Hugo walked his hulkish frame over to a rough-hewn table next to the band.

Before he could even open his mouth, the blue-coated soldiers at the table glanced at each other and stood up, leaving half-filled mugs behind.

Lexi pulled out two chairs. But I reminded myself that even Hugo followed her lead. Lexi had Power, and she knew how to use it. Percy, Hugo, and Buxton also settled around. Buxton clenched his jaw, clearly trying to rein in his temper. I shifted in my chair. I suddenly felt like I was ten years old again, with Damon protecting me from the Giffin brothers. Only this time it was a girl standing up for me.

The touch was gentle and calmed me. Stefan, what song would you like to hear? Percy snickered again, but stopped when Lexi glared at him. The first thing that came to my head, it was a tune Damon used to whistle when he was on leave from the army. Lexi scooted her chair back, the legs kicking up a layer of sawdust. His comrades glanced at one another, clearly wondering why a band in a Union bar had suddenly been inspired to play a pro-Southern song.

Lexi grinned, as if delighted by her trick. Even Percy and Hugo nodded in agreement. Lexi took a sip of her beer. I glanced around the bar, my eye catching on a dark-haired barmaid. Her eyes were deep brown, and her hair was tied in a low knot at the nape of her neck. Her lips were parted, and she wore a cameo pendant that nestled in the notch of her neck.

In the split second between seeing and knowing, I was reminded of Katherine. It felt as though my maker were intent to haunt me in New Orleans. Lexi looked at me sharply, as if she knew there was a story behind this decision.

I fixed my gaze on the barmaid. Come here, I willed, staring into her liquid chocolate eyes. Come to me. For a moment she held her place behind the bar, but then she took a hesitant step forward. Yes, keep going. She stepped forward again, more confidently this time, making her way toward me. I had expected her to look dazed, almost as though she were sleepwalking.

To any bystander, she could have simply been coming to our table to take our drink orders. And, almost instantly, the girl wedged herself between me and Buxton, her thigh warm against mine. My fangs elongated, and the sides of my stomach knocked together. I wanted her. But even as I thought the words, I glanced at Lexi, breaking my connection with the girl. The girl shifted, pulled her hair up, then dropped it down on her back.

She glanced at the band, rubbing her forefinger on the rim of a glass. Invite me outside, I thought again, refocusing my attention fully on her. Sweat prickled my temple.

Had I lost the connection for good? But then she gave a slight nod. Would you mind if we went outside? I stood up, my chair scraping against the floor. But when I turned back, Lexi merely smiled and waved. She shivered, and I put my arms around her thin frame.

Instantly, she pulled away. You want to kiss me, I thought. She shrugged. But I know a way we could both warm up. Then I lunged for her neck.

She gazed up at me, confusion in her eyes, before she fell back over my arms, her face a mask of sleepy satisfaction. I took a few more sips of the blood, all too conscious of Lexi and the others back inside.

The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #3: The Craving

Then I dragged the woman up to her feet. Still, I adjusted her scarf around her neck to cover them up. Her eyes opened, the gaze unfocused. I was simply making sure you were okay. Thank you for assisting me. Good job, boy. I followed the girl until she safely resumed her position behind the polished wood counter of the bar. She looked pale, as if she were coming down with a slight cold. Meanwhile, her blood was warm in my stomach.

Chapter 12 The following evening Lexi knocked on my bedroom door. She wore a black coat and matching trousers. A cap hid most of her hair, save for a few blond tendrils that fell loose and framed her face. I smiled, despite myself. But the more you feed from humans, the hungrier you get. But there are other ways. Put on dark clothes and meet me downstairs in five minutes.

We walked out the door, no trace of sunlight in the inky black sky. I sniffed the air, searching out the scent of the nearest human, then stopped when I saw Lexi staring at me with a knowing look. Instead of turning left, toward the bustle of Bourbon Street, she turned right, snaking through side streets until we reached a forest. Above us the trees were bare and ghostly against the dark night sky, the moon our only light.

Quickly and silently, we darted from tree to bush without disturbing the underbrush. In a way, it felt like we were playing a game of hide-and-seek, or just playing at hunting, the way young schoolboys do. Now all I had were my fangs. Lexi held up a hand. I paused, midstep, my eyes darting everywhere. Then, without warning, Lexi lunged. When she stood up, blood was dripping from her fangs, and a self-satisfied smile appeared on her face. A creature lay on the fallen leaves, its legs bent as if it were still mid-run.

She gestured to the lump of orangish-red fur. Would you like to try it? I forced myself to gingerly take a sip of liquid, though, as I knew it was what Lexi wanted. I sucked in, and immediately the blood seared my tongue. I spit it out violently. The breeze shifted, and suddenly the scent of iron-rich blood was everywhere. Somewhere, nearby, there was a human heart, beating out seventy-two thu-thuds a minute.

Cautiously I slipped past Lexi, and ventured out past the perimeter of the forest. Set up on the edge of the lake was a shantytown. Tents were pitched at every angle, and makeshift clotheslines ran between wooden posts. The camp looked deserted save for one woman who was bathing, the moonlight striking her ivory skin.

She was humming to herself, washing the caked dirt off her hands and face. I hid behind a large oak tree, pretending to take the woman by surprise.

But then a large painted poster on a neighboring tree caught my eye. I took a step toward it. A branch cracked, the woman whirled around, and I could sense Lexi behind me. But this time, I was the one to hold up my hand to silence her. Mist floated over the portrait on the sign, but the printing was clear: I blinked, and the portrait swam into my vision.

It was of a dark-haired man with chiseled features and pale-blue eyes. His teeth were bared, his canines elongated, and he was crouched opposite a snarling mountain lion.

The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #2: Bloodlust

I knew the face on the poster better than I knew my own. It was Damon.

Chapter 13 Damon. The words swam in my mind as I tried to make sense of what I was seeing. Damon was alive. But who knew for how long? If he had been captured, he was undoubtedly weak.

How could he face a ravenous beast in a battle and survive? Anger tore through my body, along with the familiar ache of my fangs elongating.

I ripped down the sign with a snarl. I held up the paper. The picture made him look like a monster. My eye twitched. I shook my head, not understanding what she meant. She sighed. He owns a lot of places in town, including a two-bit circus and freak show. Always looking for curiosities to display, and people always seem to find the money to attend. But what? How could I possibly save him? She brushed leaves and dirt from the back of her pants.

My hunger forgotten, I followed her through the forest and back to the wide, silent streets of the city. Magnolias and calla lilies spilled over the gate, and the air smelled like mint.

Just beyond, I could see an enormous herb garden that took up a fifth of the property. I recoiled as we walked closer, as the garden grew a generous amount of vervain.

Lexi wrinkled her nose. We pushed open the gate, our footsteps barely crunching the gravel on the path that circled the house. Cicadas buzzed in the sycamore trees above us, and I could hear horses pacing in the stable. And then I heard a low moan. Lexi gazed up at the sky. Orange streaks were starting to peek above the horizon; it was about an hour until day broke.

I have to go. Katherine had arranged for both Damon and me to have this protection. I shook my head. The orange streaks in the sky grew fatter, brighter. When I looked up, Lexi was gone and I was alone. Stealing quickly to the back of the house, I made my way toward the whitewashed stable. Horses pawed the ground nervously, obviously sensing my presence.

The stable doors were padlocked with an iron bolt. I grabbed the chain, testing it. But something stopped me. She had become my guide during the past couple of days, and I knew it was in my best interest to listen to her. Better not to leave any evidence of an intruder, better to get the lay of the land before doing anything rash.

I released the chain, and it fell back against the door with a loud clanking sound. A horse whinnied. I walked to the other side of the stable, where a dusty window was open a crack. The cloying scent of vervain was everywhere, making me woozy and nauseated. In the corner, a filthy figure struggled to sit up. His hands and feet were bound with chains, and his skin was covered in angry red welts. The chains must have been soaked in vervain.

I winced in sympathy. Damon shrugged, an effort that clearly took all his energy. His eyes were bloodshot and glassy. A large cut lined his forehead, slicing into his eyebrow. I glanced around, hoping I could find something—a squirrel, a rabbit, a chipmunk—to kill and toss to him, but there was nothing. He leaned back against the wall, his chains rattling. I whirled around toward the main house. And I stood, my hands raised to the sky, unsure of who—or what—had found me this time.

Chapter 14 My hands still in the air, I pressed my lips together. Although twice my bulk, they were definitely human. Each man grabbed one of my arms, though I noted with cold calculation that it would take only one quick twist to shake both off before I lunged for my attack. A girl walked toward me from the porch and stopped a foot away. I tried to make my voice sound like I was nervously gasping for breath.

Her hair tumbled in flaming curls down her back, and she wore what looked suspiciously like a vervain wreath on her head. Though she was clearly from a wealthy family, this was no coddled city girl. She knit her eyebrows together. One of the men holding me dropped my arm in surprise. A rooster crowed. Sunlight slowly spilled over the backyard.

I glanced down at my gleaming ring, thankful that Lexi had left. She snapped her fingers, and the two large men dropped my arms. And the next time you may not meet someone as friendly as me. Callie Gallagher. Stefan out. Her teeth were pearly white, and one of her front teeth was slightly crooked. Freckles dusted her upturned nose. She smelled sweet, like oranges. I realized it had been a long time since I had found a woman beautiful for more than the sweet smell of her blood.

The girl shook her head incredulously. After you trespassed on my property? But then she looked up and down at my faded trousers and sighed. We do need a new ticket taker—our last one ran off with one of the fat ladies. Chapter 15 October 7, Something has changed. Maybe it is merely age, a sort of hyper-maturation into the role of an adult vampire.

Whatever the cause, the result is the same.

Though the scent of blood is still everywhere, I no longer feel compelled to hunt for sport. Hunting is distracting. My hunger is something to be sated quickly rather than enjoyably.

Of course, the question is, how will I free Damon? Attack everyone in sight, creating a melee of destruction? Convince Callie to shed her vervain wreath so I can compel her to do my bidding? But Callie seems to have a power all her own. That much is clear to her henchmen, and to me. Of course, my Power is stronger. I spent the entire day pacing my room, cutting a path through the dust that lined the wooden floor.

Plans to free Damon flitted through my head one by one, but just as quickly as they came, I shot them down for being too daring, too risky, too destructive.

Her voice was light, but worry lines creased her forehead. I let out a low growl and raked my hands through my hair. He hates me. She took my hand. All the paintings were covered with a layer of grime. At the very bottom stair, Lexi stopped and pulled a portrait off the wall. It was newer than the others, with a gold frame and the glass polished to a gleam.

Janes hobbled away. I shrugged. But talking about Rosalyn felt dangerous. Somehow, no matter what I said or felt, I still had to marry her. Suddenly, a new whiskey appeared in front of me. I glanced up to see the pretty bartender Damon had been talking to standing over our table. I watched her retreating back. All the women in the tavern, even those with loose reputations, were more interesting than Rosalyn.

You, meanwhile, are free to do as you please. I shook my head, as if trying to remove the idea from it, and took another drink of whiskey.

I trust Father.

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And I know he only wants the best. It was true. Maybe I could grow to love Rosalyn, but the thought that I could be married and have a child in just one short year filled me with dread. It had to be. Do you think she has a soldier somewhere? In fact, as beautiful as she was, I almost wished that some far-flung relatives from Charleston or Richmond or Atlanta would step forward to invite her to live with them.

If she were out of sight, then maybe I could somehow force myself to love Rosalyn. Damon stared at me, and I knew in that moment how miserable I must have looked. But discussion of the demons did not stop people from all over the county coming to the Grange Hall to celebrate the Confederacy.

The coaches backed up beyond the stone drive and showed no sign of slowing their onslaught toward the imposing stone structure. As my feet hit dirt, I saw Ellen Emerson and her daughter, Daisy, walking arm in arm, trailed by two maids.

Hundreds of lanterns lit the stone steps leading to the white wooden doors, and carriages lined the curved walkway. I could hear strains of a waltz coming from inside the hall. Daisy had hated me ever since we were children, when Damon had dared me to push her into Willow Creek. You look more beautiful every day.

Can you please forgive a gentleman for his wicked youth? I sighed. There was no mystery or intrigue in Mystic Falls. Everyone knew everyone else. They would have the same conversations, the same jokes, the same fights. And the cycle would continue for eternity.

How is he? Do give him that message! I sighed and stepped into the hall. The walls of the hall were covered with ivy and wisteria and, farther up, Confederate flags. Father had obviously spared no expense, and it was clear that this was more than a simple welcome dinner for the troops.

Heart-heavy, I headed over to the punch. I prepared myself to give a tight smile and accept the awkward congratulations that were already trickling in.

What was the point of having a dinner to announce an engagement that everyone seemed to know about? I thought sourly. I turned to find myself face-to-face with Mr. I instantly composed my expression into something I hoped resembled excitement.

Cartwright said, offering me a glass of whiskey. Practical and low risk with plenty of opportunity for growth. Cartwright shook his head. Not saying it should have gone and gotten itself killed, but I think everyone is getting themselves all worked up over nothing. All this discussion of demons you hear all over the damn place. People whispering that the town is cursed.

Cartwright boomed, causing several people to stare. I smiled nervously. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Father acting as host and shuttling people toward the long table at the center of the room. You have everything you need? Rosalyn stood next to her mother and smiled tightly at her parents. As our neighbors took their seats around us, I realized that there were still two empty seats to my left.

I glanced toward the door. The band was still playing, and there was anticipation in the air. Finally, the doors opened with a clatter, and Damon and Katherine walked in. Damon could act like a boy, could continue to drink and flirt as if nothing had consequence. Even I was surprised by the surge of anger I felt. Instantly guilty, I tried to squelch the emotion by downing the full glass of wine to my left.

After all, would Katherine have been expected to come to the dinner by herself? Besides, they had no future.

Marriages, at least in our society, were approved only if they merged two families. And, as an orphan, what did Katherine have to offer besides beauty? She wore a green muslin dress whose fabric spread across her hoop skirts, and there was a hushed murmur as she and Damon made their way to the two empty seats at the center of the table. Her blue necklace gleamed at her throat, and she winked at me before taking the empty seat next to my own. Her hip brushed against mine, and I shifted uncomfortably.

If I heard her musical voice, I might lose my nerve to propose to Rosalyn. What I am worried about is getting the militia together to solve the problems here in Mystic Falls. Just then, an army of servants entered the hall, holding plates of wild pheasant. I took my silver fork and pushed the gamey meat around my plate; I had no appetite. Around me, I could hear the usual discussions: about the war, about what we could do for our boys in gray, about upcoming dinners and barbecues and church socials.

Katherine was nodding intently at Honoria Fells across the table. Suddenly I felt jealous of the grizzled, frizzy-haired Honoria.

She was able to have the one-on-one conversation with Katherine that I so desperately wanted. This was the moment everyone had been waiting for: They knew an announcement was about to be made, and they knew that following that announcement there would be celebrating and dancing.

It was always the way dinners happened in Mystic Falls. As if on cue, Honoria leaned toward me, and Damon smiled encouragingly. Feeling sick to my stomach, I took a deep breath and clinked my knife against my crystal glass.

Immediately, there was a hush throughout the hall, and even the servants stopped midstep to stare at me. I stood up, took a long swig of red wine for courage, and cleared my throat. I glanced at Katherine. She was looking at me, her dark eyes piercing my own. I tore my gaze away and gripped my glass so tightly, I was sure it would break. Will you do me the honor? I pulled out the box and knelt down in front of Rosalyn, staring up at her watery brown eyes. Rosalyn shrieked, and the room burst into a smattering of applause.

I felt a hand clap my back, and I saw Damon grinning down on me. Katherine clapped politely, an unreadable expression on her face. It was too large, and the emerald rolled lopsidedly toward her pinkie.

Immediately, a crush of women surrounded us, cooing over the ring. Come here, Stefan, son! I stopped in my tracks, waiting for the answer. Katherine glanced up, casting a furtive look in my direction. Her eyes held my own for a long moment. But then Father nudged me from behind, and before I could react, Damon grabbed Katherine by the hand and led her out to the dance floor.

I ran from fittings at Mrs. Once I went up to the attic to look at the portrait of Mother. Love is patient, I remembered her saying in her lilting French accent during Bible study. The notion comforted me. Maybe love could come to me and Rosalyn. After that, I tried to love Rosalyn, or at least garner some kind of affection for her.

In fact, Rosalyn had been in remarkably good spirits. Maybe that would be enough. Father had wasted no time in planning another party to celebrate. This time, it was a barbecue at the estate, and Father had invited everyone within a twenty-mile radius. I recognized only a handful of the young men, pretty girls, and Confederate soldiers who milled around the labyrinth, acting as if they owned the estate. When I was younger, I used to love the parties at Veritas—they were always a chance to run down to the ice pond with our friends, to play hide-and-seek in the swamp, to ride horses to the Wickery Bridge, then dare each other to dive into the icy depths of Willow Creek.

Now I just wished it were over, so I could be alone in my room. To judge from his lopsided grin, he was already drunk.

He passed me a sweating tumbler and tipped his own to mine. Can you picture it? I swirled my whiskey miserably, unable to picture it for myself. I sighed and sat down on the porch swing, observing the merriment occurring all around me.

I knew I should feel happy. I knew Father only wanted what was best for me. I knew that there was nothing wrong with Rosalyn. So why did this engagement feel like a death sentence? In the distance, schoolchildren were swinging and shrieking on the gate. To be around so much merriment—all meant for me—and not feel happy made my heart thud heavily in my chest. I shut the door to the study and breathed a sigh of relief.

Only the faintest stream of sunlight peeked through the heavy damask curtains. The room was cool and smelled of well-oiled leather and musty books. Shakespeare calmed me, the words soothing my brain and reminding me that there soothing my brain and reminding me that there was love and beauty in the world.

Perhaps experiencing it through art would be enough to sustain me. Katherine stood at the study entrance, wearing a simple, white silk dress that hugged every curve of her body.

All the other women at the party were wearing layers of crinoline and muslin, their skin guarded under thick fabric. Out of propriety, I glanced away. Katherine stepped toward me. It was a lame attempt to change the conversation; I had yet to meet a girl versed in his works. I tore my eyes away. I looked up, astonished. My heart galloped in my chest, and my brain felt as slow as molasses, creating an unusual sensation that made me feel I was dreaming.

Katherine yanked the book off my lap, closing it with a resounding clap. But I was simply asking you a question. Are you worthy of that comparison, Mr. Or do you need a book to decide? I cleared my throat, my mind racing. Damon would have said something witty in response, without even thinking about it. But when I was with Katherine, I was like a schoolboy who tries to impress a girl with a frog caught from the pond. I sounded so jealous and petty. I shook my head, frustrated.

It was as though Katherine somehow compelled me to speak without thinking. She was so lively and vivacious—talking to her, I felt as though I was in a dream, where nothing I said would have any consequence but everything I said was important.

She placed her icy hand on my forearm. Cartwright, to twirl Rosalyn in a first waltz, to toast my place as a man of Mystic Falls. An errant dark curl flopped down on her white forehead. I had to use all my strength to resist pushing it off her face. But had she seen me pausing outside the carriage house? Had she seen me run Mezzanotte to the forest when she and Damon explored the garden, desperate to get away from their laughter?

Had she somehow managed to read my thoughts? Katherine smiled ruefully. She took down a thick, leather-bound book, The Mysteries of Mystic Falls. I sank into the cool, cracked leather cushion next to her and just let go. After all, who knew? Perhaps a few moments in her presence would be the balm I needed to break my melancholia. I was dimly conscious of the fact that I needed to leave, soon, but whenever I thought of the music and the dancing and the plates of fried chicken and Rosalyn, I found myself literally unable to move.

Are you distracted? The smell of lemon and ginger surrounded me, making me feel wobbly and dizzy. She turned toward me. Our lips were mere inches apart, and suddenly the scent of her became nearly unbearable. I closed my eyes and leaned in until my lips grazed hers.

For a moment, it felt as though my entire life had clicked into place. I saw Katherine running barefoot in the fields behind the guest house, me chasing after her, our young son slung over my shoulder. But then, entirely unbidden, an image of Penny, her throat torn out, floated through my mind. I pulled back instantly, as if struck by lightning.

They fell to the floor, the sound muffled by the Oriental rugs. My mouth tasted like iron. What had I just done? What if my father had come in, eager to open the humidor with Mr. My brain whirled in horror. Twilight was just beginning to fall. Coaches were setting off with mothers and young children as well as cautious revelers who were afraid of the animal attacks.

Now was when the liquor would flow, the band would play more loudly, and girls would outdo themselves waltzing, intent to capture the eyes of a Confederate soldier from the nearby camp. I felt my breath returning to normal. I saw Damon sitting with other soldiers, playing a round of poker on the corner of the porch.

Five girls were squeezed onto the porch swing, giggling and talking loudly. Father and Mr. Cartwright were walking toward the labyrinth, each holding a whiskey and gesturing in an animated fashion, no doubt talking about the benefits of the Cartwright-Salvatore merger.

His words rang true, yet an unexplainable shiver of fear rushed down my spine. Was it just me, or had the sun set remarkably quickly? Leaving Robert behind, I elbowed my way past the party guests. It was odd for a girl to not show up at her own party. The door had been closed, the shades drawn.

The moon reflected off the water, casting an eerie, greenish glow on the rocks and willow trees surrounding the pond. The grass was wet with dew, and still trampled from the time when Damon, Katherine, and I had played football there.

The knee-high mist made me wish I were wearing my boots instead of my dress shoes. I squinted. At the base of the willow tree, where Damon and I had spent hours climbing as children, was a shadowy lump on the ground, like a large, gnarled tree root.

I squinted again. For a moment, I wondered if it could be a pair of intertwined lovers, trying to escape prying eyes. At least someone had found love at this party. But then the clouds shifted, and a shaft of moonlight illuminated the tree—and the form beneath it.

It was Rosalyn, my betrothed, her throat torn out, her eyes half open, staring up at the tree branches as if they held the secret to a universe she no longer inhabited. I remember footfalls and shrieking and the servants praying outside their quarters. I remember staying on my knees, yelling out of horror and pity and fear. I remember Mr. Cartwright pulling me back as Mrs.

Cartwright sank to her knees and keened loudly, like a wounded animal. I remember seeing the police carriage. I remember Father and Damon wringing their hands and whispering about me, allies in trying to develop the best course for my care.

I tried to talk, to tell them I was fine—I was, after all, alive. At one point, Dr. Janes hooked his arms under my armpits and dragged me to my feet. There, words were mumbled, and Cordelia was called for. She pressed her hands to my chest and muttered a prayer under her breath, then pulled a tiny vial from the voluminous folds of her skirt. She uncapped it and pressed it to my lips. Quickly, she dosed me with more of the licorice-scented liquid. I dropped back to the hard steps of the porch, too tired to think anymore.

His face was white with shock. Janes began. Damon nodded. Should have what? Should have gone looking for her far earlier, instead of spending my time kissing Katherine? Should have insisted on escorting her to the party? I managed to stand, shakily, beside him. From out of nowhere, Father appeared and held my other arm, and I haltingly managed to step off the porch and back to the house. Revelers stood on the grass, holding each other, and Sheriff Forbes called out for the militia to search in the woods.

I felt Damon guiding me through the back door of the house and up the stairs before allowing me to collapse on my bed. I fell into the cotton sheets, and then I remember nothing but darkness. The next morning, I awoke to beams of sunlight scattered on the cherrywood floorboards of my bedroom. Our mother had rocked us in it when we were infants, singing songs to us as we went to sleep. He poured water into a tumbler and held it toward me. I struggled to sit upright. I fell back against the goose-down pillows and allowed Damon to bring the glass to my lips as if I were an infant.

The cool, clear liquid slipped down my throat, and once again, I thought back to last night. She must have been so excited to show off her dress, to have the younger girls gape at her ring, to have the older women take her off to a corner to discuss the particulars of her wedding night. I imagined her dashing across the lawn, then hearing footsteps behind her, only to turn and see flashing white teeth glistening in the moonlight.

I shuddered. Damon crossed over to the bed and put his hand on my shoulder. Suddenly the rush of terrifying images stopped. The war is bringing people east for battle, and they think the animals are following the blood trail.

It was just one more example of new phrases like killed and a widower that were about to be added to my vocabulary. An epidemic of mass hysteria.

As Damon continued to ramble, I lay back and closed my eyes. Her eyes had been large and luminescent. A candle burns on my nightstand, the flickering shadows foreboding. I am haunted already. Will I ever forgive myself for not finding Rosalyn until it was too late?

And why is she —the one I vowed to forget—still on my mind? My head is pounding. Cordelia is always at the door, offering drinks, lozenges, powdered herbs. I take them, like a recuperating child. Do they know of the nightmares? I thought marriage was a fate worse than death. I was wrong. I was wrong about so many things, too many things, and all I can do is pray for forgiveness and hope that Midnight. I will do it. I must. For Rosalyn. And for her. Now I will blow out the candle and hope for sleep—like that of the dead —to engulf me quickly….

Time to get up! Day faded into night, and I could never really sleep, only doze into terrifying dreams. I drank it quickly. I hobbled to the mirror. I had stubble over my chin, and my tawny hair stood up on all ends. My eyes were red, and my nightshirt was hanging off my shoulders. I looked awful. Father stood behind me, appraising my reflection. I still felt horribly guilty.

I blanched. Still, I managed to change into the suit, allowed Alfred to help me shave, since my hands allowed Alfred to help me shave, since my hands were so shaky, and emerged an hour later ready to do what I had to do. I kept my eyes down as I followed Father and Damon to the carriage. Father sat up front, next to Alfred, while Damon sat in the back with me.

Damon put a hand on my shoulder. The magpies chattered, the bees buzzed, and the sun cast a golden glow on the trees. The entire coach smelled like ginger, and I felt my stomach heave. It was the smell of guilt over lusting after a woman who was never to be—could never be—my wife.

The church bells were ringing, and every business in town was closed for the day. We reached the door as Dr. Janes hobbled into the church, his cane in one hand and a flask of whiskey in another.

Sheriff Forbes was in his usual place in the second pew, glaring at the cluster of rouged women from the tavern who had come to pay their respects. At the edge of their circle was Alice, the barmaid, cooling herself with a silk fan. In the front pew, Mr. Cartwright stared straight ahead, while Mrs.

Cartwright sobbed and occasionally blew her nose into a lace handkerchief. At the front of the church, a closed oak casket was covered with flowers. Wordlessly, I walked to the casket and knelt down in front of it. Unbidden, images of my betrothed popped up in my mind: Rosalyn giggling over her new puppy, giddily discussing flower combinations for our wedding, risking the wrath of her maid by planting a covert kiss on my cheek at the end of one visit.

I moved my hands off the casket and put them together, as if in prayer. I wanted her to know, wherever she was, that I would have learned to love her. Right behind me was Katherine. She was wearing a dark-blue cotton dress that stood out in the sea a dark-blue cotton dress that stood out in the sea of black crepe that filled the pews. I flinched and drew my arm back. How dare she touch me so familiarly in public? Concern registered in her dark eyes. After all, her parents had died.

She was just a young girl, reaching out to offer her support. She looked so sad that for one wild second, I was tempted to cross the aisle and comfort her. I slid next to Damon, who had his hands crossed piously over a Bible. I noticed his eyes flick up as Katherine briefly knelt down by the coffin. I followed his gaze, noticing the way several curls had escaped from beneath her hat and were curling around the ornate clasp on her blue necklace.

A few minutes later, the Requiem ended, and Pastor Collins strode up to the pulpit. I covertly glanced across the aisle at Katherine. Her servant, Emily, was sitting next to her on one side and Pearl on the other.

She turned slightly, as if to look at me. I forced myself to look away before our eyes could meet. I would not dishonor Rosalyn by thinking of Katherine. I gazed up at the unfinished, steepled beams of the church.

The sun was quickly setting, but I could still make out a shadowy figure nestled between the roots. I glanced again. It was Rosalyn, her party dress shimmering in the weak light. Bile rose in my throat. How could she be here? She was buried, her body six feet underground at the Mystic Falls cemetery.

As I walked closer, steeling my courage and grasping the knife in my pocket, I noticed her lifeless eyes reflecting the verdant leaves above. Her dark curls stuck to her clammy forehead. Instead, her neck displayed only two neat little holes, the size of shodding nails.

As if guided by an unseen hand, I fell to my knees next to her body. Then I raised my eyes and froze in horror. A small smile curved her rosebud lips, as if she were simply dreaming. I fought the urge to scream. I would not let Katherine die! But as I reached toward her wounds, she sat straight up. Her visage morphed, her dark curls faded to blond, and her eyes glowed red.

I started backward. The voice belonged neither to Katherine nor Rosalyn—but to a demon. I screamed, gripping my penknife and slicing it into the night air. The demon lunged forward and clutched my neck. It lowered its sharpened canines to my skin, and everything faded to black…. I woke up in a cold sweat, sitting upright.Damon stared at me, and I knew in that moment how miserable I must have looked. I turned again, and the iron-scent of blood came closer.

Katherine stood at the study entrance, wearing a simple, white silk dress that hugged every curve of her body. Frye 61 The Vampire Diaries began life as a three-part series of novels commis- sioned by Alloy Entertainment in You don't get any drastic insight into the character. The traditional division of good human versus bad vampire used by the parents and ancestors in Mystic Falls, is shown to be insufficient and unjust. It was filthy and had what looked like a bloodstain on the corner.

This throws into confusion the older demarca- tions of the human and the monstrous. I knew her in Atlanta.

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