Home > Dark Reunion (The Vampire Diaries #4)(12)

Dark Reunion (The Vampire Diaries #4)(12)
Author: L.J. Smith

She opened the other napkin. Three pinches of dark hair went into the fire, sizzling with a terrible smell. Then three drops of the stained water, hissing.

Swift on the heel thou comest,

Thrice summoned by my spell,

Thrice troubled by my burning.

Come to me without delay.

She read the words aloud slowly, three times. Then she sat back on her heels. The fire went on burning smokily. The candle flames danced.

"And now what?" Matt said.

"I don't know. It just says wait for the middle candle to burn down to the pin."

"And what then?"

"I guess we'll find out when it happens."

In Florence, it was dawn.

Stefan watched the girl move down the stairway, one hand resting lightly on the banister to keep her balance. Her movements were slow and slightly dreamlike, as if she were floating.

Suddenly, she swayed and clutched at the banister more tightly. Stefan moved quickly behind her and put a hand under her elbow.

"Are you all right?"

She looked up at him with the same dreaminess. She was very pretty. Her expensive clothes were the latest fashion and her stylishly disarrayed hair was blond. A tourist. He knew she was American before she spoke.

"Yes... I think..." Her brown eyes were unfocused.

"Do you have a way to get home? Where are you staying?"

"On Via dei Conti, near the Medici chapel. I'm with the Gonzaga in Florence program."

Damn! Not a tourist, then; a student. And that meant she'd be carrying this story back with her, telling her classmates about the handsome Italian guy she'd met last night. The one with night-dark eyes. The one who took her back to his exclusive place on Via Tornabuoni and wined her and dined her and then, in the moonlight, maybe, in his room or out in the enclosed courtyard, leaned close to look into her eyes and...

Stefan's gaze slid away from the girl's throat with its two reddened puncture wounds. He'd seen marks like that so often-how could they still have the power to disturb him? But they did; they sickened him and set a slow burning in his gut.

"What's your name?"

"Rachael. With an a." She spelled it.

"All right, Rachael. Look at me. You will go back to your pensione and you won't remember anything about last night. You don't know where you went or who you saw. And you've never seen me before, either. Repeat."

"Good. Do you have money to get back? Here." Stefan pulled a fistful of crumpled lire-mostly 50,000 and 100,000 notes-out of his pocket and led her outside.

When she was safely in a cab, he went back inside and made straight for Damon's bedroom.

Damon was lounging near the window, peeling an orange, not even dressed yet. He looked up, annoyed, as Stefan entered.

"It's customary to knock," he said.

"Where'd you meet her?" said Stefan. And then, when Damon turned a blank stare on him, he added, "That girl. Rachael." "Was that her name? I don't think I bothered to ask. At Bar Gilli. Or perhaps it was Bar Mario. Why?"

Stefan struggled to contain his anger. "That's not the only thing you didn't bother to do. You didn't bother to influence her to forget you, either. Do you want to get caught, Damon?"

Damon's lips curved in a smile and he twisted off a curlicue of orange peel. "I am never caught, little brother," he said.

"So what are you going to do when they come after you? When somebody

realizes, 'My God, there's a bloodsucking monster on Via Tornabuoni'? Kill them all? Wait until they break down the front door and then melt away into darkness?" Damon met his gaze directly, challengingly, that faint smile still clinging about his lips.

"Why not?" he said.

"Damn you!" said Stefan. "Listen to me, Damon. This has got to stop."

"I'm touched at your concern for my safety."

"It isn't fair, Damon. To take an unwilling girl like that-"

"Oh, she was willing, brother. She was very, very willing."

"Did you tell her what you were going to do? Did you warn her about the consequences of exchanging blood with a vampire? The nightmares, the psychic visions? Was she willing for that?" Damon clearly wasn't going to reply, so he went on. "You know it's wrong."

"As a matter of fact, I do." With that, Damon gave one of his sudden, unnerving smiles, turning it on and off instantly.

Damon tossed away the orange. His tone was silky, persuasive. "Little brother, the world is full of what you call 'wrong,' " he said. "Why not relax and join the winning side? It's much more fun, I assure you."

Stefan felt himself go hot with anger. "How can you even say that?" he flashed back. "Didn't you learn anything from Katherine? She chose 'the winning side.' "

"Katherine died too quickly," said Damon. He was smiling again, but his eyes were cold.

"And now all you can think about is revenge." Looking at his brother, Stefan felt a crushing weight settle on his own chest. "That and your own pleasure," he said.

"What else is there? Pleasure is the only reality, little brother-pleasure and power. And you're a hunter by nature, just as much as I am," Damon said. He added, "I don't remember inviting you to come to Florence with me, anyway. Since you're not enjoying yourself, why don't you just leave?"

The weight in Stefan's chest tightened suddenly, unbearably, but his gaze, locked with Damon's, did not waver. "You know why," he said quietly. And at last he had the satisfaction of seeing Damon's eyes drop.

Stefan himself could hear Elena's words in his mind. She'd been dying then, and her voice had been weak, but he'd heard her clearly. You have to take care of each other. Stefan, will you promise? Promise to take care of each other? And he had promised, and he would keep his word. No matter what.

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