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The Vampire Diaries #1: The Awakening (1991)

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发表于 2016-9-9 15:04 | 显示全部楼层 |阅读模式

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本帖最后由 慕然回首 于 2016-9-9 16:31 编辑

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Author: L.J. Smith

Category: Fantasy , Young Adult

Summary:

Elena Gilbert is the most beautiful and popular girl in all of Robert E. Lee High School. She is driven by a desire to be the best at everything, and takes an interest in a handsome new student named Stefan Salvatore, who repeatedly avoids her. Stefan eventually rescues Elena from Tyler Smallwood on the night of the Homecoming Dance. Afterwards, the two gradually bond, leading him to reciprocate her affections. As the pair fall in love, their town of Fell's Church is being terrorised by inexplicable, horrifying 'animal attacks', with Stefan becoming a suspect. When Elena tries to confront Stefan, she discovers his terrible secret...

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发表于 2016-9-9 15:11 | 显示全部楼层
"Are you having a good time?" Elena asked.  

I am now . Stefan didn't say it, but Elena knew it was what he was thinking. She could see it in the way he stared at her. She had never been so sure of her power. Except that actually he didn't look as if he were having a good time; he looked stricken, in pain, as if he couldn't take one more minute of this.  

The band was starting up, a slow dance. He was still staring at her, drinking her in. Those green eyes darkening, going black with desire. She had the sudden feeling that he might jerk her to him and kiss her hard, without ever saying a word.  

"Would you like to dance?" she said softly. I'm playing with fire, with something I don't understand, she thought suddenly. And in that instant she realized that she was frightened. Her heart began to pound violently. It was as if those green eyes spoke to some part of her that was buried deep beneath the surface-and that part was screaming "danger" at her. Some instinct older than civilization was telling her to run, to flee.  

She didn't move.


Chapter One

September 4  

Dear Diary,  

Something awful is going to happen today.  

I don't know why I wrote that. It's crazy. There'sno reason for me to be upset and every reason for me to be happy, but...  

But here I am at 5:30 in the morning, awake and scared. I keep telling myself it's just that I'm all messed up from the time difference between France and here. But that doesn't explain why I feel so scared. So lost.  

The day before yesterday, while Aunt Judith and Margaret and I were driving back from the airport, I had such a strange feeling. When we turned onto our street I suddenly thought, "Mom and Dad are waiting for us at home. I bet they'll be on the front porch or in the living room looking out the window. They must have missed me so much."  

I know. That sounds totally crazy.  

But even when I saw the house and the empty front porch I still felt that way. I ran up the steps and I tried the door and knocked with the knocker. And when Aunt Judith unlocked the door I burst inside and just stood in the hallway listening, expecting to hear Mom coming down the stairs or Dad calling from the den.  

Just then Aunt Judith let a suitcase crash down on the floor behind me and sighed a huge sigh and said, "We're home." And Margaret laughed. And the most horrible feeling I've ever felt in my life came over me. I've never felt so utterly and completely lost.  

Home. I'm home. Why does that sound like a he?  

I was born here in Fell's Church. I've always lived in this house, always. This is my same old bedroom, with the scorch mark on the floorboards where Caroline and I tried to sneak cigarettes in 5th grade and nearly choked ourselves. I can look out the window and see the big quince tree Matt and the guys climbed up to crash my birthday slumber party two years ago. This is my bed, my chair, my dresser.  

But right now everything looks strange to me, as if I don't belong here. It's me that's out of place. And the worst thing is that I feel there's somewhere I do belong, but I just can't find it.  

I was too tired yesterday to go to Orientation.  

Meredith picked up my schedule for me, but I didn't feel like talking to her on the phone. Aunt Judith told everyone who called that I had jet lag and was sleeping, but she watched me at dinner with a funny look on her face.  

I've got to see the crowd today, though. We're supposed to meet in the parking lot before school. Is that why I'm scared? Am I frightened of them?  

Elena Gilbert stopped writing. She stared at the last line she had written and then shook her head, pen hovering over the small book with the blue velvet cover. Then, with a sudden gesture, she lifted her head and threw pen and book at the big bay window, where they bounced off harmlessly and landed on the upholstered window seat.  

It was all so completely ridiculous.  

Since when had she, Elena Gilbert, been scared of meeting people? Since when had she been scared of anything ? She stood up and angrily thrust her arms into a red silk kimono. She didn't even glance at the elaborate Victorian mirror above the cherrywood dresser; she knew what she'd see. Elena Gilbert, cool and blond and slender, the fashion trendsetter, the high school senior, the girl every boy wanted and every girl wanted to be. Who just now had an unaccustomed scowl on her face and a pinch to her mouth.  

A hot bath and some coffee and I'll calm down, she thought. The morning ritual of washing and dressing was soothing, and she dawdled over it, sorting through her new outfits from Paris. She finally chose a pale rose top and white linen shorts combo that made her look like a raspberry sundae. Good enough to eat, she thought, and the mirror showed a girl with a secret smile. Her earlier fears had melted away, forgotten.

"Elena! Where are you? You're going to be late for school!" The voice drifted faintly up from below.  

Elena ran the brush one more time through silky hair and pulled it back with a deep rose ribbon. Then she grabbed her backpack and went down the stairs.  

In the kitchen, four-year-old Margaret was eating cereal at the kitchen table, and Aunt Judith was burning something on the stove. Aunt Judith was the sort of woman who always looked vaguely flustered; she had a thin, mild face and light flyaway hair pushed back untidily. Elena landed a peck on her cheek.  

"Good morning, everybody. Sorry I don't have time for breakfast."  

"But, Elena, you can't just go off without eating. You need your protein-"  

"I'll get a doughnut before school," said Elena briskly. She dropped a kiss on Margaret's tow head and turned to go.  

"But, Elena-" "And I'll probably go home with Bonnie or Meredith after school, so don't wait dinner. Bye!"  

"Elena-"  

Elena was already at the front door. She closed it behind her, cutting off Aunt Judith's distant protests, and stepped out onto the front porch.  

And stopped.  

All the bad feelings of the morning rushed over her again. The anxiety, the fear. And the certainty that something terrible was about to happen.  

Maple Street was deserted. The tall Victorian houses looked strange and silent, as if they might all be empty inside, like the houses on an abandoned movie set. They looked as if they were empty ofpeople , but full of strange watching things.  

That was it; something was watching her. The sky overhead was not blue but milky and opaque, like a giant bowl turned upside down.  

The air was stifling, and Elena felt sure that there were eyes on her.  

She caught sight of something dark in the branches of the old quince tree in front of the house.  

It was a crow, sitting as still as the yellow-tinged leaves around it. And it was the thing watching her.  

She tried to tell herself that this was ridiculous, but somehow she knew . It was the biggest crow she had ever seen, plump and sleek, with rainbows shining in its black feathers. She could see every detail of it clearly: the greedy dark claws, the sharp beak, the single glittering black eye.  

It was so motionless that it might have been a wax model of a bird sitting there. But as she stared at it, Elena felt herself flush slowly, heat coming in waves up her throat and cheeks. Because it was... looking at her. Looking the way boys looked at her when she wore a bathing suit or a sheer blouse. As if it were undressing her with its eyes.  

Before she realized what she was doing, she had dropped her backpack and picked up a stone from beside the driveway. "Get out of here," she said, and heard the shaking anger in her own voice. "Go on! Getaway !" With the last word, she threw the stone.  

There was an explosion of leaves, but the crow soared up unharmed. Its wings were huge, and they made enough racket for a whole flock of crows. Elena crouched, suddenly panicked as it flapped directly over her head, the wind of its wings ruffling her blond hair.  

But it swooped up again and circled, a black silhouette against the paper-white sky. Then, with one harsh croak, it wheeled away toward the woods.  

Elena straightened up slowly, then glanced around, self-conscious. She couldn't believe what she had just done. But now that the bird was gone, the sky felt ordinary again. A little wind made the leaves flutter, and Elena took a deep breath. Down the street a door opened and several children poured out, laughing.  

She smiled at them, and took another breath, relief sweeping through her like sunlight. How could she have been so silly? This was a beautiful day, full of promise, and nothing bad was going to happen.  

Nothing bad was going to happen-except that she was going to be late getting to school. The whole crowd would be waiting for her in the parking lot.  

You could always tell everyone you stopped to throw stones at a Peeping Tom, she thought, and almost giggled. Now,that would give them something to think about.  

Without a backward glance at the quince tree, she began to walk as quickly as she could down the street.

The crow crashed through the top of the massive oak, and Stefan's head jerked up reflexively. When he saw it was only a bird, he relaxed.  

His eyes dropped to the limp white form in his hands, and he felt his face twist in regret. He hadn't meant to kill it. He would have hunted something larger than a rabbit if he'd known how hungry he was. But, of course, that was the very thing that frightened him: never knowing how strong the hunger would be, or what he might have to do to satisfy it. He was lucky that this time he'd killed only a rabbit.  

He stood beneath the ancient oak trees, sunlight filtering down onto his curly hair. In jeans and T-shirt, Stefan Salvatore looked exactly like a normal high school student.  

He wasn't.  

Deep in the woods, where no one would see him, he'd come to feed. Now he licked at his gums and lips painstakingly, to make sure there was no stain on them. He didn't want to take any chances. This masquerade was going to be hard enough to pull off as it was.  

For a moment he wondered, again, if he should just give it all up. Perhaps he should go back to Italy, back to his hiding place. What made him think that he could rejoin the world of daylight?  

But he was tired of living in shadows. He was tired of the darkness, and of the things that lived in it. Most of all, he was tired of being alone.  

He wasn't sure why he'd chosen Fell's Church, Virginia. It was a young town, by his standards; the oldest buildings had been put up only a century and a half ago. But memories and ghosts of the Civil War still lived here, as real as the supermarkets and fast-food joints.  

Stefan appreciated respect for the past. He thought he might come to like the people of Fell's Church. And perhaps-just perhaps-he might find a place among them.  

He'd never be accepted completely, of course. A bitter smile curved his lips at the idea. He knew better than to hope forthat . There would never be a place where he could belong completely, where he could truly be himself.  

Unless he chose to belong to the shadows...  

He slapped the thought away. He'd renounced the darkness; he'd left the shadows behind him. He was blotting all those long years out and starting afresh, today.  

Stefan realized he was still holding the rabbit. Gently, he laid it down on the bed of brown oak leaves. Far away, too far for human ears to pick up, he recognized the noises of a fox.  

Come along, brother hunter, he thought sadly. Your breakfast is waiting.  

As he slung his jacket over his shoulder, he noticed the crow that had disturbed him earlier. It was still perched in the oak tree, and it seemed to be watching him. There was a wrongness about it.  

He started to send a probing thought toward it, to examine the bird, and stopped himself. Remember your promise, he thought. You don't use the Powers unless it is absolutely necessary. Not unless there is no other choice.  

Moving almost silently among the dead leaves and dry twigs, he made his way toward the edge of the woods. His car was parked there. He glanced back, once, and saw that the crow had left the branches and dropped down on the rabbit.  

There was something sinister in the way it spread its wings over the limp white body, something sinister and triumphant. Stefan's throat tightened, and he almost strode back to chase the bird away. Still, it had as much right to eat as the fox did, he told himself.  

As much right as he did.  

If he encountered the bird again, he'd look into its mind, he decided. Just now, he tore his eyes from the sight of it and hurried on through the woods, jaw set. He didn't want to be late arriving at Robert E. Lee High School.
发表于 2016-9-9 15:13 | 显示全部楼层
  Chapter Two

Elena was surrounded the instant she stepped into the high school parking lot. Everyone was there, the whole crowd she hadn't seen since late June, plus four or five hangers-on who hoped to gain popularity by association. One by one she accepted the welcoming hugs of her own group.

Caroline had grown at least an inch and was slinkier and more like aVogue model than ever. She greeted Elena coolly and stepped back again with her green eyes narrowed like a cat's.

Bonnie hadn't grown at all, and her curly red head barely came up to Elena's chin as she flung her arms around Elena. Wait a minute-curls? thought Elena. She pushed the smaller girl back.

"Bonnie! What did you do to your hair?"  

"Do you like it? I think it makes me look taller." Bonnie fluffed up the already fluffy bangs and smiled, her brown eyes sparkling with excitement, her little heart-shaped face alight.

Elena moved on. "Meredith. You haven't changed at all." This hug was equally warm on both sides. She had missed Meredith more than anyone, Elena thought, looking at the tall girl. Meredith never wore any makeup; but then, with perfect olive skin and heavy black lashes, she didn't need any. Right now she had one elegant eyebrow raised as she studied Elena.

"Well, your hair is two shades lighter from the sun... But where's your tan? I thought you were living it up on the French Riviera."  

"You know I never tan." Elena held up her hands for her own inspection. The skin was flawless, like porcelain, but almost as fair and translucent as Bonnie's.

"Just a minute; that reminds me," Bonnie interjected, snatching one of Elena's hands. "Guess what I learned from my cousin this summer?" Before anyone could speak, she informed them triumphantly: "Palm reading!"  

There were groans, and some laughter.

"Laugh while you can," said Bonnie, not at all disturbed. "My cousin told me I'm psychic. Now, let me see..." She peered into Elena's palm.

"Hurry up or we're going to be late," said Elena a bit impatiently.

"All right, all right. Now, this is your life line-or is it your heart line?" In the crowd, someone snickered. "Quiet; I'm reaching into the void. I see... I see..." All at once, Bonnie's face went blank, as if she were startled. Her brown eyes widened, but she no longer seemed to be staring at Elena's hand. It was as if she were lookingthrough it-at something frightening.

"You will meet a tall, dark stranger," Meredith murmured from behind her. There was a flurry of giggles.

"Dark, yes, and a stranger... but not tall." Bonnie's voice was hushed and faraway.

"Although," she continued after a moment, looking puzzled, "he was tall, once." Her wide brown eyes lifted to Elena's in bewilderment. "But that's impossible... isn't it?" She dropped Elena's hand, almost flinging it away. "I don't want to see any more."  

"Okay, show's over. Let's go," Elena told the others, vaguely irritated. She'd always felt psychic tricks were just that-tricks. So why was she annoyed? Just because that morning she'd almost freaked out herself...

The girls started toward the school building, but the roar of a finely tuned motor stopped them all in their tracks.

"Well, now," Caroline said, staring. "Quite a car."  

"Quite a Porsche," Meredith corrected dryly.

The sleek black 911 Turbo purred through the parking lot, searching for a space, moving as lazily as a panther stalking prey.

When the car came to a stop, the door opened, and they glimpsed the driver. "Oh, my God," Caroline whispered.

"You can say that again," breathed Bonnie.

From where she stood, Elena could see he had a lean, flat-muscled body. Faded jeans he probably had to peel off at night, tight T-shirt, and a leather jacket of unusual cut. His hair was wavy-and dark.

He wasn't tall, though. Just average height.

Elena let out her breath.

"Whois that masked man?" said Meredith. And the remark was apt-dark sunglasses completely covered the boy's eyes, shielding his face like a mask.

"That maskedstranger ," someone else said, and a babble of voices rose up.

"Do you see that jacket? That's Italian, as in Roma."  

"How would you know? You've never been farther than Rome, New York, in your life!"  

"Uh-oh. Elena's got that look again. The hunting look."  

"Short-Dark-and-Handsome had better be careful."  

"He isn't short; he's perfect!"  

Through the chatter, Caroline's voice suddenly rang out. "Oh, come on, Elena. You've already got Matt. What more do you want? What can you do with two that you can't do with one?"  

"The same thing-only longer," drawled Meredith, and the group dissolved into laughter.

The boy had locked his car and was walking toward school. Casually, Elena started after him, the other girls right behind her in a close-knit pack. For an instant, annoyance bubbled up inside her. Couldn't she goanywhere without a parade on her heels? But Meredith caught her eye, and she smiled in spite of herself.

"Noblesse oblige," Meredith said softly.

"What?"  

"If you're going to be queen of the school, you have to put up with the consequences."  

Elena frowned at this as they entered the building. A long corridor stretched before them, and a figure in jeans and leather jacket was disappearing through the office doorway up ahead. Elena slowed her pace as she walked up to the office, finally stopping to glance thoughtfully at the messages on the cork bulletin board by the door. There was a large window here, through which the entire office was visible.

The other girls were openly gazing through the window, and giggling. "Nice rear view." "That isdefinitely an Armani jacket." "You think he's from out of state?"  

Elena was straining her ears for the boy's name. There seemed to be some kind of trouble in there: Mrs. Clarke, the admissions secretary, was looking at a list and shaking her head. The boy said something, and Mrs. Clarke lifted her hands in a "What can I say?" gesture. She ran a finger down the list and shook her head again, conclusively. The boy started to turn away, then turned back. And when Mrs. Clarke looked up at him, her expression changed.

The boy's sunglasses were now in his hand. Mrs. Clarke seemed startled by something; Elena could see her blink several times. Her lips opened and closed as if she were trying to speak.

Elena wished she could see more than the back of the boy's head. Mrs. Clarke was fumbling through piles of paper now, looking dazed. At last she found a form of some kind and wrote on it, then turned it around and pushed it toward the boy.

The boy wrote briefly on the form-signing it, probably-and returned it. Mrs. Clarke stared at it a second, then fumbled through a new pile of papers, finally handing what looked like a class schedule to him. Her eyes never left the boy as he took it, inclined his head in thanks, and turned to the door.

Elena was wild with curiosity by now. What had just happened in there? And what did this stranger's face look like? But as he emerged from the office, he was settling his sunglasses in place again. Disappointment coursed through her.

Still, she could see the rest of his face as he paused in the doorway. The dark curly hair framed features so fine that they might have been taken from an old Roman coin or medallion. High cheekbones, classical straight nose... and a mouth to keep you awake at night, Elena thought. The upper lip was beautifully sculpted, a little sensitive, a whole lot sensual. The chatter of the girls in the hallway had stopped as if someone had thrown a switch.

Most of them were turning away from the boy now, looking anywhere but at him. Elena held her place by the window and gave a little toss to her head, pulling the ribbon out of her hair so that it fell loose around her shoulders.

Without looking to either side, the boy moved on down the hallway. A chorus of sighs and whispers flared up the moment he was out of earshot.

Elena didn't hear any of it.

He'd walked right by her, she thought, dazed. Right by without a glance.

Dimly, she realized the bell was ringing. Meredith was tugging her arm.

"What?"  

"I said here's your schedule. We've got trig on the second floor right now. Come on!"  

Elena allowed Meredith to propel her down the corridor, up a flight of stairs, and into a classroom. She slid into an empty seat automatically and fixed her eyes on the teacher at the front without really seeing her. The shock still hadn't worn off.

He'd walked right by. Without a glance. She couldn't remember how long it had been since a boy had done that. They all looked, at least. Some whistled. Some stopped to talk. Some just stared.

And that had always been fine with Elena. After all, what was more important than boys? They were the mark of how popular you were, of how beautiful you were. And they could be useful for all sorts of things. Sometimes they were exciting, but usually that didn't last long. Sometimes they were creeps from the beginning.

Most boys, Elena reflected, were like puppies. Adorable in their place, but expendable. A very few could be more than that, could become real friends. Like Matt.

Oh, Matt. Last year she'd hoped that he was the one she was looking for, the boy who could make her feel... well, something more. More than the rush of triumph at making a conquest, the pride in showing your new acquisition off to the other girls. And shehad come to feel a strong affection for Matt. But over the summer, when she'd had time to think, she'd realized it was the affection of a cousin or sister.

Ms. Halpern was passing out trigonometry books. Elena took hers mechanically and wrote her name inside, still wrapped in thought.

She liked Matt more than any other boy she'd known. And that was why she was going to have to tell him it was over.

She hadn't known how to tell him in a letter. She didn't know how to tell him now. It wasn't that she was afraid he'd kick up a fuss; he just wouldn't understand. She didn't really understand herself.

It was as if she were always reaching for... something. Only, when she thought she'd got it, it wasn't there. Not with Matt, not with any of the boys she'd had.

And then she had to start all over again. Fortunately, there was always fresh material. No boy had ever resisted her successfully, and no boy had ever ignored her. Until now.

Until now. Remembering that moment in the hall, Elena found that her fingers were clenched on the pen she held. She still couldn't believe he'd brushed by her that way.

The bell rang and everyone flooded out of the classroom, but Elena paused in the doorway. She bit her lip, scanning the river of students flowing through the hall. Then she spotted one of the hangers-on from the parking lot.

"Frances! Come here."  

Frances came eagerly, her plain face brightening.

"Listen, Frances, you remember that boy this morning?"  

"With the Porsche and the-er-assets? How could I forget?"  

"Well, I want his class schedule. Get it from the office if you can, or copy it from him if you have to. But do it!"  

Frances looked surprised for a moment, then grinned and nodded. "Okay, Elena. I'll try. I'll meet you at lunch if I can get it."  

"Thanks." Elena watched the girl go. "You know, you really are crazy," Meredith's voice said in her ear.

"What's the use of being queen of the school if you can't pull a little rank sometimes?" returned Elena calmly. "Where do I go now?"  

"General Business. Here, take it yourself." Meredith thrust a schedule at her. "I've got to run for chemistry. Later!"  

General Business and the rest of the morning passed in a blur. Elena had hoped to catch another glimpse of the new student, but he was in none of her classes. Mattwas in one, and she felt a pang as his blue eyes met hers with a smile.

At the lunch bell, she nodded greetings right and left as she walked to the cafeteria. Caroline was outside, posed casually against a wall with chin up, shoulders back, hips forward. The two boys she was talking to fell silent and nudged each other as Elena approached.

"Hi," Elena said briefly to the boys; and to Caroline: "Ready to go in and eat?"  

Caroline's green eyes barely flickered toward Elena, and she pushed glossy auburn hair out of her face. "What, at theroyal table ?" she said.

Elena was taken aback. She and Caroline had been friends since kindergarten, and they had always competed with each other good-naturedly. But lately something had happened to Caroline. She'd begun to take the rivalry more and more seriously. And now Elena was surprised at the bitterness in the other girl's voice.

"Well, it's hardly as if you were a commoner," she said lightly.

"Oh, you're so right about that," said Caroline, turning to face Elena fully. Those green cat-eyes were slitted and smoky, and Elena was shocked by the hostility she saw there. The two boys smiled uneasily and edged away.

Caroline didn't seem to notice. "A lot of things changed while you were gone this summer, Elena," she continued. "And just maybe your time on the throne is running out."  

Elena had flushed; she could feel it. She struggled to keep her voice steady. "Maybe," she said. "But I wouldn't buy a scepter just yet if I were you, Caroline." She turned and went into the lunchroom.

It was a relief to see Meredith and Bonnie, and Frances beside them. Elena felt her cheeks cool as she selected her lunch and went to join them. She wouldn't let Caroline upset her; she wouldn't think of Caroline at all.

"I got it," said Frances, waving a piece of paper as Elena sat down.

"And I have some good stuff," said Bonnie importantly. "Elena, listen to this. He's in my biology class, and I sit right across from him. And his name is Stefan, Stefan Salvatore, and he's from Italy, and he's boarding with old Mrs. Flowers on the edge of town." She sighed. "He isso romantic. Caroline dropped her books, and he picked them up for her."  

Elena made a wry face. "How clumsy of Caroline. What else happened?" "Well, that's all. He didn't really talk to her. He's ver-r-ry mysterious, you see. Mrs. Endicott, my biology teacher, tried to get him to take off his glasses, but he wouldn't. He has a medical condition."  

"What kind of medical condition?"  

"I don't know. Maybe it's terminal and his days are numbered. Wouldn't that be romantic?"  

"Oh, very," said Meredith.

Elena was looking over Frances's sheet of paper, biting her lip. "He's in my seventh period, History of Europe. "Anybody else have that class?"

"I do," said Bonnie. "And I think Caroline does, too. Oh, and maybe Matt; he said something yesterday about how it was just his luck, getting Mr. Tanner."  

Marvelous, Elena thought, picking up a fork and stabbing at her mashed potatoes. It looked as if seventh period was going to beextremely interesting.

Stefan was glad the school day was almost over. He wanted to get out of these crowded rooms and corridors, just for a few minutes.

So many minds. The pressure of so many thought patterns, so many mental voices surrounding him, was making him dizzy. It had been years since he had been in a swarm of people like this.

One mind in particular stood out from the others. She had been among those watching him in the main corridor of the school building. He didn't know what she looked like, but her personality was powerful. He felt sure he'd recognize it again.

So far, at least, he'd survived the first day of the masquerade. He'd used the Powers only twice, and then sparingly. But he was tired, and, he admitted ruefully, hungry. The rabbit hadn't been enough.

Worry about that later. He found his last classroom and sat down. And immediately he felt the presence of that mind again.

It glowed at the edge of his consciousness, a golden light, soft and yet vibrant. And, for the first time, he could locate the girl it was coming from. She was seated right in front of him.

Even as he thought it, she turned around and he saw her face. It was all he could do not to gasp in shock.

Katherine! But of course it couldn't be. Katherine was dead; no one knew that better than he did.

Still, the resemblance was uncanny. That pale golden hair, so fair it almost seemed to shimmer. That creamy skin, which had always made him think of swans, or alabaster, flushing faintly pink over the cheekbones. And the eyes... Katherine's eyes had been a color he had never seen before; darker than sky blue, as rich as the lapis lazuli in her jeweled headband. This girl had those same eyes.

And they were fixed directly on his as she smiled. He looked down from the smile quickly. Of all things, he did not want to think about Katherine. He didn't want to look at this girl who reminded him of her, and he didn't want to feel her presence any longer. He kept his eyes on the desk, blocking his mind as strongly as he knew how. And at last, slowly, she turned around again.

She was hurt. Even through the blocks, he could feel that. He didn't care. In fact, he was glad of it, and he hoped it would keep her away from him. Other than that, he had no feelings about her at all.

He kept telling himself this as he sat, the droning voice of the teacher pouring over him unheard. But he could smell a subtle hint of some perfume-violets, he thought. And her slender white neck was bowed over her book, the fair hair falling on either side of it.

In anger and frustration he recognized the seductive feeling in his teeth-more a tickling or a tingling than an ache. It was hunger, a specific hunger. And not one he was about to indulge.

The teacher was pacing about the room like a ferret, asking questions, and Stefan deliberately fixed his attention on the man. At first he was puzzled, for although none of the students knew the answers, the questions kept coming. Then he realized that that was the man's purpose. To shame the students with what they didn't know.

Just now he'd found another victim, a small girl with clusters of red curls and a heart-shaped face. Stefan watched in distaste as the teacher badgered her with questions. She looked wretched as he turned away from her to address the entire class.

"You see what I mean? You think you're pretty hot stuff; you're seniors now, ready to graduate. Well, let me tell you, some of you aren't ready to graduate kindergarten. Like this!" He gestured toward the red-haired girl. "No idea about the French Revolution. Thinks Marie Antoinette was a silent film star."  

Students all around Stefan were shifting uncomfortably. He could feel the resentment in their minds, and the humiliation. And the fear. They were all afraid of this thin little man with eyes like a weasel, even the husky boys who were taller than he was.

"All right, let's try another era." The teacher swung back to the same girl he'd been questioning. "During the Renaissance-" He broke off. "Youdo know what the Renaissance is, don't you? The period between the thirteenth and seventeenth centuries, in which Europe rediscovered the great ideas of ancient Greece and Rome? The period that produced so many of Europe's greatest artists and thinkers?" When the girl nodded confusedly, he continued. "During the Renaissance, what would students your age be doing at school? Well? Any idea at all? Any guesses?"

The girl swallowed hard. With a weak smile she said, "Playing football?"  

At the ensuing laughter, the teacher's face darkened. "Hardly!" he snapped, and the classroom quieted. "You think this is a joke? Well, in those days, students your age would already be proficient in several languages. They would also have mastered logic, mathematics, astronomy, philosophy, and grammar. They would be ready to go on to a university, in which every course was taught in Latin. Football would be absolutely the last thing on-"  

"Excuse me."  

The quiet voice stopped the teacher in midharangue. Everyone turned to stare at Stefan. "What? What did you say?"  

"I said, excuse me," Stefan repeated, removing his glasses and standing up. "But you're wrong. Students in the Renaissance were encouraged to participate in games. They were taught that a healthy body goes with a healthy mind. And they certainly played team sports, like cricket, tennis-and even football." He turned to the red-haired girl and smiled, and she smiled back gratefully. To the teacher, he added, "But the most important things they learned were good manners and courtesy. I'm sure your book will tell you that."  

Students were grinning. The teacher's face was red with blood, and he was sputtering. But Stefan continued to hold his eyes, and after another minute it was the teacher who looked away.

The bell rang.

Stefan put his glasses on quickly and gathered his books. He'd already drawn more attention to himself than he should, and he didn't want to have to look at the blond girl again. Besides, he needed to get out of here quickly; there was a familiar burning sensation in his veins.

As he reached the door, someone shouted, "Hey! Did they really play football back then?"  

He couldn't help throwing a grin over his shoulder. "Oh, yes. Sometimes with the severed heads of prisoners of war."  

Elena watched him as he went. He'd deliberately turned away from her. He'd snubbed her on purpose, and in front of Caroline, who'd been watching like a hawk. Tears burned in her eyes, but at that moment only one thought burned in her mind.

She'd have him, even if it killed her. If it killed both of them, she'd have him.
发表于 2016-9-9 15:15 | 显示全部楼层
Chapter Three

The first light of dawn was streaking the night sky with pink and palest green. Stefan watched it from the window of his room in the boarding house. He had rented this room specifically because of the trapdoor in the ceiling, a trapdoor that opened onto the widow's walk on the roof above. Just now that door was open, and a cool damp wind blew down the ladder below it. Stefan was fully dressed, but not because he was up early. He had never been to sleep.

He'd just returned from the woods, and a few scraps of wet leaf clung to the side of his boot. He brushed them off fastidiously. The comments of the students yesterday had not escaped him, and he knew they had been staring at his clothes. He had always dressed in the best, not merely out of vanity, but because it was the right thing to do. His tutor had often said it: Anaristocrat should dress as befits his position. If he does not, he is showing contempt for others . Everyone had a place in the world, and his place had once been among the nobility. Once.

Why was he dwelling on these things? Of course, he should have realized that playing the role of a student was likely to bring his own student days back. Now the memories came thick and fast, as if he were skimming through the pages of a journal, his eyes catching an entry here and there. One flashed before him vividly now: his father's face when Damon had announced he was quitting the University. He would never forget that. He had never seen his father so angry...

"What do you mean, you are not going back?" Giuseppe was usually a fair man, but he had a temper, and his elder son brought out the violence in him.

Just now that son was dabbing at his lips with a saffron-colored silk handkerchief. "I would have thought even you could understand such a simple sentence, father. Shall I repeat it in Latin for you?"  

"Damon-" Stefan began tightly, appalled at this disrespect. But his father interrupted.

"You are telling me that I, Giuseppe, Conte di Salvatore, will have to face my friends knowing that my son is ascioparto ? A ne'er-do-well? An idler who makes no useful contribution to Florence?" Servants were edging away as Giuseppe worked himself into a rage.

Damon did not even blink. "Apparently. If you can call those who fawn on you in the hopes that you will lend them money your friends."  

" Sporco parassito!" cried Giuseppe, rising from his chair. "Is it not bad enough that when youare at school you waste your time and my money? Oh, yes, I know all about the gambling, the jousting, the women. And I know that if it were not for your secretary and your tutors you would be failing every course. But now you mean to disgrace me utterly. And why? Why?" His large hand whipped up to grasp Damon's chin. "So that you may return to your hunting and hawking?"  

Stefan had to give his brother credit; Damon did not wince. He stood, almost lounging in his father's grip, every inch the aristocrat, from the elegantly plain cap on his dark head to his ermine-trimmed cloak to his soft leather shoes. His upper lip was curved in a line of pure arrogance.

You've gone too far this time, thought Stefan, watching the two men whose eyes were locked together. Even you won't be able to charm your way out this time.

But just then there was a light step in the study doorway. Turning, Stefan had been dazzled by eyes the color of lapis lazuli, framed with long golden lashes. It was Katherine. Her father, Baron von Swartzschild, had brought her from the cold lands of the German princes to the Italian countryside, hoping it would help her recover from a prolonged illness. And since the day she had arrived, everything had changed for Stefan.

"I beg your pardon. I did not mean to intrude." Her voice was soft and clear. She made a slight motion as if to leave.

"No, don't go. Stay," Stefan said quickly. He wanted to say more, to catch her hand-but he didn't dare. Not with his father here. All he could do was gaze into those jewellike blue eyes that were raised to his.

"Yes, stay," Giuseppe said, and Stefan saw that his father's thunderous expression had lightened and that he had released Damon. He stepped forward, straightening the heavy folds of his long fur-trimmed gown. "Your father should be returning from his business in the city today, and he will be delighted to see you. But your cheeks are pale, little Katherine. You are not ill again, I hope?"  

"You know I am always pale, sir. I do not use rouge like your bold Italian girls."  

"You don't need it," said Stefan before he could stop himself, and Katherine smiled at him. She was so beautiful. An ache began in his chest.

His father continued, "And I see all too little of you during the day. You seldom give us the pleasure of your company until twilight."  

"I have my studies and devotions in my own rooms, sir," said Katherine quietly, her lashes dropping. Stefan knew this was not true, but he said nothing; he would never betray Katherine's secret. She looked up at his father again. "But I am here now, sir."  

"Yes, yes, that is true. And I must see that tonight we have a very special meal for your father's return. Damon... we will speak later." As Giuseppe motioned to a servant and strode out, Stefan turned to Katherine in delight. It was seldom they could speak to each other without the presence of his father or of Gudren, her stolid German maid.

But what Stefan saw then was like a blow to his stomach. Katherine was smiling-the little secret smile that she had often shared with him.

But she was not looking at him. She was looking at Damon.

Stefan hated his brother at that moment, hated Damon's dark beauty and grace and the sensuality that drew women to him like moths to a flame. He wanted, in that instant, to strike Damon, to smash that beauty to pieces. Instead he had to stand and watch as Katherine moved slowly toward his brother, step by step, her golden brocade gown whispering on the tiled floor.

And even as he watched, Damon held out a hand to Katherine, and smiled the cruel smile of triumph...

Stefan turned away from the window sharply.

Why was he reopening old wounds? But, even as he thought it, he drew out the slender gold chain he wore under his shirt. His thumb and forefinger caressed the ring that hung from it, then he held it up to the light.

The little circlet was exquisitely worked in gold, and five centuries had not dimmed its luster. It was set with one stone, a lapis the size of his little fingernail. Stefan looked at it, then at the heavy silver ring, also set with lapis, on his own hand. In his chest was a familiar tightness.

He could not forget the past, and he didn't really wish to. Despite everything that had happened, he cherished Katherine's memory. But there was one memory he must truly not disturb, one page of the journal he must not turn. If he had to relive that horror, that... abomination, he would go mad. As he had been mad that day, that final day, when he had looked upon his own damnation...

Stefan leaned against the window, his forehead pressed to its coolness. His tutor had had another saying: Evil will never find peace. It may triumph, but it will never find peace .

Why had he even come to Fell's Church?  

He had hoped to find peace here, but that was impossible. He would never be accepted, he would never rest. Because he was evil. He could not change what he was.

Elena was up even earlier than usual that morning. She could hear Aunt Judith pottering about in her room, getting ready for her shower. Margaret was still fast asleep, curled up like a little mouse in her bed. Elena passed her younger sister's half-open door noiselessly and continued down the hallway to let herself out of the house.

The air was fresh and clear this morning; the quince tree was inhabited only by the usual jays and sparrows. Elena, who had gone to bed with a throbbing headache, lifted her face to the clean blue sky and breathed deeply.

She felt much better than she had yesterday. She'd promised to meet Matt before school, and though she wasn't looking forward to it she was sure it was going to be all right.

Matt lived only two streets away from the high school. It was a simple frame house, like all the others on that street, except that maybe the swing on the porch was a little shabbier, the paint a little more peeled. Matt was already standing outside, and for a moment her heart picked up at the sight of him as it used to.

He was good-looking. There was no doubt about that. Not in the stunning, almost disturbing way that-that some people were, but in a healthy American way. Matt Honeycutt was all-American. His blond hair was cropped short for the football season, and his skin was sunburnt from working outdoors on his grandparents' farm. His blue eyes were honest and straightforward. And just today, as he held out his arms to hug her gently, they were a little sad.

"You want to come inside?"  

"No. Let's just walk," Elena said. They went side by side without touching. Maples and black walnut trees lined this street, and the air still had a morning hush. Elena watched her feet on the wet sidewalk, feeling suddenly uncertain. She didn't know how to start after all.

"So you still haven't told me about France," he said.

"Oh, it was great," said Elena. She glanced sideways at him. He was looking at the sidewalk, too. "Everything about it was great," she continued, trying to put some enthusiasm in her voice. "The people, the food, everything. It was really..." Her voice trailed off, and she laughed nervously.

"Yeah, I know. Great," he finished for her. He stopped and stood looking down at his scuffed tennis shoes. Elena recognized them from last year. Matt's family barely got by; maybe he hadn't been able to afford new shoes. She looked up to find those steady blue eyes on her face.

"You know,you look pretty great right now," he said.

Elena opened her mouth in dismay, but he was speaking again.

"And I guess you have something to tell me." She stared at him, and he smiled, a crooked, rueful smile. Then he held out his arms again.

"Oh,Matt ," she said, hugging him hard. She stepped back to look into his face. "Matt, you are the nicest guy I've ever met. I don't deserve you."  

"Oh, so that's why you're dumping me," said Matt as they started walking again. "Because I'm too good for you. I should have realized that before."  

She punched him in the arm. "No, that isn't why, and I am not dumping you. We're going to be friends, right?"  

"Oh, sure. Oh, absolutely."  

"Because that's what I've realized we are." She stopped, looking up at him again. "Good friends. Be honest, now, Matt, isn't that how you really feel about me?"  

He looked at her, then rolled his eyes heavenward. "Can I take the Fifth on that?" he said. As Elena's face fell, he added, "It doesn't have anything to do with that new guy, does it?"  

"No," Elena said after a hesitation, and then added quickly, "I haven't even met him yet. I don't know him."

"But you want to. No, don't say it." He put an arm around her and gently turned her. "Come on, let's head toward school. If we have time, I'll even buy you a doughnut."  

As they walked, something thrashed in the walnut tree above them. Matt whistled and pointed. "Look at that! Biggest crow I've ever seen."  

Elena looked, but it was already gone.

School that day was merely a convenient place for Elena to review her plan.

She had woken up this morning knowing what to do. And today she gathered as much information as she could on the subject of Stefan Salvatore. Which wasn't hard, because everyone at Robert E. Lee was talking about him.

It was common knowledge that he'd had some sort of run-in with the admissions secretary yesterday. And today he'd been called to the principal's office. Something about his papers. But the principal had sent him back to class (after, it was rumored, a long-distance call to Rome-or was it Washington?), and everything seemed to be settled now. Officially, at least.

When Elena arrived for Euro History class that afternoon, she was greeted by a low whistle in the hall. Dick Carter and Tyler Smallwood were loitering there. A couple of prize jerks, she thought, ignoring the whistle and their staring. They thought being tackle and safety on the varsity football team made them hot stuff. She kept an eye on them as she loitered in the corridor herself, refreshing her lipstick and fiddling with her compact. She'd given Bonnie her special instructions, and the plan was ready to be put into effect as soon as Stefan showed up. The compact mirror gave her a wonderful view of the hall behind her.

Still, she missed him coming somehow. He was beside her suddenly, and she snapped the compact shut as he passed. She meant to stop him, but something happened before she could. Stefan tensed-or, at least, there was something about him that seemed wary all at once. Just then Dick and Tyler stepped in front of the door to the history classroom. Blocking the way.

World-class jerks, thought Elena. Fuming, she glared at them over Stefan's shoulder.

They were enjoying the game, slouching in the doorway, pretending they were completely blind to Stefan standing there.

"Excuse me." It was the same tone he'd used with the history teacher. Quiet, detached.

Dick and Tyler looked at each other, then all around, as if hearing spirit voices.

"Scoozi?" Tyler said in a falsetto. "Scoozi me? Me scoozi? Jacuzzi?" They both laughed.

Elena watched muscles tighten under the T-shirt in front of her. This was completely unfair; they were both taller than Stefan, and Tyler was about twice as broad.

"Is there a problem here?" Elena was as startled as the boys were at the new voice behind her. She turned to see Matt. His blue eyes were hard.

Elena bit her lips on a smile as Tyler and Dick moved slowly, resentfully out of the way. Good old Matt, she thought. But now good old Matt was walking into class beside Stefan, and she was left following them, staring at the backs oftwo T-shirts. When they sat down, she slid into the desk behind Stefan, where she could watch him without being watched herself. Her plan would have to wait until after class.

Matt was rattling change in his pocket, which meant he wanted to say something.

"Uh, hey," he began at last, uncomfortably. "Those guys, you know..."  

Stefan laughed. It was a bitter sound. "Who am I to judge?" There was more emotion in his voice than Elena had heard before, even when he had spoken to Mr. Tanner. And that emotion was raw unhappiness. "Anyway, why should I be welcome here?" he finished, almost to himself.

"Why shouldn't you be?" Matt had been staring at Stefan; now his jaw squared with decision.

"Listen," he said. "You were talking about football yesterday. Well, our star wide receiver tore a ligament yesterday afternoon, and we need a replacement. Tryouts are this afternoon. What do you think?"  

"Me?" Stefan sounded caught off guard. "Ah... I don't know if I could."  

"Can you run?"  

"Can-?" Stefan half turned toward Matt, and Elena could see a faint hint of a smile curve his lips. "Yes."  

"Can you catch?"  

"Yes." "That's all a wide receiver has to do. I'm the quarterback. If you can catch what I throw and run with it, you can play."  

"I see." Stefan was actually almost smiling, and though Matt's mouth was serious his blue eyes were dancing. Astonished at herself, Elena realized she was jealous. There was a warmth between the two boys that shut her out completely.

But the next instant Stefan's smile disappeared. He said distantly, "Thank you... but no. I have other commitments."  

At that moment, Bonnie and Caroline arrived and class started.

Throughout Tanner's lecture on Europe,  

Elena repeated to herself, "Hello. I'm Elena Gilbert. I'm on the Senior Welcoming Committee, and I've been assigned to show you around the school. Now, you wouldn't want to get me in trouble, would you, by not letting me do my job?" That last with wide, wistful eyes-but only if he looked like he might try to get out of it. It was virtually foolproof. He was a sucker for maidens who needed to be rescued.

Halfway through class, the girl sitting to her right passed her a note. Elena opened it and recognized Bonnie's round, childish handwriting. It read: "I kept C. away for as long as I could. What happened? Did it work???"  

Elena looked up to see Bonnie twisted around in her front-row seat. Elena pointed to the note and shook her head, mouthing, "After class."  

It seemed a century until Tanner gave some last-minute instructions about oral reports and dismissed them. Then everybody sprang up at once. Here goes, thought Elena, and, with her heart pounding, she stepped squarely into Stefan's path, blocking the aisle so that he couldn't get around her.

Just like Dick and Tyler, she thought, feeling a hysterical urge to giggle. She looked up and found her eyes exactly on a level with his mouth.

Her mind went blank. What was it she was supposed to say? She opened her mouth, and somehow the words she'd been practicing came tumbling out. "Hi, I'm Elena Gilbert, and I'm on the Senior Welcoming Committee and I've been assigned-"  

"I'm sorry; I don't have time." For a minute, she couldn't believe he was speaking, that he wasn't even going to give her a chance to finish. Her mouth went right on with the speech.

"-to show you around the school-"  

"I'm sorry; I can't. I have to-to get to football tryouts." Stefan turned to Matt, who was standing by looking amazed. "You said they were right after school, didn't you?"  

"Yes," Matt said slowly. "But-"  

"Then I'd better get moving. Maybe you could show me the way."  

Matt looked helplessly at Elena, then shrugged. "Well... sure. Come on." He glanced back once as they left. Stefan didn't.

Elena found herself looking around at a circle of interested observers, including Caroline, who was openly smirking. Elena felt a numbness in her body and a fullness in her throat. She couldn't stand to be here for one more second. She turned and walked as quickly as she could from the room.
发表于 2016-9-9 15:27 | 显示全部楼层
Chapter Four

By the time Elena reached her locker, the numbness was wearing off and the lump in her throat was trying to dissolve into tears. But she wouldn't cry at school, she told herself, shewouldn't . After closing her locker, she made for the main exit.

For the second day in a row, she was coming home from school right after the last bell, and alone. Aunt Judith wouldn't be able to cope. But when Elena reached her house, Aunt Judith's car was not in the driveway; she and Margaret must have gone out to the market. The house was still and peaceful as Elena let herself in.

She was glad for that stillness; she wanted to be alone right now. But, on the other hand, she didn't exactly know what to do with herself.

Now that she finallycould cry, she found that tears wouldn't come. She let her backpack sag to the floor in the front hall and walked slowly into the living room.

It was a handsome, impressive room, the only part of the house besides Elena's bedroom that belonged to the original structure. That first house had been built before 1861, and had been almost completely burned in the Civil War. All that could be saved was this room, with its elaborate fireplace framed by scrolled molding, and the big bedroom above. Elena's father's greatgrandfather had built a new house, and Gilberts had lived in it ever since.

Elena turned to look out of one of the ceiling-to-floor windows. The glass was so old that it was thick and wavery, and everything outside was distorted, looking slightly tipsy. She remembered the first time her father had showed her that wavery old glass, when she had been younger than Margaret was now.

The fullness in her throat was back, but still no tears would come. Everything inside her was contradictory. She didn't want company, and yet she was achingly lonely. Shedid want to think, but now that she was trying to, her thoughts eluded her like mice running from a white owl.

White owl... hunting bird... flesh eater... crow, she thought. "Biggest crow I've ever seen," Matt had said.

Her eyes stung again. Poor Matt. She'd hurt him, but he'd been so nice about it. He'd even been nice to Stefan.

Stefan . Her heart thudded once, hard, squeezing two hot tears out of her eyes. There, she was crying at last. She was crying with anger and humiliation and frustration-and what else?  

What had she really lost today? What did she really feel for this stranger, this Stefan Salvatore? He was a challenge, yes, and that made him different, interesting. Stefan was exotic... exciting.

Funny, that was what guys had sometimes told Elena she was. And later she heard from them, or from their friends or sisters, how nervous they were before going out with her, how their palms got sweaty and their stomachs were full of butterflies. Elena had always found such stories amusing. No boy she'd ever met in her life had made her nervous.

But when she'd spoken to Stefan today, her pulse had been racing, her knees weak. Her palms had been wet. And there hadn't been butterflies in her stomach-there had been bats.

She was interested in the guy because he made her feel nervous? Not a very good reason, Elena, she told herself. In fact, a very bad reason.

But there was also that mouth. That sculpted mouth that made her knees weak with something entirely different than nervousness. And that night-dark hair-her fingers itched to weave themselves into its softness. That lithe, flat-muscled body, those long legs... and thatvoice . It was his voice that had decided her yesterday, making her absolutely determined to have him. His voice had been cool and disdainful when talking to Mr. Tanner, but strangely compelling for all that. She wondered if it could turn night-dark as well, and how it would sound saying her name, whispering her name...

"Elena!"  

Elena jumped, her reverie shattered. But it wasn't Stefan Salvatore calling her, it was Aunt Judith rattling the front door open.

"Elena? Elena!" And that was Margaret, her voice shrill and piping. "Are you home?"  

Misery welled up in Elena again, and she glanced around the kitchen. She couldn't face her aunt's worried questions or Margaret's innocent cheerfulness right now. Not with her eyelashes wet and new tears threatening any minute. She made a lightning decision and quietly slipped out the back door as the front door banged shut.

Once off the back porch and into the yard, she hesitated. She didn't want to run into anyone she knew. But where could she go to be alone?  

The answer came almost instantly. Of course. She'd go see Mom and Dad.

It was a fairly long walk, almost to the edge of town, but over the last three years it had become familiar to Elena. She crossed over Wickery Bridge and climbed up the hill, past the ruined church, then down into the little valley below.

This part of the cemetery was well-kept; it was the old section that was allowed to run slightly wild. Here, the grass was neatly trimmed, and bouquets of flowers made splashes of bright color. Elena sat down by the big marble headstone with "Gilbert" carved into the front.

"Hi, Mom. Hi, Dad," she whispered. She leaned over to place a purple impatiens blossom she'd picked along the way in front of the marker. Then she curled her legs under her and just sat.

She'd come here often after the accident. Margaret had been only one at the time of the car crash; she didn't really remember them. But Elena did. Now she let her mind leaf back through memories, and the lump in her throat swelled, and the tears came easier. She missed them so much, still. Mother, so young and beautiful, and Father, with a smile that crinkled up his eyes.

She was lucky to have Aunt Judith, of course. It wasn't every aunt who would quit her job and move back into a little town to take care of two orphaned nieces. And Robert, Aunt Judith's fianc��¦, was more like a stepfather to Margaret than an uncle-to-be by marriage.

But Elena remembered her parents. Sometimes, right after the funeral, she had come out here to rage at them, angry with them for being so stupid as to get themselves killed. That was when she hadn't known Aunt Judith very well, and had felt there was nowhere on earth she belonged anymore.

Where did she belong now? she wondered. The easy answer was, here, in Fell's Church, where she'd lived all her life. But lately the easy answer seemed wrong. Lately she felt there must be something else out there for her, some place she would recognize at once and call home.

A shadow fell over her, and she looked up, startled. For an instant, the two figures standing over her were alien, unfamiliar, vaguely menacing. She stared, frozen.

"Elena," said the smaller figure fussily, hands on hips, "sometimes I worry about you, I really do."  

Elena blinked and then laughed shortly. It was Bonnie and Meredith. "What does a person have to do to get a little privacy around here?" she said as they sat down.

"Tell us to go away," suggested Meredith, but Elena just shrugged. Meredith and Bonnie had often come out here to find her in the months after the accident. Suddenly, she felt glad about that, and grateful to them both. If nowhere else, she belonged with the friends who cared about her. She didn't mind if they knew she had been crying, and she accepted the crumpled tissue Bonnie offered her and wiped her eyes. The three of them sat together in silence for a little while, watching the wind ruffle the stand of oak trees at the edge of the cemetery.

"I'm sorry about what happened," Bonnie said at last, in a soft voice. "That was really terrible."  

"And your middle name is 'Tact,' " said Meredith. "It couldn't have been that bad, Elena."  

"You weren't there." Elena felt herself go hot all over again at the memory. "Itwas terrible. But I don't care anymore," she added flatly, defiantly. "I'm finished with him. I don't want him anyway."  

"Elena!"  

"I don't, Bonnie. He obviously thinks he's too good for-for Americans. So he can just take those designer sunglasses and..."  

There were snorts of laughter from the other girls. Elena wiped her nose and shook her head. "So," she said to Bonnie, determinedly changing the subject, "at least Tanner seemed in a better mood today."  

Bonnie looked martyred. "Do you know that he made me sign up to be the very first one to give my oral report? I don't care, though; I'm going to do mine on the druids, and-"  

"On the what?"  

"Droo-ids. The weird old guys who built Stonehenge and did magic and stuff in ancient England. I'm descended from them, and that's why I'm psychic."  

Meredith snorted, but Elena frowned at the blade of grass she was twirling between her fingers. "Bonnie, did you really see something yesterday in my palm?" she asked abruptly.

Bonnie hesitated. "I don't know," she said at last. "I-Ithought I did then. But sometimes my imagination runs away with me."  

"She knew you were here," said Meredith unexpectedly. "I thought of looking at the coffee shop, but Bonnie said, 'She's at the cemetery.'"  

"Did I?" Bonnie looked faintly surprised but impressed. "Well, there you see. My grandmother in Edinburgh has the second sight and so do I. It always skips a generation."  

"And you're descended from the druids," Meredith said solemnly.

"Well, it's true! In Scotland they keep up the old traditions. You wouldn't believe some of the things my grandmother does. She has a way to find out who you're going to marry and when you're going to die. She told me I'm going to die early."  

"Bonnie!"  

"She did. I'm going to be young and beautiful in my coffin. Don't you think that's romantic?"  

"No, I don't. I think it's disgusting," said Elena. The shadows were getting longer, and the wind had a chill to it now.

"So who are you going to marry, Bonnie?" Meredith put in deftly.

"I don't know. My grandmother told me the ritual for finding out, but I never tried it. Of course"-Bonnie struck a sophisticated pose-"he has to be outrageously rich and totally gorgeous. Like our mysterious dark stranger, for example. Particularly if nobody else wants him." She cast a wicked glance at Elena.

Elena refused the bait. "What about Tyler Smallwood?" she murmured innocently. "His father's certainly rich enough."  

"And he's not bad-looking," agreed Meredith solemnly. "That is, of course, if you're an animal lover. All those big white teeth."  

The girls looked at each other and then simultaneously burst into laughter. Bonnie threw a handful of grass at Meredith, who brushed it off and threw a dandelion back at her. Somewhere in the middle of it, Elena realized that she was going to be all right. She was herself again, not lost, not a stranger, but Elena Gilbert, the queen of Robert E. Lee. She pulled the apricot ribbon out of her hair and shook the hair free about her face.

"I've decided what to domy oral report on," she said, watching with narrow eyes as Bonnie finger-combed grass out of her curls.

"What?" said Meredith. Elena tilted her chin up to gaze at the red and purple sky above the hill. She took a thoughtful breath and let the suspense build for a moment. Then she said coolly, "The Italian Renaissance."  

Bonnie and Meredith stared at her, then looked at each other and burst into whoops of laughter again.

"Aha," said Meredith when they recovered. "So the tiger returneth."  

Elena gave her a feral grin. Her shaken confidence had returned to her. And though she didn't understand it herself, she knew one thing: she wasn't going to let Stefan Salvatore get away alive.

"All right," she said briskly. "Now, listen, you two. Nobody else can know about this, or I'll be the laughingstock of the school. And Caroline would just love any excuse to make me look ridiculous. But I do still want him, and I'm going to have him. I don't know how yet, but I am. Until I come up with a plan, though, we're going to give him the cold shoulder."  

"Oh,we are?"  

"Yes,we are. You can't have him, Bonnie; he's mine. And I have to be able to trust you completely."  

"Wait a minute," said Meredith, a glint in her eye. She unclasped the cloisonne pin from her blouse, then, holding up her thumb, made a quick jab. "Bonnie, give me your hand."  

"Why?" said Bonnie, eyeing the pin suspiciously.

"Because I want to marry you. Why do you think, idiot?"  

"But-but-Oh, all right. Ow!"  

"Now you, Elena." Meredith pricked Elena's thumb efficiently, and then squeezed it to get a drop of blood. "Now," she continued, looking at the other two with sparkling dark eyes, "we all press our thumbs together and swear. Especially you, Bonnie. Swear to keep this secret and to do whatever Elena asks in relation to Stefan."  

"Look, swearing with blood is dangerous," Bonnie protested seriously. "It means you have to stick to your oath no matter what happens, no matterwhat , Meredith."  

"I know," said Meredith grimly. "That's why I'm telling you to do it. I remember what happened with Michael Martin."  

Bonnie made a face. "That was years ago, and we broke up right away anyway and-Oh, all right. I'll swear." Closing her eyes, she said, "I swear to keep this a secret and to do anything Elena asks about Stefan."  

Meredith repeated the oath. And Elena, staring at the pale shadows of their thumbs joined together in the gathering dusk, took a long breath and said softly, "And I swear not to rest until he belongs to me."  

A gust of cold wind blew through the cemetery, fanning the girls' hair out and sending dry leaves fluttering on the ground. Bonnie gasped and pulled back, and they all looked around, then giggled nervously.

"It's dark," said Elena, surprised. "We'd better get started home," Meredith said, refastening her pin as she stood up. Bonnie stood, too, putting the tip of her thumb into her mouth.

"Good-bye," said Elena softly, facing the headstone. The purple blossom was a blur on the ground. She picked up the apricot ribbon that lay next to it, turned, and nodded to Bonnie and Meredith. "Let's go."  

Silently, they headed up the hill toward the ruined church. The oath sworn in blood had given them all a solemn feeling, and as they passed the ruined church Bonnie shivered. With the sun down, the temperature had dropped abruptly, and the wind was rising. Each gust sent whispers through the grass and made the ancient oak trees rattle their dangling leaves.

"I'm freezing," Elena said, pausing for a moment by the black hole that had once been the church door and looking down at the landscape below.

The moon had not yet risen, and she could just make out the old graveyard and Wickery Bridge beyond it. The old graveyard dated from Civil War days, and many of the headstones bore the names of soldiers. It had a wild look to it; brambles and tall weeds grew on the graves, and ivy vines swarmed over crumbling granite. Elena had never liked it.

"It looks different, doesn't it? In the dark, I mean," she said unsteadily. She didn't know how to say what she really meant, that it was not a place for the living.

"We could go the long way," said Meredith. "But that would mean another twenty minutes of walking."  

"I don't mind going this way," said Bonnie, swallowing hard. "I always said I wanted to be buried down there in the old one."  

"Will you stop talking about being buried!" Elena snapped, and she started down the hill. But the farther down the narrow path she got, the more uncomfortable she felt. She slowed until Bonnie and Meredith caught up with her. As they neared the first headstone, her heart began beating fast. She tried to ignore it, but her whole skin was tingling with awareness and the fine hairs on her arms were standing up. Between the gusts of wind, every sound seemed horribly magnified; the crunching of their feet on the leaf-strewn path was deafening.

The ruined church was a black silhouette behind them now. The narrow path led between the lichen-encrusted headstones, many of which stood taller than Meredith. Big enough for something to hide behind, thought Elena uneasily. Some of the tombstones themselves were unnerving, like the one with the cherub that looked like a real baby, except that its head had fallen off and had been carefully placed by its body. The wide granite eyes of the head were blank. Elena couldn't look away from it, and her heart began to pound.

"Why are we stopping?" said Meredith.

"I just... I'm sorry," Elena murmured, but when she forced herself to turn she immediately stiffened. "Bonnie?" she said. "Bonnie, what's wrong?"  

Bonnie was staring straight out into the graveyard, her lips parted, her eyes as wide and blank as the stone cherub's. Fear washed through Elena's stomach. "Bonnie, stop it. Stop it! It's not funny."  

Bonnie made no reply. "Bonnie!" said Meredith. She and Elena looked at each other, and suddenly Elena knew she had to get away. She whirled to start down the path, but a strange voice spoke behind her, and she jerked around.

"Elena," the voice said. It wasn't Bonnie's voice, but it came from Bonnie's mouth. Pale in the darkness, Bonnie was still staring out into the graveyard. There was no expression on her face at all.

"Elena," the voice said again, and added, as Bonnie's head turned toward her, "there's someone waiting out there for you."  

Elena never quite knew what happened in the next few minutes. Something seemed to move out among the dark humped shapes of the headstones, shifting and rising between them. Elena screamed and Meredith cried out, and then they were both running, and Bonnie was running with them, screaming, too.

Elena pounded down the narrow path, stumbling on rocks and clumps of grass root. Bonnie was sobbing for breath behind her, and Meredith, calm and cynical Meredith, was panting wildly. There was a sudden thrashing and a shriek in an oak tree above them, and Elena found that she could run faster.

"There's something behind us," cried Bonnie shrilly. "Oh, God, what's happening?"  

"Get to the bridge," gasped Elena through the fire in her lungs. She didn't know why, but she felt they had to make it there. "Don't stop, Bonnie! Don't look behind you!" She grabbed the other girl's sleeve and pulled her around.

"I can't make it," Bonnie sobbed, clutching her side, her pace faltering.

"Yes, you can," snarled Elena, grabbing Bonnie's sleeve again and forcing her to keep moving. "Come on.Come on!"  

She saw the silver gleam of water before them. And there was the clearing between the oak trees, and the bridge just beyond. Elena's legs were wobbling and her breath was whistling in her throat, but she wouldn't let herself lag behind. Now she could see the wooden planks of the footbridge. The bridge was twenty feet away from them, ten feet away, five.

"We made it," panted Meredith, feet thundering on the wood.

"Don't stop! Get to the other side!"  

The bridge creaked as they ran staggering across it, their steps echoing across the water. When she jumped onto packed dirt on the far shore, Elena let go of Bonnie's sleeve at last, and allowed her legs to stumble to a halt.

Meredith was bent over, hands on thighs, deep-breathing. Bonnie was crying.

"What was it? Oh, what was it?" she said. "Is it still coming?"  

"I thought you were the expert," Meredith said unsteadily. "For God's sake, Elena, let's get out of here."  

"No, it's all right now," Elena whispered. There were tears in her own eyes and she was shaking all over, but the hot breath at the back of her neck had gone. The river stretched between her and it, the waters a dark tumult. "It can't follow us here," she said.

Meredith stared at her, then at the other shore with its clustered oak trees, then at Bonnie. She wet her lips and laughed shortly. "Sure. It can't follow us. But let's go home anyway, all right? Unless you feel like spending the night out here."  

Some unnameable feeling shuddered through Elena. "Not tonight, thanks," she said. She put an arm around Bonnie, who was still sniffling. "It's okay, Bonnie. We're safe now. Come on."

Meredith was looking across the river again. "You know, I don't see a thing back there," she said, her voice calmer. "Maybe there wasn't anything behind us at all; maybe we just panicked and scared ourselves. With a little help from the druid priestess here."  

Elena said nothing as they started walking, keeping very close together on the dirt path. But she wondered. She wondered very much.
发表于 2016-9-9 15:29 | 显示全部楼层
Chapter Five

The full moon was directly overhead when Stefan came back to the boarding house. He was giddy, almost reeling, both from fatigue and from the glut of blood he'd taken. It had been a long time since he'd let himself feed so heavily. But the burst of wild Power by the graveyard had caught him up in its frenzy, shattering his already weakened control. He still wasn't sure where the Power had come from. He had been watching the human girls from his place in the shadows when it had exploded from behind him, sending the girls fleeing. He had been caught between the fear that they would run into the river and the desire to probe this Power and find its source. In the end, he had followedher , unable to chance her getting hurt.

Something black had winged toward the woods as the humans reached the sanctuary of the bridge, but even Stefan's night senses could not make out what it was. He had watched while she and the other two started in the direction of town. Then he had turned back to the graveyard.

It was empty now, purged of whatever had been there. On the ground lay a thin strip of silk that to ordinary eyes would have been gray in the dark. But he saw its true color, and as he crushed it between his fingers, bringing it slowly up to touch his lips, he could smell the scent of her hair.

Memory engulfed him. It was bad enough when she was out of sight, when the cool glow of her mind only teased at the edges of his consciousness. But to be in the same room with her at the school, to feel her presence behind him, to smell the heady fragrance of her skin all around him, was almost more than he could bear.

He had heard every soft breath she took, felt her warmth radiating against his back, sensed each throb of her sweet pulse. And eventually, to his horror, he had found himself giving in to it. His tongue had brushed back and forth over his canine teeth, enjoying the pleasure-pain that was building there, encouraging it. He'd breathed her smell into his nostrils deliberately, and let the visions come to him, imagining it all. How soft her neck would be, and how his lips would meet it with equal softness at first, planting tiny kisses here, and here, until he reached the yielding hollow of her throat. How he would nuzzle there, in the place where her heart beat so strongly against the delicate skin. And how at last his lips would part, would draw back from aching teeth now sharp as little daggers, and-  

No . He'd brought himself out of the trance with a jerk, his own pulse beating raggedly, his body shaking. The class had been dismissed, movement was all around him, and he could only hope no one had been observing him too closely.

When she had spoken to him, he had been unable to believe that he had to face her while his veins burned and his whole upper jaw ached. He'd been afraid for a moment that his control would break, that he would seize her shoulders and take her in front of all of them. He had no idea how he'd gotten away, only that some time later he was channeling his energy into hard exercise, dimly aware that he must not use the Powers. It didn't matter; even without them he was in every way superior to the mortal boys who competed with him on the football field.

His sight was sharper, his reflexes faster, his muscles stronger. Presently a hand had clapped him on the back and Matt's voice had rung in his ears:  

"Congratulations! Welcome to the team!"  

Looking into that honest, smiling face, Stefan had been overcome with shame. If you knew what I was, you wouldn't smile at me, he'd thought grimly. I've won this competition of yours by deception. And the girl you love-you do love her, don't you?-is in my thoughts right now.

And she had remained in his thoughts despite all his efforts to banish her that afternoon. He had wandered to the graveyard blindly, pulled from the woods by a force he did not understand. Once there he had watched her, fighting himself, fighting the need, until the surge of Power had sent her and her friends running. And then he'd come home-but only after feeding. After losing control of himself.

He couldn't remember exactly how it had happened, how he'd let it happen. That flare of Power had started it, awakening things inside him best left sleeping. The hunting need. The craving for the chase, for the smell of fear and the savage triumph of the kill. It had been years-centuries-since he'd felt the need with such force. His veins had begun burning like fire. And all his thoughts had turned red: he could think of nothing else but the hot coppery taste, the primal vibrancy, of blood.

With that excitement still raging through him, he'd taken a step or two after the girls. What might have happened if he hadn't scented the old man was better not thought about. But as he reached the end of the bridge, his nostrils had flared at the sharp, distinctive odor of human flesh.

Humanblood . The ultimate elixir, the forbidden wine. More intoxicating than any liquor, the steaming essence of life itself. And he was so tired of fighting the need.

There had been a movement on the bank under the bridge, as a pile of old rags stirred. And the next instant, Stefan had landed gracefully, catlike, beside it. His hand shot out and pulled the rags away, exposing a wizened, blinking face atop a scrawny neck. His lips drew back.

And then there was no sound but the feeding.

Now, as he stumbled up the main staircase of the boarding house, he tried not to think about it, and not to think about her-about the girl who tempted him with her warmth, her life. She had been the one he truly desired, but he must put a stop to that, he must kill any such thoughts before they were started from now on. For his sake, and for her own. He was her worst nightmare come true, and she didn't even know it.

"Who's there? Is that you, boy?" a cracked voice called sharply. One of the second-story doors  opened, and a gray head poked out.

"Yes, signora -Mrs. Flowers. I'm sorry if I disturbed you."  

"Ah, it takes more than a creaky floorboard to disturb me. You locked the door behind you?"  

"Yes,signora . You're... safe."  

"That's right. We need to be safe here. You never know what might be out there in those woods, do you?" He looked quickly at the smiling little face surrounded by wisps of gray hair, the bright darting eyes. Was there a secret hidden in them?  

"Good night,signora ."  

"Good night, boy." She shut the door.

In his own room he fell onto the bed and lay staring up at the low, slanting ceiling.

Usually he rested uneasily at night; it was not his natural sleeping time. But tonight he was tired. It took so much energy to face the sunlight, and the heavy meal only contributed to his lethargy. Soon, although his eyes did not close, he no longer saw the whitewashed ceiling above him.

Random scraps of memory floated through his mind. Katherine, so lovely that evening by the fountain, moonlight silvering her pale golden hair. How proud he had been to sit with her, to be the one to share her secret...

"But can you never go out in sunlight?"  

"Ican , yes, as long as I wear this." She held up a small white hand, and the moonlight shone on the lapis ring there. "But the sun tires me so much. I have never been very strong."  

Stefan looked at her, at the delicacy of her features and the slightness of her body. She was almost as insubstantial as spun glass. No, she would never have been strong.

"I was often ill as a child," she said softly, her eyes on the play of water in the fountain. "The last time, the surgeon finally said I would die. I remember Papa crying, and I remember lying in my big bed, too weak to move. Even breathing was too much effort. I was so sad to leave the world and so cold, so very cold." She shivered, and then smiled.

"But what happened?"  

"I woke in the middle of the night to see Gudren, my maid, standing over my bed. And then she stepped aside, and I saw the man she had brought. I was frightened. His name was Klaus, and I'd heard the people in the village say he was evil. I cried out to Gudren to save me, but she just stood there, watching. When he put his mouth to my neck, I thought he was going to kill me."  

She paused. Stefan was staring at her in horror and pity, and she smiled comfortingly at him. "It was not so terrible after all. There was a little pain at first, but that quickly went away. And then the feeling was actually pleasant. When he gave me of his own blood to drink, I felt stronger than I had for months. And then we waited out the hours together until dawn. When the surgeon came, he couldn't believe I was able to sit up and speak. Papa said it was a miracle, and he cried again from happiness." Her face clouded. "I will have to leave my papa sometime soon. One day he will realize that since that illness I have not grown an hour older."

"And you never will?"  

"No. That is the wonder of it, Stefan!" She gazed up at him with childlike joy. "I will be young forever, and I will never die! Can you imagine?"  

He could not imagine her as anything other than what she was now: lovely, innocent, perfect. "But-you did not find it frightening at first?"  

"At first, a little. But Gudren showed me what to do. It was she who told me to have this ring made, with a gem that would protect me from sunlight. While I lay in bed, she brought me rich warm possets to drink. Later, she brought small animals her son trapped."  

"Not... people?"  

Her laughter rang out. "Of course not. I can get all I need in a night from a dove. Gudren says that if I wish to be powerful I should take human blood, for the life essence of humans is strongest. And Klaus used to urge me, too; he wanted to exchange blood again. But I tell Gudren I do not want power. And as for Klaus..." She stopped and dropped her eyes, so that heavy lashes lay on her cheek. Her voice was very soft as she continued. "I do not think it is a thing to be done lightly. I will take human blood only when I have found my companion, the one who will be by my side for all eternity." She looked up at him gravely.

Stefan smiled at her, feeling light-headed and bursting with pride. He could scarcely contain the happiness he felt at that moment.

But that was before his brother Damon had returned from the University. Before Damon had come back and seen Katherine's jewel-blue eyes.

On his bed in the low-roofed room, Stefan moaned. Then the darkness drew him in deeper and new images began to flicker through his mind.

They were scattered glimpses of the past that did not form a connected sequence. He saw them like scenes briefly illuminated by flashes of lightning. His brother's face, twisted into a mask of inhuman anger. Katherine's blue eyes sparkling and dancing as she pirouetted in her new white gown. The glimmer of white behind a lemon tree. The feel of a sword in his hand; Giuseppe's voice shouting from far away. The lemon tree. He must not go behind the lemon tree. He saw Damon's face again, but this time his brother was laughing wildly. Laughing on and on, a sound like the grate of broken glass. And the lemon tree was closer now...

"Damon-Katherine-no!"  

He was sitting bolt upright on his bed.

He ran shaking hands through his hair and steadied his breath. A terrible dream. It had been a long time since he had been tortured by dreams like that; long, indeed, since he'd dreamed at all. The last few seconds played over and over again in his mind, and he saw again the lemon tree and heard again his brother's laughter.

It echoed in his mind almost too clearly. Suddenly, without being aware of a conscious decision to move, Stefan found himself at the open window. The night air Was cool on his cheeks as he looked into the silvery dark.

"Damon?" He sent the thought out on a surge of Power, questing. Then he fell into absolute stillness, listening with all his senses.

He could feel nothing, no ripple of response. Nearby, a pair of night birds rose in flight. In the town, many minds were sleeping; in the woods, nocturnal animals went about their secret business.

He sighed and turned back into the room. Perhaps he'd been wrong about the laughter; perhaps he'd even been wrong about the menace in the graveyard. Fell's Church was still, and peaceful, and he should try to emulate it. He needed sleep.

September 5 (actually early September 6-about 1:00 a.m.) Dear Diary,  

I should go back to bed soon. Just a few minutes ago I woke up thinking someone was shouting, but now the house is quiet. So many strange things have happened tonight that my nerves are shot, I guess.

At least I woke up knowing exactly what I'm going to do about Stefan. The whole thing just sort of sprang into my mind. Plan B, Phase One, begins tomorrow.

Frances's eyes were blazing, and her cheeks were flushed with color as she approached the three girls at the table.

"Oh, Elena, you've got to hear this!"  

Elena smiled at her, polite but not too intimate. Frances ducked her brown head. "I mean... can I join you? I've just heard the wildest thing about Stefan Salvatore."

"Have a seat," said Elena graciously. "But," she added, buttering a roll, "we're not really interested in the news."  

"You-?" Frances stared. She looked at Meredith, then at Bonnie. "You guys are joking, right?"  

"Not at all." Meredith speared a green bean and eyed it thoughtfully. "We have other things on our minds today."  

"Exactly," said Bonnie after a sudden start. "Stefan's old news, you know. Passe." She bent down and rubbed her ankle.

Frances looked at Elena appealingly. "But I thought you wanted to know all about him."  

"Curiosity," Elena said. "After all, he is a visitor, and I wanted to welcome him to Fell's Church. But of course I have to be loyal to Jean-Claude."  

"Jean-Claude?"  

"Jean-Claude," said Meredith, raising her eyebrows and sighing.

"Jean-Claude," echoed Bonnie gamely.

Delicately, with thumb and forefinger, Elena drew a photo out of her backpack. "Here he is standing in front of the cottage where we stayed. Right afterward he picked me a flower and said..."Well,"-she smiled mysteriously-"I shouldn't repeat it."  

Frances was gazing at the photo. It showed a bronzed young man, shirtless, standing in front of a hibiscus bush and smiling shyly. "He's older, isn't he?" she said with respect.

"Twenty-one. Of course,"-Elena glanced over Tier shoulder-"my aunt would never approve, so we're keeping it from her until I graduate. We have to write to each other secretly."  

"How romantic," Frances breathed. "I'll never tell a soul, I promise. But about Stefan..."  

Elena gave her a superior smile. "If," she said, "I am going to eat Continental, I prefer French to Italian every time." She turned to Meredith. "Right?"  

"Mm-hmm. Everytime." Meredith and Elena smiled knowingly at each other, then turned to Frances. "Don't you agree?"  

"Oh, yes," said Frances hastily. "Me, too. Every time." She smiled knowingly herself and nodded several times as she got up and left.

When she was gone, Bonnie said piteously, "This is going to kill me. Elena, I am going to die if I don't hear the gossip."  

"Oh, that? I can tell you," Elena replied calmly. "She was going to say there's a rumor going around that Stefan Salvatore is a narc."  

"A what !" Bonnie stared, and then burst into laughter. "But that's ridiculous. What narc in the world would dress like that and wear dark glasses? I mean, he's done everything he can to draw attention to himself..." Her voice trailed off, and her brown eyes widened. "But then, that may bewhy he does it. Who would ever suspect anybody so obvious? And he does live alone, and he's awfully secretive... Elena! What if it's true?"  

"It isn't," said Meredith.

"How do you know?"  

"Because I'm the one who started it." At Bonnie's expression, she grinned and added: "Elena told me to."  

"Ohhhh." Bonnie looked admiringly at Elena. "You're wicked. Can I tell people he's got a terminal disease?"  

"No, you cannot. I don't want any Florence Nightingale types lining up to hold his hand. But you can tell people whatever you want about Jean-Claude."  

Bonnie picked up the photograph. "Who was he really?"  

"The gardener. He was crazy about those hibiscus bushes. He was also married, with two kids."  

"Pity," said Bonnie seriously. "And you told Frances not to tell anyone about him..."  

"Right." Elena checked her watch. "Which means that by, oh, say two o'clock, it ought to be all over the school."  

After school, the girls went to Bonnie's house. They were greeted at the front door by a shrill yapping, and when Bonnie opened the door, a very old, very fat Pekingese tried to escape. His name was Yangtze, and he was so spoiled that no one except Bonnie's mother could stand him. He nipped at Elena's ankle as she went by.

The living room was dim and crowded, with lots of rather fussy furniture and heavy curtains at the windows. Bonnie's sister Mary was there, unpinning a cap from her wavy red hair. She was just two years older than Bonnie, and she worked at the Fell's Church clinic.

"Oh, Bonnie," she said, "I'm glad you're back. Hello, Elena, Meredith."  

Elena and Meredith said "hello." "What's the matter? You look tired," said Bonnie.

Mary dropped her cap on the coffee table. Instead of answering, she asked a question in return. "Last night when you came home so upset, where did you say you girls had been?"  

"Down in the-Just down by Wickery Bridge."  

"That's what I thought." Mary took a deep breath. "Now, you listen to me, Bonnie McCullough. Don't youever go out there again, and especially not alone and at night. Do you understand?"

"But why not?" Bonnie asked, bewildered.

"Because last night somebody was attacked out there, that's why not. And do you know where they found him? Righton the bank under Wickery Bridge ."  

Elena and Meredith stared at her in disbelief, and Bonnie clutched at Elena's arm. "Somebody was attacked under the bridge? But who was it? What happened?"  

"I don't know. This morning one of the cemetery workers spotted him lying there. He was some homeless person, I guess, and he'd probably been sleeping under the bridge when he was attacked. But he was half dead when they brought him in, and he hasn't regained consciousness yet. He may die."  

Elena swallowed. "What do you mean, attacked?" "I mean," said Mary distinctly, "that his throat was nearly ripped out. He lost an incredible amount of blood. They thought it might have been an animal at first, but now Dr. Lowen says it was a person. And the police think whoever did it may be hiding in the cemetery." Mary looked at each of them in turn, her mouth a straight line. "So if youwere there by the bridge-or in the cemetery, Elena Gilbert-then this person may have been there with you.Get it ?"  

"You don't have to scare us anymore," said Bonnie faintly. "We get the point, Mary."  

"All right. Good." Mary's shoulders slumped, and she rubbed at the back of her neck wearily. "I've got to lie down for a while. I didn't mean to be crabby." She walked out of the living room.

Alone, the three girls looked at one another.

"It could have been one of us," said Meredith quietly. "Especially you, Elena; you went there alone."  

Elena's skin was prickling, that same painfully alert feeling she'd had in the old graveyard. She could feel the chill of the wind and see the rows of tall tombstones all around her. Sunshine and Robert E. Lee had never seemed so far away.

"Bonnie," she said slowly, "did you see somebody out there? Is that what you meant when you said someone was waiting for me?"  

In the dim room, Bonnie looked at her blankly. "What are you talking about? I didn't say that."  

"Yes, you did."  

"No, I didn't. I never said that."  

"Bonnie," said Meredith, "we both heard you. You stared out at the old gravestones, and then you told Elena-"  

"I don't know what you're talking about, and I didn't sayanything ." Bonnie's face was pinched with anger, but there were tears in her eyes. "I don't want to talk about it anymore."  

Elena and Meredith looked at one another helplessly. Outside, the sun went behind a cloud.
发表于 2016-9-9 17:12 | 显示全部楼层
本帖最后由 慕然回首 于 2016-9-9 18:13 编辑

Chapter Six

September 26  

Dear Diary,  

I'm sorry it's been so long, and I can't really explain why I haven't written-except that there are so many things I feel frightened to talk about, even to you.

First, the most terrible thing happened. The day that Bonnie and Meredith and I were at the cemetery, an old man was attacked there, and almost killed. The police still haven't found the person who did it. People think the old man was crazy, because when he woke up he started raving about "eyes in the dark" and oak trees and things. But I remember what happened t us that night, and I wonder. It scares me.

Everyone was scared for a while, and all the kids had to stay inside after dark or go out in groups. But it's been about three weeks now, and no more attacks, so the excitement is dying down. Aunt Judith says it must have been another vagrant that did it. Tyler Smallwood's father even suggested that the old man might have done it to himself-though I would like to see somebody bite himself in the throat.

But mostly what I've been busy with is Plan B. As far as it goes, it's been going well. I've gotten severalletters and a bouquet of red roses from "Jean-Claude" (Meredith's uncle is a florist), and everybody seems to have forgotten that I was ever interested in Stefan. So my social position's secure. Even Caroline hasn't been making any trouble.

In fact, I don't know what Caroline is doing these days, and I don't care. I never see her at lunch or after school anymore; she seems to have drawn away from her old crowd completely.

There's only one thing I docare about right now. Stefan.

Even Bonnie and Meredith don't realize how important he is to me. I'm afraid to tell them; I'm afraid they'll think I'm crazy. At school I wear a mask of calm and control, but on the inside- well, every day it just gets worse.

Aunt Judith has started to worry about me. She says I don't eat enough these days, and she's right. I can't seem to concentrate on my classes, or even on anything fun like the Haunted House fund-raiser. I can't concentrate on anything but him. And I don't even understand why.

He hasn't spoken to me since that horrible afternoon. But I'll tell you something strange. Last week in history class, I glanced up and caught him looking at me. We were sitting a few seats apart, and he was turned completely sideways in his desk, just looking.For a moment I felt almost frightened, and my heart started pounding, and we just stared at each other -and then he looked away. But since then it's happened twice more, and each time I felt his eyes on me before I saw them. This is the literal truth. I know it's not my imagination.

He isn't like any boy I've ever known.

He seems so isolated, so lonely. Even though it's his own choice. He's made quite a hit on the football team, but he doesn't hang around with any of the guys, except maybe Matt. Matt's the only one he talks to. He doesn't hang around with any girls, either, thatIcan see, so maybe the narc rumor is doing some good. But it's more like he's avoiding other people than they're avoiding him. He disappears in between classes and after football practice, and I've never once seen him in the cafeteria. He's never invited anybody to his room at the boarding house. He never visits the coffee shop after school .

So how can I ever get him someplace where he can't run from me? This is the real problem with Plan B. Bonnie says, "Why not get stuck in a thunderstorm with him, so you have to huddle together to conserve body warmth?" And Meredith suggested that my car could break down in front of the boarding house. But neither of those ideas is practical,and I'm going insane trying to come up with something better .

Every day it's getting worse for me. I feel as if I were a clock or something, winding up tighter and tighter. If I don't find something to do soon, I'll-  

I was going to say "die."  

The solution came to her quite suddenly and simply.

She felt sorry about Matt; she knew he'd been hurt by the Jean-Claude rumor. He'd hardly spoken to her since the story had broken, usually passing her with a quick nod. And when she ran into him one day in an empty hall outside of Creative Writing, he wouldn't meet her eyes.

"Matt-" she began. She wanted to tell him that it wasn't true, that she would never have started seeing another boy without telling him first. She wanted to tell him that she'd never meant to hurt him, and that she felt terrible now. But she didn't know how to begin. Finally, she just blurted out, "I'm sorry!" and turned to go in to class.

"Elena," he said, and she turned back. He was looking at her now, at least, his eyes lingering on her lips, her hair. Then he shook his head as if to say the joke was on him. "Is this French guy for real?" he finally demanded.

"No," said Elena immediately and without hesitation. "I made him up," she added simply, "to show everybody I wasn't upset about-" She broke off.

"About Stefan. I get it." Matt nodded, looking both grimmer and somewhat more understanding. "Look, Elena, thatwas pretty lousy of him. But I don't think he meant it personally. He's that way with everybody-"  

"Except you."  

"No. He talks to me, sometimes, but not about anything personal. He never says anything about his family or what he does outside of school. It's like-like there's a wall around him that I can't get through. I don't think he'll ever let anybody get through that wall. Which is a damn shame, because I think that behind it he's miserable."  

Elena pondered this, fascinated by a view of Stefan she'd never considered before. He always seemed so controlled, so calm and undisturbed. But then, she knew she seemed that way herself to other people. Was it possible that underneath he was as confused and unhappy as she was?  

It was then that the idea came, and it was ridiculously simple. No complicated schemes, no thunderstorms or cars breaking down.

"Matt," she said, slowly, "don't you think it would be a good thing if somebody did get behind that wall? A good thing for Stefan, I mean? Don't you think that would be the best thing that could happen to him?" She looked up at him intensely, willing him to understand.

He stared at her a moment, then shut his eyes briefly and shook his head in disbelief. "Elena," he said, "you are incredible. You twist people around your little finger, and I don't think you even know you're doing it. And now you're going to ask me to do something to help you ambush Stefan, and I'm such a dumb sucker I might even agree to do it."

"You're not dumb, you're a gentleman. And Ido want to ask you a favor, .but only if you think it's right. I don't want to hurt Stefan, and I don't want to hurt you."  

"Don't you?"  

"No. I know how that must sound, but it's true. I only want-" She broke off again. How could she explain what she wanted when she didn't even understand it herself?  

"You only want everybody and everything revolving around Elena Gilbert," he said bitterly. "You only want everything you don't have."  

Shocked, she stepped back and looked at him. Her throat swelled, and warmth gathered in her eyes.

"Don't," he said. "Elena, don't look like that. I'm sorry." He sighed. "All right, what is it I'm supposed to do? Hog-tie him and dump him on your doorstep?"  

"No," said Elena, still trying to make the tears go back where they belonged. "I only wanted you to get him to come to the Homecoming Dance next week."  

Mart's expression was odd. "You just want him to be at the dance."  

Elena nodded.

"All right. I'm pretty sure he'll be there. And, Elena... there really isn't anybody but you I want to take."  

"All right," said Elena after a moment. "And, well, thank you."  

Matt's expression was still peculiar. "Don't thank me, Elena. It's nothing... really." She was puzzling over that when he turned away and walked down the hall.

"Hold still," said Meredith, giving Elena's hair a reproving twitch.

"I still think," said Bonnie from the window seat, "that they were both wonderful."  

"Who?" Elena murmured absently.

"As if you didn't know," said Bonnie. "Those two guys of yours who pulled off the last-minute miracle at the game yesterday. When Stefan caught that last pass, I thought I was going to faint. Or throw up."  

"Oh,please ," said Meredith.

"And Matt-that boy is simply poetry in motion..."  

"And neither of them is mine," Elena said flatly. Under Meredith's expert fingers, her hair was becoming a work of art, a soft mass of twisted gold. And the dress was all right; the iced-violet color brought out the violet in her eyes. But even to herself she looked pale and steely, not softly flushed with excitement but white and determined, like a very young soldier being sent to the front lines.

Standing on the football field yesterday when her name was announced as Homecoming Queen, there had been only one thought in her mind. Hecouldn't refuse to dance with her. If he came to the dance at all, he couldn't refuse the Homecoming Queen. And standing in front of the mirror now, she said it to herself again.

"Tonight anyone you want will be yours," Bonnie was saying soothingly. "And, listen, when you get rid of Matt, can I take him off and comfort him?"  

Meredith snorted. "What's Raymond going to think?"  

"Oh,you can comforthim . But, really, Elena, I like Matt. And once you home in on Stefan, your threesome is going to get a little crowded. So..."  

"Oh, do whatever you want. Matt deserves some consideration." He's certainly not getting it from me, Elena thought. She still couldn't exactly believe what she was doing to him. But just now she couldn't afford to second-guess herself; she needed all her strength and concentration.

"There." Meredith put the last pin in Elena's hair. "Now look at us, the Homecoming Queen and her court-or part of it, anyway. We're beautiful."  

"Is that the royal 'we'?" Elena said mockingly, but it was true. They were beautiful. Meredith's dress was a pure sweep of burgundy satin, gathered tight at the waist and pouring into folds from the hips. Her dark hair hung loose down her back. And Bonnie, as she stood up and joined the others in front of the mirror, was like a shimmering party favor in pink taffeta and black sequins.

As for herself... Elena scanned her image with an experienced eye and thought again, The dress is all right. The only other phrase that came to mind wascrystallized violets . Her grandmother had kept a little jar of them, real flowers dipped in crystallized sugar and frozen.

They went downstairs together, as they had for every dance since the seventh grade-except that before, Caroline had always been with them. Elena realized with faint surprise that she didn't even know who Caroline was going with tonight.

Aunt Judith and Robert-soon to be Uncle Robert-were in the living room, along with Margaret in her pajamas.

"Oh, you girls all look lovely," said Aunt Judith, as fluttery and excited as if she were going to the dance herself. She kissed Elena, and Margaret held up her arms for a hug.

"You're pretty," she said with four-year-old simplicity.

Robert was looking at Elena, too. He blinked, opened his mouth, and closed it again.

"What's the matter, Bob?"  

"On." He looked at Aunt Judith, seeming embarrassed. "Well, actually, it just occurred to me that Elena is a form of the name Helen. And for some reason I was thinking of Helen of Troy."  

"Beautiful and doomed," said Bonnie happily.

"Well, yes," said Robert, not looking happy at all. Elena said nothing.

The doorbell rang. Matt was on the step, in his familiar blue sports coat. With him were Ed Goff, Meredith's date, and Raymond Hernandez, Bonnie's. Elena looked for Stefan.

"He's probably already there," said Matt, interpreting her glance. "Listen, Elena-"  

But whatever he had been about to say was cut off in the chatter from the other couples. Bonnie and Raymond went with them in Matt's car, and kept up a constant stream of witticisms all the way to the school.

Music drifted out the open doors of the auditorium. As Elena stepped out of the car, a curious certainty rushed over her. Something was going to happen, she realized, looking at the square bulk of the school building. The peaceful low gear of the last few weeks was about to slip into high.

I'm ready, she thought. And hoped it was true.

Inside, it was a kaleidoscope of color and activity. She and Matt were mobbed the instant they came in, and compliments rained down on both of them. Elena's dress... her hair... her flowers. Matt was a legend in the making: another Joe Montana, a sure bet for an athletic scholarship.

In the dizzying whirl that should have been life and breath to her, Elena kept searching for one dark head.

Tyler Smallwood was breathing heavily on her, smelling of punch and Brut and Doublemint gum. His date was looking murderous. Elena ignored him in the hopes that he would go away.

Mr. Tanner passed by with a soggy paper cup, looking as if his collar was strangling him. Sue Carson, the other senior homecoming princess, breezed up and cooed over the violet dress. Bonnie was already out on the dance floor, shimmering under the lights. But nowhere did Elena see Stefan.

One more whiff of Doublemint and she was going to be sick. She nudged Matt and they escaped to the refreshment table, where Coach Lyman launched into a critique of the game. Couples and groups came up to them, spending a few minutes and then retreating to make room for the next in line. Just as if we reallywere royalty, thought Elena wildly. She glanced sideways to see if Matt shared her amusement, but he was looking fixedly off to his left.

She followed his gaze. And there, half concealed behind a cluster of football players, was the dark head she'd been looking for. Unmistakable, even in this dim light. A thrill went through her, more of pain than anything else.

"Now what?" said Matt, his jaw set. "The hog-tying?"  

"No. I'm going to ask him to dance, that's all. I'll wait until we've danced first, if you want."  

He shook his head, and she set out toward Stefan through the crowd.

Piece by piece, Elena registered information about him as she approached. His black blazer was of a subtly different cut than the other boys', more elegant, and he wore a white cashmere sweater under it. He stood quite still, not fidgeting, a little apart from the groups around him. And, although she could see him only in profile, she could see he wasn't wearing his glasses.

He took them off for football, of course, but she'd never seen him close up without them. It made her feel giddy and excited, as if this were a masquerade and the unmasking time had come. She focused on his shoulder, the line of his jaw, and then he was turning toward her.

In that instant, Elena was aware that she was beautiful. It wasn't just the dress, or the way her hair was done. She was beautiful in herself: slender, imperial, a thing made of silk and inner fire. She saw his lips part slightly, reflexively, and then she looked up into his eyes.

"Hello." Was that her own voice, so quiet and self-assured? His eyes were green. Green as oak leaves in summer. "Are you having a good time?" she said.

I am now . He didn't say it, but she knew it was what he was thinking; she could see it in the way he stared at her. She had never been so sure of her power. Except that actually he didn't look as if he were having a good time; he looked stricken, in pain, as if he couldn't take one more minute of this.

The band was starting up, a slow dance. He was still staring at her, drinking her in. Those green eyes darkening, going black with desire. She had the sudden feeling that he might jerk her to him and kiss her hard, without ever saying a word.

"Would you like to dance?" she said softly. I'm playing with fire, with something I don't understand, she thought suddenly. And in that instant she realized that she was frightened. Her heart began to pound violently. It was as if those green eyes spoke to some part of her that was buried deep beneath the surface-and that part was screaming "danger" at her. Some instinct older than civilization was telling her to run, to flee.

She never moved. The same force that was terrifying her was holding her there. This is out of control, she thought suddenly. Whatever was happening here was beyond her understanding, was nothing normal or sane. But there was no stopping it now, and even while frightened she was reveling in it. It was the most intense moment she'd ever experienced with a boy, but nothing at all was happening. He was just gazing at her, as if hypnotized, and she was gazing back, while the energy shimmered between them like heat lightning. She saw his eyes go darker, defeated, and felt the wild leap of her own heart as he slowly stretched out one hand.

And then it all shattered.

"Why, Elena, how sweet you look," said a voice, and Elena's vision was dazzled with gold. It was Caroline, her auburn hair rich and glossy, her skin tanned to a perfect bronze. She was wearing a dress of pure gold lame that showed an incredibly daring amount of that perfect skin. She slipped one bare arm through Stefan's and smiled lazily up at him. They were stunning together, like a couple of international models slumming at a high school dance, far more glamorous and sophisticated than anyone else in the room.

"And that little dress is so pretty ," continued Caroline, while Elena's mind kept on running on automatic. That casually possessive arm linked with Stefan's told her everything: where Caroline had been at lunch these past weeks, what she had been up to all this time. "I told Stefan we simply had to stop by for a moment, but we're not going to stay long. So you don't mind if I keep him to myself for the dances, do you?"  

Elena was strangely calm now, her mind a humming blank. She said no, of course she didn't mind, and watched Caroline move away, a symphony in auburn and gold. Stefan went with her.

There was a circle of faces around Elena; she turned from them and came up against Matt. "You knew he was coming with her."  

"I knew she wanted him to. She's been following him around at lunchtime and after school, and kind of forcing herself on him. But..."  

"I see." Still held in that queer, artificial calm, she scanned the crowd and saw Bonnie coming toward her, and Meredith leaving her table. They'd seen, then. Probably everyone had. Without a word to Matt, she moved toward them, heading instinctively for the girls' rest room.

It was packed with bodies, and Meredith and Bonnie kept their remarks bright and casual while looking at her with concern.

"Did you see that dress?" said Bonnie, squeezing Elena's fingers secretly. "The front must be held on with superglue. And what's she going to wear to the next dance? Cellophane?"  

"Handiwrap," said Meredith. She added in a low voice, "Are you okay?"  

"Yes." Elena could see in the mirror that her eyes were too bright and that there was one spot of color burning on each cheek. She smoothed her hair and turned away.

The room emptied, leaving them in privacy. Bonnie was fiddling nervously with the sequined bow at her waist now. "Maybe it isn't such a bad thing after all," she said quietly. "I mean, you haven't thought about anything else but him in weeks. Nearly a month. And so maybe it's just for the best, and you can move on to other things now, instead of... well, chasing him."  

Et tu, Brute? thought Elena. "Thank you so much for your support," she said aloud.

"Now, Elena, don't be like that," Meredith put in. "She isn't trying to hurt you, she just thinks-"  

"And I suppose you think so, too? Well, that's fine. I'll just go out and find myself some other things to move on to. Like some other best friends." She left them both staring after her.

Outside, she threw herself into the whirl of color and music. She was brighter than she had ever been at any dance before. She danced with everyone, laughing too loudly, flirting with every boy in her path.

They were calling her to come up and be crowned. She stood on the stage, looking down on the butterfly-bright figures below. Someone gave her flowers; someone put a rhinestone tiara on her head. There was clapping. It all passed as if in a dream.

She flirted with Tyler because he was closest when she came off the stage. Then she remembered what he and Dick had done to Stefan, and she broke off one of the roses from her bouquet and gave it to him. Matt was looking on from the sidelines, his mouth tight. Tyler's forgotten date was almost in tears.

She could smell alcohol along with the mint on Tyler's breath now, and his face was red. His friends were around her, a shouting, laughing crowd, and she saw Dick pour something from a brown paper bag into his glass of punch.

She'd never been with this group before. They welcomed her, admiring her, the boys vying for her attention. Jokes flew back and forth, and Elena laughed even when they didn't make sense. Tyler's arm circled her waist, and she just laughed harder. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Matt shake his head and walk away. The girls were getting shrill, the boys rowdy. Tyler was nuzzling moistly at her neck.

"I've got an idea," he announced to the group, hugging Elena more tightly to him. "Let's go someplace more fun."  

Somebody shouted, "Like where, Tyler? Your dad's house?"  

Tyler was grinning, a big, boozy, reckless grin. "No, I mean someplace where we can leave our mark. Like the cemetery."  

The girls squealed. The boys elbowed each other and faked punches.

Tyler's date was still standing outside the circle. "Tyler, that's crazy," she said, her voice high and thin. "You know what happened to that old man. I won't go there."  

"Great, then, you stay here." Tyler fished keys out of his pocket and waved them at the rest of the crowd. "Whoisn't afraid?" he said.

"Hey, I'm up for it," said Dick, and there was a chorus of approval.

"Me, too," said Elena, clear and defiant. She smiled up at Tyler, and he practically swung her off her feet.

And then she and Tyler were leading a noisy, roughhousing group out into the parking lot, where they were all piling into cars. And then Tyler was putting the top of his convertible down and she was climbing in, with Dick and a girl named Vickie Bennett squashing into the back seat.

"Elena!" somebody shouted, far away, from the lighted doorway at the school.

"Drive," she said to Tyler, taking off her tiara, and the engine growled to life. They burned rubber out of the parking lot, and the cool night wind blew into Elena's face.
发表于 2016-9-9 17:14 | 显示全部楼层
Chapter Seven

Bonnie was on the dance floor, eyes shut, letting the music flow through her. When she opened her eyes for an instant, Meredith was beckoning from the sidelines. Bonnie thrust her chin out mutinously, but as the gestures became more insistent she rolled her eyes up at Raymond and obeyed. Raymond followed.

Matt and Ed were behind Meredith. Matt was scowling. Ed was looking uncomfortable.

"Elena just left," said Meredith.

"It's a free country," said Bonnie.

"She went with Tyler Smallwood," said Meredith. "Matt, are you sure you didn't hear where they were going?"  

Matt shook his head. "I'd say she deserves whatever happens-but it's my fault, too, in a way," he said bleakly. "I guess we ought to go after her."  

"Leave thedance ?" Bonnie said. She looked at Meredith, who mouthed the wordsyou promised . "I don't believe this," she muttered savagely.

"I don't know how we'll find her," said Meredith, "but we've got to try." Then she added, in a strangely hesitant voice, "Bonnie,you don't happen to know where she is, do you?"  

"What? No, of course not; I've been dancing. You've heard of that, haven't you: what you go to a dance for?"  

"You and Ray stay here," Matt said to Ed. "If she comes back, tell her we're out looking."  

"And if we're going, we'd better go now," Bonnie put in ungraciously. She turned and promptly ran into a dark blazer.

"Well, excuse me," she snapped, looking up and seeing Stefan Salvatore. He said nothing as she and Meredith and Matt headed for the door, leaving an unhappy-looking Raymond and Ed behind.

The stars were distant and ice-bright in the cloudless sky. Elena felt just like them. Part of her was laughing and shouting with Dick and Vickie and Tyler over the roar of the wind, but part of her was watching from far away.

Tyler parked halfway up the hill to the ruined church, leaving his headlights on as they all got out. Although there had been several cars behind them when they left the school, they appeared to be the only ones who'd made it all the way to the cemetery.

Tyler opened the trunk and pulled out a six-pack. "All the more for us." He offered a beer to Elena, who shook her head, trying to ignore the sick feeling in the pit of her stomach. She felt all wrong being here-but there was no way she was going to admit that now.

They climbed the flagstone path, the girls staggering in their high heels and leaning on the boys. When they reached the top, Elena gasped and Vickie gave a little scream.

Something huge and red was hovering just above the horizon. It took Elena a moment to realize it was actually the moon. It was as large and unrealistic as a prop in a science-fiction movie, and its bloated mass glowed dully with an unwholesome light.

"Like a big rotten pumpkin," said Tyler, and lobbed a stone at it. Elena made herself smile brilliantly up at him.

"Why don't we go inside?" Vickie said, pointing a white hand at the empty hole of the church doorway.

Most of the roof had fallen in, although the belfry was still intact, a tower stretching up high above them. Three of the walls were standing; the fourth was only knee-high. There were piles of rubble everywhere.

A light flared by Elena's cheek, and she turned, startled, to see Tyler holding a lighter. He grinned, showing strong white teeth, and said, "Want to flick my Bic?"  

Elena's laughter was the loudest, to cover her uneasiness. She took the lighter, using it to illuminate the tomb in the side of the church. It was like no other tomb in the cemetery, although her father said he'd seen similar things in England. It looked like a large stone box, big enough for two people, with two marble statues lying in repose on the lid.

"Thomas Keeping Fell and Honoria Fell," said Tyler with a grand gesture, as if introducing them. "Old Thomas allegedly founded Fell's Church. Although actually the Smallwoods were also there at the time. My great-grandfather's great-great-grandfather lived in the valley by Drowning Creek-"  

"-until he got eaten by wolves," said Dick, and he threw back his head in a wolf imitation. Then he belched. Vickie giggled. Annoyance crossed Tyler's handsome features, but he forced a smile.

"Thomas and Honoria are looking kind of pale," said Vickie, still giggling. "I think what they need is a little color." She produced a lipstick from her purse and began to coat the white marble mouth of the woman's statue with waxy scarlet. Elena felt another sick twinge. As a child, she'd always been awed by the pale lady and the grave man who lay with their eyes closed, hands folded on their breasts. And, after her parents died, she'd thought of them as lying side by side like this down in the cemetery. But she held the lighter while the other girl put a lipstick mustache and clown's nose on Thomas Fell.

Tyler was watching them. "Hey, they're all dressed up with no place to go." He put his hands on the edge of the stone lid and leaned on it, trying to shift it sideways. "What do you say, Dick-want to give them a night out on the town? Like maybe right in the center of town?"  

No, thought Elena, appalled, as Dick guffawed and Vickie shrieked with laughter. But Dick was already beside Tyler, getting braced and ready, the heels of his hands on the stone lid.

"On three," said Tyler, and counted, "One, two,three ."  

Elena's eyes were fixed on the horrible clown-like face of Thomas Fell as the boys strained forward and grunted, muscles bunching under cloth. They couldn't budge the lid an inch.

"Damn thing must be attached somehow," said Tyler angrily, turning away.

Elena felt weak with relief. Trying to seem casual, she leaned against the stone lid of the tomb for support-and that was when it happened.

She heard the grinding of stone and felt the lid shift under her left hand all at once. It was moving away from her, making her lose her balance. The lighter went flying, and she screamed and screamed again, trying to keep her feet. She was falling into the open tomb, and an icy wind roared all around her. Screams rang in her ears.

And then she was outside and the moonlight was bright enough that she could see the others. Tyler had hold of her. She stared around her wildly.

"Are you crazy? What happened?" Tyler was shaking her.

"It moved! The lid moved! It slid open and-I don't know-I almost fell in. It was cold..."  

The boys were laughing. "Poor baby's got the jitters," Tyler said. "C'mon, Dicky-boy, we'll check it out." "Tyler, no-"

But they went inside anyway. Vickie hung in the doorway, watching, while Elena shivered. Presently, Tyler beckoned her from the door.

"Look," he said when she reluctantly stepped back inside. He'd retrieved the lighter, and he held it above Thomas Fell's marble chest. "It still fits, snug as a bug in a rug. See?"  

Elena stared down at the perfect alignment of lid and tomb. "It did move. I nearly fell into it..."  

"Sure, whatever you say, baby." Tyler wound his arms around her, clasping her to him backwards. She looked over to see Dick and Vickie in much the same position, except that Vickie, eyes shut, was looking as if she enjoyed it. Tyler rubbed a strong chin over her hair.

"I'd like to go back to the dance now," she said flatly.

There was a pause in the rubbing. Then Tyler sighed and said, "Sure, baby." He looked at Dick and Vickie. "What about you two?"  

Dick grinned. "We'll just stay here a while." Vickie giggled, her eyes still shut.

"Okay." Elena wondered how they were going to get back, but she allowed Tyler to lead her out. Once outside, however, he paused.

"I can't let you go without one look at my grandfather's headstone," he said. "Aw, c'mon, Elena," he said as she started to protest, "don't hurt my feelings. You've got to see it; it's the family pride and joy."  

Elena made herself smile, although her stomach felt like ice. Maybe if she humored him, he would get her out of here. "All right," she said, and started toward the cemetery.

"Not that way. This way." And the next moment, he was leading her down toward the old graveyard. "It's okay, honest, it's not far off the path. Look, there, you see?" He pointed to something that shone in the moonlight.

Elena gasped, muscles tightening around her heart. It looked like a person standing there, a giant with a round hairless head. And she didn't like being here at all, among the worn and leaning granite stones of centuries past. The bright moonlight cast strange shadows, and there were pools of impenetrable darkness everywhere.

"It's just the ball on top. Nothing to be scared of," said Tyler, pulling her with him off the path and up to the shining headstone. It was made of red marble, and the huge ball that surmounted it reminded her of the bloated moon on the horizon. Now that same moon shone down on them, as white as Thomas Fell's white hands. Elena couldn't contain her shivering.

"Poor baby, she's cold. Got to get her warned up," said Tyler. Elena tried to push him away, but he was too strong, wrapping her in his arms, pulling her against him.

"Tyler, I want to go; I want to go rightnow . ..."  

"Sure, baby, we'll go," he said. "But we've got to get you warm first. Gosh, you're cold."  

" Tyler, stop," she said. His arms around her had merely been annoying, restricting, but now with a sense of shock she felt his hands on her body, groping for bare skin.

Never in her life had Elena been in a situation like this, far away from any help. She aimed a spiked heel for his patent-leather instep, but he evaded her. "Tyler,take your hands off me ."  

"C'mon, Elena, don't be like that, I just want to warm you up all over..."  

"Tyler, let go," she choked out. She tried to wrench herself away from him. Tyler stumbled, and then his full weight was on her, crushing her into the tangle of ivy and weeds on the ground. Elena spoke desperately. "I'll kill you, Tyler. I mean it.Get off me ."  

Tyler tried to roll off, giggling suddenly, his limbs heavy and uncoordinated, almost useless. "Aw, c'mon, Elena, don' be mad. I was jus' warmin' you up. Elena the Ice Princess, warmin' up... You're gettin' warm now, aren' you?" Then Elena felt his mouth hot andwet on her face. She was still pinned beneath him, and his sloppy kisses were moving down her throat. She heard cloth tear.

"Oops," Tyler mumbled. "Sorry 'bout that."  

Elena twisted her head, and her mouth met Tyler's hand, clumsily caressing her cheek. She bit it, sinking her teeth into the fleshy palm. She bithard , tasting blood, hearing Tyler's agonized yowl. The hand jerked away.

"Hey! I said I was sorry!" Tyler looked aggrievedly at his maimed hand. Then his face darkened, as, still staring at it, he clenched the hand into a fist.

This is it, Elena thought with nightmare calmness. He's either going to knock me out or kill me. She braced herself for the blow.

Stefan had resisted coming into the cemetery; everything within him had cried out against it. The last time he'd been here had been the night of the old man.

Horror shifted through his gut again at the memory. He would have sworn that he had not drained the man under the bridge, that he had not taken enough blood to do harm. But everything that night after the surge of Power was muddled, confused. If therehad been a surge of Power at all. Perhaps that had been his own imagination, or even his own doing. Strange things could happen when the need got out of control.

He shut his eyes. When he'd heard that the old man was hospitalized, near death, his shock had been beyond words. Howcould he have let himself get so far out of hand? To kill, almost, when he had not killed since...

He wouldn't let himself think about that.

Now, standing in front of the cemetery gate in the midnight darkness, he wanted nothing so much as to turn around and go away. Go back to the dance where he'd left Caroline, that supple, sun-bronzed creature who was absolutely safe because she meant absolutely nothing to him.

But he couldn't go back, because Elena was in the cemetery. He could sense her, and sense her rising distress. Elena was in the cemetery and in trouble, and he had to find her.

He was halfway up the hill when the dizziness hit. It sent him reeling, struggling on toward the church because it was the only thing he could keep in focus. Gray waves of fog swept through his brain, and he fought to keep moving. Weak, he felt so weak. And helpless against the sheer power of this vertigo.

He needed... to go to Elena. But he was weak. He couldn't be... weak... if he were to help Elena. He needed... to...

The church door yawned before him.

Elena saw the moon over Tyler's left shoulder. It was strangely fitting that it would be the last thing she ever saw, she thought. The scream had caught in her throat, choked off by fear.

And then something picked Tyler up and threw him against his grandfather's headstone.

That was what it looked like to Elena. She rolled to the side, gasping, one hand clutching her torn dress, the other groping for a weapon.

She didn't need one. Something moved in the darkness, and she saw the person who had plucked Tyler off her. Stefan Salvatore. But it was a Stefan she had never seen before: that fine-featured face was white and cold with fury, and there was a killing light in those green eyes. Without even moving, Stefan emanated such anger and menace that Elena found herself more frightened of him than she had been of Tyler.

"When I first met you, I knew you'd never learned any manners," said Stefan. His voice was soft and cold and light, and somehow it made Elena dizzy. She couldn't take her eyes off him as he moved toward Tyler, who was shaking his head dazedly and starting to get up. Stefan moved like a dancer, every movement easy and precisely controlled. "But I had no idea that your character was quite so underdeveloped."  

He hit Tyler. The larger boy had been reaching out one beefy hand, and Stefan hit him almost negligently on the side of the face, before the hand made contact.

Tyler flew against another headstone. He scrambled up and stood panting, his eyes showing white. Elena saw a trickle of blood from his nose. Then he charged.

"A gentleman doesn't force his company on anyone," said Stefan, and knocked him aside. Tyler went sprawling again, facedown in the weeds and briars. This time he was slower in getting up, and blood flowed from both nostrils and from his mouth. He was blowing like a frightened horse as he threw himself at Stefan.

Stefan grabbed the front of Tyler's jacket, whirling them both around and absorbing the impact of the murderous rush. He shook Tyler twice, hard, while those big beefy fists windmilled around him, unable to connect. Then he let Tyler drop.

"He doesn't insult a woman," he said. Tyler's face was contorted, his eyes rolling, but he grabbed for Stefan's leg. Stefan jerked him to his feet and shook him again, and Tyler went limp as a rag doll, his eyes rolling up. Stefan went on speaking, holding the heavy body upright and punctuating every word with a bone-wrenching shake. "And, above all, he doesnot hurt her..."  

"Stefan!" Elena cried. Tyler's head was snapping back and forth with every shake. She was frightened of what she was seeing; frightened of what Stefan might do. And frightened above all else of Stefan's voice, that cold voice that was like a rapier dancing, beautiful and deadly and utterly merciless. "Stefan,stop ."  

His head jerked toward her, startled, as if he had forgotten her presence. For a moment he looked at her without recognition, his eyes black in the moonlight, and she thought of some predator, some great bird or sleek carnivore incapable of human emotion. Then understanding came to his face and some of the darkness faded from his gaze.

He looked down at Tyler's lolling head, then set him gently against the red marble tombstone. Tyler's knees buckled and he slid down the face of it, but to Elena's relief his eyes opened-or at least the left one did. The right was swelling to a slit.

"He'll be all right," said Stefan emptily.

As her fear ebbed, Elena felt empty herself. Shock, she thought. I'm in shock. I'll probably start screaming hysterically any minute now.

"Is there someone to take you home?" said Stefan, still in that chillingly deadened voice.

Elena thought of Dick and Vickie, doing God knew what beside Thomas Fell's statue. "No," she said. Her mind was beginning to work again, to take notice of things around her. The violet dress was ripped all the way down the front; it was ruined. Mechanically, she pulled it together over her slip.

"I'll drive you," said Stefan.

Even through the numbness, Elena felt a quick thrill of fear. She looked at him, a strangely elegant figure among the tombstones, his face pale in the moonlight. He had never looked so... sobeautiful to her before, but that beauty was almost alien. Not just foreign, but inhuman, because no human could project that aura of power, or of distance.

"Thank you. That would be very kind," she said slowly. There was nothing else to do.

They left Tyler painfully getting to his feet by his ancestor's headstone. Elena felt another chill as they reached the path and Stefan turned toward Wickery Bridge.

"I left my car at the boarding house," he said. "This is the fastest way for us to get back."  

"Is this the way you came?"  

"No. I didn't cross the bridge. But it'll be safe."  

Elena believed him. Pale and silent, he walked beside her without touching, except when he took off his blazer to put it around her bare shoulders. She felt oddly sure he would kill anything that tried to get at her.

Wickery Bridge was white in the moonlight, and under it the icy waters swirled over ancient rocks. The whole world was still and beautiful and cold as they walked through the oak trees to the narrow country road.

They passed fenced pastures and dark fields until they reached a long winding drive. The boarding house was a vast building of rust-red brick made from the native clay, and it was flanked with age-old cedars and maples. All but one of the windows were dark.

Stefan unlocked one of the double doors and they stepped into a small hallway, with a flight of stairs directly in front of them. The banister, like the doors, was natural light oak so polished that it seemed to glow.

They went up the stairs to a second-story landing that was poorly lit. To Elena's surprise,  

Stefan led her into one of the bedrooms and opened what looked like a closet door. Through it she could see a very steep, very narrow stairway.

What a strange place, she thought. This hidden stairway buried deep in the heart of the house, where no sound from outside could penetrate. She reached the top of the stairs and stepped out into a large room that made up the whole third story of the house.

It was almost as dimly lit as the stairway, but Elena could see the stained wood floor and the exposed beams in the slanting ceiling. There were tall windows on all sides, and many trunks scattered among a few pieces of massive furniture.

She realized he was watching her. "Is there a bathroom where I-?"  

He nodded toward a door. She took off the blazer, held it toward him without looking at him, and went inside.
发表于 2016-9-9 17:16 | 显示全部楼层
Chapter Eight

Elena had gone into the bathroom dazed and numbly grateful. She came out angry.

She wasn't quite sure how the transformation had taken place. But sometime while she was washing the scratches on her face and arms, annoyed at the lack of a mirror and at the fact she'd left her purse in Tyler's convertible, she startedfeeling again. And what she felt was anger.

Damn Stefan Salvatore. So cold and controlled even while saving her life. Damn him for his politeness, and for his gallantry, and for the walls around him that seemed thicker and higher than ever.

She pulled the remaining bobby pins out of her hair and used them to fasten the front of her dress together. Then she ran through her loosened hair quickly with an engraved bone comb she found by the sink. She came out of the bathroom with her chin held high and her eyes narrowed.

He hadn't put his coat back on. He was standing by the window in his white sweater with bowed head, tense, waiting. Without lifting his head, he gestured to a length of dark velvet laid over the back of a chair.

"You might want to put that on over your dress."  

It was a full-length cloak, very rich and soft, with a hood. Elena pulled the heavy material around her shoulders. But she was not mollified by the gift; she noticed that Stefan hadn't come any closer to her, or even looked at her while speaking.

Deliberately, she invaded his territorial space, pulling the cloak more tightly about her and feeling, even at that moment, a sensual appreciation of the way the folds fell about her, trailing behind her on the floor. She walked up to him and made an examination of the heavy mahogany dresser by the window.

On it lay a wicked-looking dagger with an ivory hilt and a beautiful agate cup mounted in silver. There were also a golden sphere with some sort of dial set into it and several loose gold coins.

She picked up one of the coins, partly because it was interesting and partly because she knew it would upset him to see her handling his things. "What's this?"  

It was a moment before he answered. Then he said:  

"A gold florin. A Florentine coin."  

"And what's this?"  

"A German pendant watch. Late fifteenth century," he said distractedly. He added, "Elena-"  

She reached for a small iron coffer with a hinged lid. "What about this? Does it open?"  

"No." He had the reflexes of a cat; his hand slapped over the coffer, holding the lid down. "That's private," he said, the strain obvious in his voice.

She noticed that his hand made contact only with the curving iron lid and not with her flesh. She lifted her fingers, and he drew back at once.

Suddenly, her anger was too great to hold in any longer. "Careful," she said savagely. "Don't touch me, or you might get a disease."  

He turned away toward the window.

And yet even as she moved away herself, walking back to the center of the room, she could sense his watching her reflection. And she knew, suddenly, what she must look like to him, pale hair spilling over the blackness of the cape, one white hand holding the velvet closed at her throat. A ravaged princess pacing in her tower.

She tilted her head far back to look at the trapdoor in the ceiling, and heard a soft, distinct intake of breath. When she turned, his gaze was fixed on her exposed throat; the look in his eyes confused her. But the next moment his face hardened, closing her out.

"I think," he said, "that I had better get you home."  

In that instant, she wanted to hurt him, to make him feel as bad as he'd made her feel. But she also wanted the truth. She was tired of this game, tired of scheming and plotting and trying to read Stefan Salvatore's mind. It was terrifying and yet a wonderful relief to hear her own voice saying the words she'd been thinking so long.

"Why do you hate me?" He stared at her. For a moment he couldn't seem to find words. Then he said, "I don't hate you."  

"You do," said Elena. "I know it's not... not good manners to say it, but I don't care. I know I should be grateful to you for saving me tonight, but I don't care about that, either. I didn't ask you to save me. I don't know why you were even in the graveyard in the first place. And I certainly don't understand why you did it, considering the way you feel about me."  

He was shaking his head, but his voice was soft. "I don't hate you."  

"From the very beginning, you've avoided me as if I were... were some kind of leper. I tried to be friendly to you, and you threw it back in my face. Is that what agentleman does when someone tries to welcome him?"  

He was trying to say something now, but she swept on, heedless. "You've snubbed me in public time after time; you've humiliated me at school. You wouldn't be speaking to me now if it hadn't been a matter of life or death. Is that what it takes to get a word out of you? Does someone have to nearly be murdered?  

"And even now," she continued bitterly, "you don't want me to get anywhere near you. What's the matter with you, Stefan Salvatore, that you have to live this way? That you have to build walls against other people to keep them out? That you can't trust anyone?What's wrong with you ?"  

He was silent now, his face averted. She took a deep breath and then straightened her shoulders, holding her head up even though her eyes were sore and burning. "And what's wrong withme ," she added, more quietly, "that you can't even look at me, but you can let Caroline Forbes fall all over you? I have a right to know that, at least. I won't ever bother you again, I won't even talk to you at school, but I want to know the truth before I go. Why do you hate me so much, Stefan?"

Slowly, he turned and raised his head. His eyes were bleak, sightless, and something twisted in Elena at the pain she saw on his face.

His voice was still controlled-but barely. She could hear the effort it cost him to keep it steady.

"Yes," he said, "I think you do have a right to know. Elena." He looked at her then, meeting her eyes directly, and she thought, That bad? What could be as bad as that? "I don't hate you," he continued, pronouncing each word carefully, distinctly. "I've never hated you. But you... remind me of someone."  

Elena was taken aback. Whatever she'd expected, it wasn't this. "I remind you of someone else you know?"  

"Of someone I knew," he said quietly. "But," he added slowly, as if puzzling something out for himself, "you're not like her, really. She looked like you, but she was fragile, delicate. Vulnerable. Inside as well as out."  

"And I'm not."  

He made a sound that would have been a laugh if there had been any humor in it. "No. You're a fighter. You are... yourself."  

Elena was silent for a moment. She could not keep hold of her anger, seeing the pain on his face. "You were very close to her?"  

"Yes."  

"What happened?"  

There was a long pause, so long that Elena thought he wasn't going to answer her. But at last he said, "She died."  

Elena let out a tremulous breath. The last of her anger folded up and disappeared from under her. "That must have hurt terribly," she said softly, thinking of the white Gilbert headstone among the rye grass. "I'm so sorry."  

He said nothing. His face had closed again, and he seemed to be looking far away at something, something terrible and heartbreaking that only he could see. But there was not just grief in his expression. Through the walls, through all his trembling control, she could see the tortured look of unbearable guilt and loneliness. A look so lost and haunted that she had moved to his side before she knew what she was doing.

"Stefan," she whispered. He didn't seem to hear her; he seemed to be adrift in his own world of misery.

She could not stop herself from laying a hand on his arm. "Stefan, I know how it can hurt-"  

"You can't know," he exploded, all his quietness erupting into white rage. He looked down at her hand as if just realizing it was there, as if infuriated at her effrontery in touching him. His green eyes were dilated and dark as he shook her hand off, flinging a hand up to bar her from touching him again-  

-and somehow, instead, he was holding her hand, his fingers tightly interlocked with hers, hanging on for dear life. He looked down at their locked hands in bewilderment. Then, slowly, his gaze moved from their clasping fingers to her face.

"Elena..." he whispered.

And then she saw it, the anguish shattering his gaze, as if he simply couldn't fight any longer. The defeat as the walls finally crumbled and she saw what was underneath.

And then, helplessly, he bent his head down to her lips.

"Wait-stop here," said Bonnie. "I thought I saw something."  

Matt's battered Ford slowed, edging toward the side of the road, where brambles and bushes grew thickly. Something white glimmered there, coming toward them.

"Oh, my God," said Meredith. "It's Vickie Bennett."  

The girl stumbled into the path of the headlights and stood there, wavering, as Matt hit the brakes. Her light-brown hair was tangled and in disarray, and her eyes stared glassily out of a face that was smudged and grimy with dirt. She was wearing only a thin white slip.

"Get her in the car," said Matt. Meredith was already opening the car door. She jumped out and ran up to the dazed girl.

"Vickie, are you all right? What happened to you?"  

Vickie moaned, still looking straight ahead. Then she suddenly seemed to see Meredith, and she clutched at her, digging her nails into Meredith's arms.

"Get out of here," she said, her eyes filled with desperate intensity, her voice strange and thick, as if she had something in her mouth. "All of you-get out of here! It's coming."  

"What's coming? Vickie, where is Elena?"  

"Get outnow . ..."  

Meredith looked down the road, then led the shaking girl back to the car. "We'll take you away," she said, "but you have to tell us what's happened. Bonnie, give me your wrap. She's freezing."

"She's been hurt," said Matt grimly. "And she's in shock or something. The question is, where are the others? Vickie, was Elena with you?"  

Vickie sobbed, putting her hands over her face as Meredith settled Bonnie's iridescent pink wrap around her shoulders. "No... Dick," she said indistinctly. It seemed to hurt her to speak. "We were in the church... it was horrible. It came... like mist all around. Dark mist. And eyes. I saw its eyes in the dark there, burning. They burnt me..."  

"She's delirious," said Bonnie. "Or hysterical, or whatever you call it."  

Matt spoke slowly and clearly. "Vickie, please, just tell us one thing. Where is Elena? What happened to her?"  

"I don't know ." Vickie lifted a tear-stained face to the sky. "Dick and I-we were alone. We were... and then suddenly it was all around us. I couldn't run. Elena said the tomb had opened. Maybe that was where it came from. It was horrible..."  

"They were in the cemetery, in the ruined church," Meredith interpreted. "And Elena was with them. And look at this." In the overhead light, they could all see the deep fresh scratches running down Vickie's neck to the lace bodice of her slip.

"They look like animal marks," said Bonnie. "Like the marks of cat's claws, maybe."  

"No cat got that old man under the bridge," said Matt. His face was pale, and muscles stood out in his jaw. Meredith followed his gaze down the road and then shook her head.

"Matt, we have to take her back first. We have to," she said. "Listen to me, I'm as worried about Elena as you are. But Vickie needs a doctor, and we need to call the police. We don't have any choice. We have to go back."  

Matt stared down the road for another long moment, then let out his breath in a hiss. Slamming the door shut, he put the car into gear and turned it around, each motion violent.

All the way back to town, Vickie moaned about the eyes.

Elena felt Stefan's lips meet hers.

And... it was as simple as that. All questions answered, all fears put to rest, all doubts removed. What she felt was not merely passion, but a bruising tenderness and a love so strong it made her shake inside. It would have been frightening in its intensity, except that while she was with him, she could not be afraid of anything.

She had come home.

This was where she belonged, and she had found it at last. With Stefan, she was home.

He pulled back slightly, and she could feel that he was trembling.

"Oh, Elena," he whispered against her lips. We can't-  

"We already have," she whispered, and drew him back down again.

It was almost as if she could hear his thoughts, could feel his feelings. Pleasure and desire raced between them, connecting them, drawing them closer. And Elena sensed, too, a wellspring of deeper emotions within him. He wanted to hold her forever, to protect her from all harm. He wanted to defend her from any evil that threatened her. He wanted to join his life with hers.

She felt the tender pressure of his lips on hers, and she could hardly bear the sweetness of it. Yes , she thought. Sensation rippled through her like waves on a still, clear pond. She was drowning in it, both the joy she sensed in Stefan and the delicious answering surge in herself. Stefan's love bathed her, shone through her, lighting every dark place in her soul like the sun. She trembled with pleasure, with love, and with longing.

He drew back slowly, as if he could not bear to part from her, and they looked into each other's eyes with wondering joy.

They did not speak. There was no need for words. He stroked her hair, with a touch so light that she could scarcely feel it, as if he was afraid she might break in his hands. She knew, then, that it had not been hatred that had made him avoid her for so long. No, it had not been hatred at all.

Elena had no idea how much later it was that they quietly went down the stairs of the boarding house. At any other time, she would have been thrilled to get into Stefan's sleek black car, but tonight she scarcely noticed it. He held her hand as they drove through the deserted streets.

The first thing Elena saw as they approached her house was the lights.

"It's the police," she said, finding her voice with some difficulty. It was odd to talk after being silent so long. "And that's Robert's car in the driveway, and there's Matt's," she said. She looked at Stefan, and the peace that had filled her suddenly seemed fragile. "I wonder what happened. You don't suppose Tyler's already told them... ?"

"Even Tyler wouldn't be that stupid," said Stefan.

He pulled up behind one of the police cars, and reluctantly Elena unclasped her hand from his. She wished with all her heart that she and Stefan could just be alone together, that they would never need to face the world.

But there was no help for it. They walked up the pathway to the door, which was open. Inside, the house was a blaze of lights.

Entering, Elena saw what seemed like dozens of faces turned toward her. She had a sudden vision of what she must look like, standing there in the doorway in the sweeping black velvet cloak, with Stefan Salvatore at her side. And then Aunt Judith gave a cry and was holding her in her arms, shaking her and hugging her all at once.

"Elena! Oh, thank God you're safe. But where have you been? And why didn't you call? Do you realize what you've put everyone through?"  

Elena stared around the room in bewilderment. She didn't understand a thing.

"We're just glad to see you back," said Robert.

"I've been at the boarding house, with Stefan," she said slowly. "Aunt Judith, this is Stefan Salvatore; he rents a room there. He brought me back."  

"Thank you," said Aunt Judith to Stefan over Elena's head. Then, pulling back to look at Elena, she said, "But your dress, your hair-what happened?"  

"You don't know? Then Tyler didn't tell you. But then why are the police here?" Elena edged toward Stefan instinctively, and she felt him move closer to her in protection.

"They're here because Vickie Bennett was attacked in the cemetery tonight," said Matt. He and Bonnie and Meredith were standing behind Aunt Judith and Robert, looking relieved and a little awkward and more than a little tired. "We found her maybe two, three hours ago, and we've been looking for you ever since."  

"Attacked?" said Elena, stunned. "Attacked by what?"  

"Nobody knows," said Meredith.

"Well, now, it may be nothing to worry about," said Robert comfortingly. "The doctor said she'd had a bad scare, and that she'd been drinking. The whole thing may have been in her imagination."  

"Those scratches weren't imaginary," said Matt, polite but stubborn.

"What scratches? What are you talking about?" Elena demanded, looking from one face to another.

"I'll tell you," said Meredith, and she explained, succinctly, how she and the others had found Vickie. "She kept saying she didn't know where you were, that she was alone with Dick when it happened. And when we got her back here, the doctor said he couldn't find anything conclusive. She wasn't really hurt except for the scratches, and they could have been from a cat."  

"There were no other marks on her?" said Stefan sharply. It was the first time he'd spoken since entering the house, and Elena looked at him, surprised by his tone.

"No," said Meredith. "Of course, a cat didn't tear her clothes off-but Dick might have. Oh, and her tongue was bitten."  

"What?" said Elena.

"Badly bitten, I mean. It must have bled a lot, and it hurts her to talk now."  

Beside Elena, Stefan had gone very still. "Did she have any explanation for what happened?"  

"She was hysterical," Matt said. "Really hysterical; she wasn't making any sense. She kept babbling about eyes and dark mist and not being able to run-which is why the doctor thinks maybe it was some sort of hallucination. But as far as anyone can make out, the facts are that she and Dick Carter were in the ruined church by the cemetery at about midnight, and that something came in and attacked her there."  

Bonnie added, "It didn't attack Dick, which at least shows it had, some taste. The police found him passed out on the church floor, and he doesn't remember a thing."  

But Elena scarcely heard the last words. Something had gone terribly wrong with Stefan. She couldn't tell how she knew it, but she knew. He had stiffened as Matt finished speaking, and now, though he hadn't moved, she felt as if a great distance was separating them, as if she and he were on opposite sides of a rifting, cracking floe of ice.

He said, in the terribly controlled voice she had heard before in his room, "In the church, Matt?"  

"Yes, in the ruined church," Matt said.

"And you're sure she said it was midnight?"  

"She couldn't be positive, but it must have been sometime around then. We found her not long after. Why?"  

Stefan said nothing. Elena could feel the gulf between them widening. "Stefan," she whispered. Then, aloud, she said desperately, "Stefan, what is it?"

He shook his head. Don't shut me out, she thought, but he wouldn't even look at her. "Will she live?" he asked abruptly.

"The doctor said there was nothing much wrong with her," Matt said. "Nobody's even suggested she might die."  

Stefan's nod was abrupt; then he turned to Elena. "I've got to go," he said. "You're safe now."  

She caught his hand as he turned away. "Of course I'm safe," she said. "Because of you."  

"Yes," he said. But there was no response in his eyes. They were shielded, dull.

"Call me tomorrow." She squeezed his hand, trying to convey what she felt under the scrutiny of all those watching eyes. She willed him to understand.

He looked down at their hands with no expression at all, then, slowly, back up at her. And then, at last, he returned the pressure of her fingers. "Yes, Elena," he whispered, his eyes clinging to hers. The next minute he was gone.

She took a deep breath and turned back to the crowded room. Aunt Judith was still hovering, her gaze fixed on what could be seen of Elena's torn dress underneath the cloak.

"Elena," she said, "whathappened ?" And her eyes went to the door through which Stefan had just left.

A sort of hysterical laughter surged up in Elena's throat, and she choked it back. "Stefan didn't do it," she said. "Stefan saved me." She felt her face harden, and she looked at the police officer behind Aunt Judith. "It was Tyler, Tyler Smallwood..."
发表于 2016-9-9 17:17 | 显示全部楼层
Chapter Nine

She was not the reincarnation of Katherine.

Driving back to the boarding house in the faint lavender hush before dawn, Stefan thought about that.

He'd said as much to her, and it was true, but he was only now realizing how long he'd been working toward that conclusion. He'd been aware of Elena's every breath and move for weeks, and he'd catalogued every difference.

Her hair was a shade or two paler than Katherine's, and her eyebrows and lashes were darker. Katherine's had been almost silvery. And she was taller than Katherine by a good handspan. She moved with greater freedom, too; the girls of this age were more comfortable with their bodies.

Even her eyes, those eyes that had transfixed him with the shock of recognition that first day, were not really the same. Katherine's eyes had usually been wide with childlike wonder, or else cast down as was proper for a young girl of the late fifteenth century. But Elena's eyes met you straight on, looked at you steadily and without flinching. And sometimes they narrowed with determination or challenge in a way Katherine's never had.

In grace and beauty and sheer fascination, they were alike. But where Katherine had been a white kitten, Elena was a snow-white tigress.

As he drove past the silhouettes of maple trees, Stefan cringed from the memory that sprang up suddenly. He would not think about that, he would not let himself... but the images were already unreeling before him. It was as if the journal had fallen open and he could do no more than stare helplessly at the page while the story played itself out in his mind.

White, Katherine had been wearing white that day. A new white gown of Venetian silk with slashed sleeves to show the fine linen chemise underneath. She had a necklace of gold and pearls about her neck and tiny pearl drop earrings in her ears.

She had been so delighted with the new dress her father had commissioned especially for her.

She had pirouetted in front of Stefan, lifting the full, floor-length skirt in one small hand to show the yellow brocaded underskirt beneath...

"You see, it is even embroidered with my initials. Papa had that done. Mein lieber Papa ..." Her voice trailed off, and she stopped twirling, one hand slowly settling to her side. "But what is wrong, Stefan? You are not smiling."  

He could not even try. The sight of her there, white and gold like some ethereal vision, was a physical pain to him. If he lost her, he did not know how he could live.

His fingers closed convulsively around the cool engraved metal. "Katherine, how can I smile, how can I be happy when..."  

"When?"  

"When I see how you look at Damon." There, it was said. He continued, painfully. "Before he came home, you and I were together every day. My father and yours were pleased, and spoke of marriage plans. But now the days grow shorter, summer is almost gone-and you spend as much time with Damon as you do with me. The only reason Father allows him to stay here is that you asked it. Butwhy did you ask it, Katherine? I thought you cared for me."

Her blue eyes were dismayed. "I do care for you, Stefan. Oh, you know I do!"  

"Then why intercede for Damon with my father? If not for you, he'd have thrown Damon out into the street..."  

"Which I'm sure would have pleasedyou , little brother." The voice at the door was smooth and arrogant, but when Stefan turned he saw that Damon's eyes were smoldering.

"Oh, no, that isn't true," said Katherine. "Stefan would never wish to see you hurt."  

Damon's lip quirked, and he threw Stefan a wry glance as he moved to Katherine's side. "Perhaps not," he said to her, his voice softening slightly. "But my brother is right about one thing at least. The days grow shorter, and soon your father will be leaving Florence. And he will take you with him-unless you have a reason to stay."  

Unless you have a husband to stay with . The words were unspoken, but they all heard them. The baron was too fond of his daughter to force her to marry against her will. In the end it would have to be Katherine's decision. Katherine's choice.

Now that the subject was broached, Stefan could not keep silent. "Katherine knows she must leave her father sometime soon-" he began, flaunting his secret knowledge, but his brother interrupted.

"Ah, yes, before the old man grows suspicious," Damon said casually. "Even the most doting of fathers must start to wonder when his daughter comes forth only at night."  

Anger and hurt swept through Stefan. It was true, then; Damon knew. Katherine had shared her secret with his brother.

"Why did you tell him, Katherine? Why? What can you see in him: a man who cares for nothing but his own pleasure? How can he make you happy when he thinks only of himself?"  

"And how can this boy make you happy when he knows nothing of the world?" Damon interposed, his voice razor-sharp with contempt. "How will he protect you when he has never faced reality? He has spent his life among books and paintings; let him stay there."  

Katherine was shaking her head in distress, her jewel-blue eyes misted with tears.

"Neither of you understand," she said. "You are thinking that I can marry and settle here like any other lady of Florence. But I cannot be like other ladies. How could I keep a household of servants who will watch my every move? How could I live in one place where the people will see that the years do not touch me? There will never be a normal life for me."  

She drew a deep breath and looked at them each in turn. "Who chooses to be my husband must give up the life of sunlight," she whispered. "He must choose to live under the moon and in the hours of darkness."  

"Then you must choose someone who is not afraid of shadows," Damon said, and Stefan was surprised by the intensity of his voice. He had never heard Damon speak so earnestly or with so little affectation. "Katherine, look at my brother: will he be able to renounce the sunlight? He is too attached to ordinary things: his friends, his family, his duty to Florence. The darkness would destroy him."  

"Liar!" cried Stefan. He was seething now. "I am as strong as you are,brother , and I fear nothing in the shadows or the sunlight either. And I love Katherine more than friends or family-"  

"-or your duty? Do you love her enough to give that up as well?"  

"Yes," Stefan said defiantly. "Enough to give up everything."  

Damon gave one of his sudden, disturbing smiles. Then he turned back to Katherine. "It would seem," he said, "that the choice is yours alone. You have two suitors for your hand; will you take one of us or neither?"  

Katherine slowly bowed her golden head. Then she lifted wet blue eyes to both of them.

"Give me until Sunday to think. And in the meantime, do not press me with questions."  

Stefan nodded reluctantly. Damon said, "And on Sunday?"  

"Sunday evening at twilight I will make my choice."  

Twilight... the violet deep darkness of twilight...

The velvet hues faded around Stefan, and he came to himself. It was not dusk, but dawn, that stained the sky around him. Lost in his thoughts, he had driven up to the edge of the woods.

To the northwest he could see Wickery Bridge and the graveyard. New memory set his pulse pounding.

He had told Damon he was willing to give up everything for Katherine. And that was just what he had done. He had renounced all claim to the sunlight, and had become a creature of darkness for her. A hunter doomed to be forever hunted himself, a thief who had to steal life to fill his own veins.

And perhaps a murderer. No, they had said the girl Vickie would not die. But his next victim might. The worst thing about this last attack was that he remembered nothing of it. He remembered the weakness, the overpowering need, and he remembered staggering through the church door, but nothing after. He'd come to his senses outside with Elena's scream echoing in his ears-and he had raced to her without stopping to think about what might have happened.

Elena... For a moment he felt a rush of pure joy and awe, forgetting everything else. Elena, warm as sunlight, soft as morning, but with a core of steel that could not be broken. She was like fire burning in ice, like the keen edge of a silver dagger.

But did he have the right to love her? His very feeling for her put her in danger. What if the next time the need took him Elena was the nearest living human, the nearest vessel filled with warm, renewing blood?  

I will die before touching her, he thought, making a vow of it. Before I broach her veins, I will die of thirst. And I swear she will never know ray secret. She will never have to give up the sunlight because of me.

Behind him, the sky was lightening. But before he left, he sent out one probing thought, with all the force of his pain behind it, seeking for some other Power that might be near. Searching for some other solution to what had happened in the church.

But there was nothing, no hint of an answer. The graveyard mocked him with silence.

Elena woke with the sun shining in her window. She felt, at once, as if she'd just recovered from a long bout of the flu, and as if it were Christmas morning. Her thoughts jumbled together as she sat up.

Oh. She hurt all over. But she and Stefan-that made everything right. That drunken slob Tyler... But Tyler didn't matter anymore. Nothing mattered except that Stefan loved her.

She went downstairs in her nightgown, realizing from the light slanting in the windows that she must have slept in very late. Aunt Judith and Margaret were in the living room.

"Good morning, Aunt Judith." She gave her surprised aunt a long, hard hug. "And good morning, pumpkin." She swept Margaret off her feet and waltzed around the room with her. "And-oh! Good morning, Robert." A little embarrassed at her exuberance and her state of undress, she put Margaret down and hurried into the kitchen.

Aunt Judith came in. Though there were dark circles under her eyes, she was smiling. "You seem in good spirits this morning."  

"Oh, I am." Elena gave her another hug, to apologize for the dark circles. "You know we have to go back to the sheriff's to talk to them about Tyler."  

"Yes." Elena got juice out of the refrigerator and poured herself a glass. "But can I go over to Vickie Bennett's house first? I know she must be upset, especially since it sounds like not everybody believes her."  

"Do you believe her, Elena?"  

"Yes," she said slowly, "I do believe her. And, Aunt Judith," she added, coming to a decision, "something happened to me in the church, too. I thought-"  

"Elena! Bonnie and Meredith are here to see you." Robert's voice sounded from the hallway.

The mood of confidence was broken. "Oh... send them in," Elena called, and took a sip of orange juice. "I'll tell you about it later," she promised Aunt Judith, as footsteps approached the kitchen.

Bonnie and Meredith stopped in the doorway, standing with unaccustomed formality.

Elena herself felt awkward, and waited until her aunt left the room again to speak.

Then she cleared her throat, her eyes fixed on a worn tile in the linoleum. She sneaked a quick glance up and saw that both Bonnie and Meredith were staring at that same tile.

She burst into laughter, and at the sound they both looked up.

"I'm too happy to even be defensive," Elena said, holding out her arms to them. "And I know I ought to be sorry about what I said, and Iam sorry, but I just can't be all pathetic about it. I was terrible and I deserve to be executed, and now can we just pretend it never happened?"  

"Youought to be sorry, running off on us like that," Bonnie scolded as the three of them joined in a tangled embrace.

"And with Tyler Smallwood, of all people," said Meredith.

"Well, I learned my lesson on that score," Elena said, and for a moment her mood darkened. Then Bonnie trilled laughter.

"And you scored the big one yourself-Stefan Salvatore! Talk about dramatic entrances. When you came in the door with him, I thought I was hallucinating. How did youdo it?"

"I didn't. He just showed up, like the cavalry in one of those old movies."  

"Defending your honor," said Bonnie. "What could be more thrilling?"  

"I can think of one or two things," said Meredith. "But then, maybe Elena's got those covered, too."  

"I'll tell you all about it," Elena said, releasing them and stepping back. "But first will you come over to Vickie's house with me? I want to talk to her."  

"You can talk tous while you're dressing, and while we're walking, and while you're brushing your teeth for that matter," said Bonnie firmly. "And if you leave out one tiny detail, you're going to be facing the Spanish Inquisition."  

"You see," said Meredith archly, "all Mr. Tanner's work has paid off. Bonnie now knows the Spanish Inquisition is not a rock group."  

Elena was laughing with sheer ebullience as they went up the stairs.

Mrs. Bennett looked pale and tired, but invited them in.

"Vickie's been resting; the doctor said to keep her in bed," she explained, with a smile that trembled slightly. Elena, Bonnie, and Meredith crowded into the narrow hallway.

Mrs. Bennett tapped lightly at Vickie's door. "Vickie, sweetheart, some girls from school to see you. Don't keep her long," she added to Elena, opening the door.

"We won't," Elena promised. She stepped into a pretty blue-and-white bedroom, the others right behind her. Vickie was lying in bed propped up on pillows, with a powder-blue comforter drawn up to her chin. Her face was paper-white against it, and her heavy-lidded eyes stared straight ahead.

"That's how she looked last night," Bonnie whispered.

Elena moved to the side of the bed. "Vickie," she said softly. Vickie went on staring, but Elena thought her breathing changed slightly. "Vickie, can you hear me? It's Elena Gilbert." She glanced uncertainly at Bonnie and Meredith.

"Looks like they gave her tranquilizers," said Meredith.

But Mrs. Bennett hadn't said they'd given her any drugs. Frowning, Elena turned back to the unresponsive girl.

"Vickie, it's me, Elena. I just wanted to talk to you about last night. I want you to know that I believe you about what happened." Elena ignored the sharp glance Meredith gave her and continued. "And I wanted to ask you-"  

"No!" It was a shriek, raw and piercing, torn from Vickie's throat. The body that had been as still as a wax figure exploded into violent action. Vickie's light-brown hair whipped across her cheeks as she tossed her head back and forth and her hands flailed at the empty air. "No! No!" she screamed.

"Do something!" Bonnie gasped. "Mrs. Bennett! Mrs. Bennett!"  

Elena and Meredith were trying to hold Vickie on the bed, and she was fighting them. The shrieking went on and on. Then suddenly Vickie's mother was beside them, helping to hold her, pushing the others away.

"What did you do to her?" she cried.

Vickie clutched at her mother, calming down, but then the heavy-lidded eyes glimpsed Elena over Mrs. Bennett's shoulder.

"You're part of it! You're evil!" she screamed hysterically at Elena. "Keep away from me!"  

Elena was dumbfounded. "Vickie! I only came to ask-"  

"I think you'd better leave now. Leave us alone," said Mrs. Bennett, clasping her daughter protectively. "Can't you see what you're doing to her?"  

In stunned silence, Elena left the room. Bonnie and Meredith followed.

"It must be drugs," said Bonnie once they were out of the house. "She just went completely nonlinear."  

"Did you notice her hands?" Meredith said to Elena. "When we were trying to restrain her, I got hold of one of her hands. And it was cold as ice."  

Elena shook her head in bewilderment. None of it made sense, but she wouldn't let it spoil her day. She wouldn't. Desperately, she searched her mind for something that would offset the experience, that would allow her to hold on to her happiness.

"I know," she said. "The boarding house."  

"What?"  

"I told Stefan to call me today, but why don't we walk over to the boarding house instead? It's not far from here."  

"Only a twenty-minute walk," said Bonnie. She brightened. "At least we can finally see that room of his."  

"Actually," said Elena, "I was thinking you two could wait downstairs. Well, I'll only get to see him for a few minutes," she added, defensively, as they looked at her. It was odd, perhaps, but she didn't want to share Stefan with her friends just yet. He was so new to her that he felt almost like a secret.

Their knock on the shining oak door was answered by Mrs. Flowers. She was a wrinkled little gnome of a woman with surprisingly bright black eyes.

"You must be Elena," she said. "I saw you and Stefan go out last night, and he told me your name when he came back."  

"You saw us?" said Elena, startled. "I didn't see you."  

"No, no you didn't," said Mrs. Flowers, and chuckled. "What a pretty girl you are, my dear," she added. "A very pretty girl." She patted Elena's cheek.

"Uh, thank you," said Elena uneasily. She didn't like the way those birdlike eyes were fixed on her. She looked past Mrs. Flowers to the stairs. "Is Stefan home?"  

"He must be, unless he's flown off the roof!" said Mrs. Flowers, and chuckled again. Elena laughed politely.

"We'll stay down here with Mrs. Flowers," said Meredith to Elena, while Bonnie rolled her eyes in martyrdom. Hiding a grin, Elena nodded and mounted the stairs.

Such a strange old house, she thought again as she located the second stairway in the bedroom. The voices below were very faint from here, and as she went up the steps they faded entirely. She was wrapped in silence, and as she reached the dimly lit door at the top, she had the feeling she had entered some other world. Her knocking sounded very timid. "Stefan?" She could hear nothing from inside, but suddenly the door swung open.Everyone must look pale and tired today , thought Elena, and then she was in his arms.

Those arms tightened about her convulsively. "Elena. Oh, Elena..."  

Then he drew back. It was just the way it had been last night; Elena could feel the chasm opening between them. She saw the cold, correct look gather in his eyes.

"No," she said, hardly aware that she spoke aloud. "I won't let you." And she pulled his mouth down to hers.

For a moment there was no response, and then he shuddered, and the kiss became searing. His fingers tangled in her hair, and the universe shrank around Elena. Nothing else existed but Stefan, and the feel of his arms around her, and the fire of his lips on hers.

A few minutes or a few centuries later they separated, both shaking. But their gaze remained connected, and Elena saw that Stefan's eyes were too dilated for even this dim light; there was only a thin band of green around the dark pupils. He looked dazed, and his mouth-that mouth!-was swollen.

"I think," he said, and she could hear the control in his voice, "that we had better be careful when we do that."  

Elena nodded, dazed herself. Not in public, she was thinking. And not when Bonnie and Meredith were waiting downstairs. And not when they were absolutely alone, unless...

"But you can just hold me," she said.

How odd, that after that passion she could feel so safe, so peaceful, in his arms. "I love you," she whispered into the rough wool of his sweater.

She felt a quiver go through him. "Elena," he said again, and it was a sound almost of despair.

She raised her head. "What's wrong with that? What could possibly be wrong with that, Stefan? Don't you love me?"  

"I..." He looked at her, helplessly-and they heard Mrs. Flowers's voice calling faintly from the bottom of the stairs.

"Boy! Boy! Stefan!" It sounded as if she were pounding on the banister with her shoe.

Stefan sighed. "I'd better go see what she wants." He slipped away from her, his face unreadable.

Left alone, Elena folded her arms across her chest and shivered. It was so cold here. He ought to have a fire, she thought, eyes moving idly around the room to rest finally on the mahogany dresser she'd examined last night.

The coffer. She glanced at the closed door. If he came back in and caught her... She really shouldn't-but she was already moving toward the dresser.

Think of Bluebeard's wife, she told herself. Curiosity killedher . But her fingers were on the iron lid. Her heart beating rapidly, she eased the lid open.

In the dim light, the coffer appeared at first to be empty, and Elena gave a nervous laugh. What had she expected? Love letters from Caroline? A bloody dagger?  

Then she saw the thin strip of silk, folded over and over on itself neatly in one corner. She drew it out and ran it between her fingers. It was the apricot ribbon she'd lost the second day of school.

Oh, Stefan. Tears stung her eyes, and in her chest love welled up helplessly, overflowing.

That long ago? You cared about me that long ago? Oh, Stefan, I love you...

And it doesn't matter if you can't say it to me, she thought. There was a sound outside the door, and she folded the ribbon quickly and replaced it in the coffer. Then she turned toward the door, blinking tears from her eyes.

It doesn't matter if you can't say it right now. I'll say it for both of us. And someday you'll learn.

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