Home > Phantom (The Vampire Diaries: The Hunters #1)(15)

Phantom (The Vampire Diaries: The Hunters #1)(15)
Author: L.J. Smith

"Look," she said, pointing. "Look at what it says." Stefan turned his attention to the pieces of sheer fabric around their feet.

Bonnie gave a little whimper and Matt's eyebrows furrowed. Elena's beautiful face was blank with shock, and Alaric and Celia both appeared entirely confused. For a moment, Stefan saw nothing. Then, like a picture coming into focus, his vision adjusted and he saw what everyone was looking at. The torn scarf had fal en into an elaborately twisted heap, and the supposedly random folds of fabric quite clearly formed letters that spel ed: meredith

Chapter 8

"It was seriously creepy," said Bonnie. They had al bundled into Matt's car, Elena hopping onto Stefan's lap and Meredith onto Alaric's (which, Bonnie had noted, Dr. Celia had seemed less than thril ed by). Then they'd hurried back to the boardinghouse, looking for counsel. Once there, they'd al crowded into the parlor and spil ed out the story to Mrs. Flowers, talking over one another in their excitement. "First Celia's name - in my blood -

appearing out of nowhere," Bonnie went on, "and then there's this weird accident that could have killed her, and then Meredith's name appears, too. It was al just real y, real y creepy."

"I'd put it a bit more strongly than that," Meredith said. Then she arched an elegant eyebrow. "Bonnie, this is no doubt the first time I've ever complained you weren't being dramatic enough."

"Hey!" Bonnie objected.

"There you go," Elena joked. "Keep looking on the bright side. The latest insanity is making Bonnie low-key."

Matt shook his head. "Mrs. Flowers, do you know what's happening?"

Mrs. Flowers, seated in a cozy corner chair of the parlor, smiled and patted him on the shoulder. She'd been knitting when they came in, but had laid the pink bundle of yarn aside and had fixed her calm blue eyes on them with her ful attention as they told their story. "Dear Matt," she said.

"Always straight to the point."

Poor Celia had been sitting on the couch by Alaric and Meredith, looking stunned since they'd arrived. It was one thing to study the supernatural, but the reality of a vampire, mysteriously appearing names, and a brush with death must have been a shock to her system. Alaric had a reassuring arm around her shoulders. Bonnie thought maybe the arm should have been around Meredith's shoulders. After al , Meredith's name had just shown up in the scarf's folds. But Meredith was just sitting there, watching Alaric and Celia, her face composed, her eyes unreadable.

Now Celia leaned forward and spoke for the first time.

"Pardon me," she said politely, her voice shaking a bit,

"but I don't understand why we've brought this... this issue to..." Her voice trailed off as her eyes flickered to Mrs. Flowers.

Bonnie knew what she meant. Mrs. Flowers looked like the epitome of a sweet, dotty elderly lady: soft flyaway gray hair drawn back in a bun, a politely vague expression, a wardrobe that leaned toward pastels or shabby blacks, and a habit of muttering quietly, apparently to herself. A year ago, Bonnie herself had thought Mrs. Flowers was just the crazy old woman who ran the boardinghouse where Stefan lived.

But appearances could be deceptive. Mrs. Flowers had earned the respect and admiration of every one of them by the way she had protected the town with her magic, Power, and good sense. There was a lot more to this little old lady than met the eye.

"My dear," said Mrs. Flowers firmly, "you've had a very traumatic experience. Drink your tea. It's a special calming blend that's been passed down in my family for generations. We wil do everything we can for you."

Which, Bonnie observed, was a very sweet and ladylike way of putting Dr. Celia Connor in her place. She was to drink her tea and recuperate, and they would figure out how to solve the problem. Celia's eyes flashed, but she sipped her tea obediently.

"Now," Mrs. Flowers said, looking around at the others, "it seems to me that the first thing to do is to figure out what the intention is behind the appearance of the names. Once we do that, perhaps we wil have a better idea of who might be behind their appearance."

"Maybe to warn us?" Bonnie said hesitantly. "I mean, Celia's name appeared, and then she almost died, and now Meredith..." Her voice trailed off and she looked at Meredith apologetical y. "I'm worried you might be in danger."

Meredith squared her shoulders. "It certainly wouldn't be the first time," she said.

Mrs. Flowers nodded briskly. "Yes, it's possible that the appearance of the names has a benevolent intention. Let's explore that theory. Someone may be trying to get a warning to you. If so, who? And why do they have to do it in this way?"

Bonnie's voice was even softer and more hesitant now. But if no one else was going to say it, she would. "Could it be Damon?"

"Damon's dead," Stefan said flatly.

"But when Elena was dead, she warned me about Klaus," Bonnie argued.

Stefan massaged his temples. He looked tired. "Bonnie, when Elena died, Klaus trapped her spirit between dimensions. She hadn't ful y passed away. And even then, she could only visit you in your dreams - not anyone else, just you, because you can sense things other people can't. She couldn't make anything happen in the physical world."

Elena's voice trembled. "Bonnie, the Guardians told us that vampires don't live on after death. In any sense of the word. Damon's gone." Stefan reached out and took her hand, his eyes troubled.

Bonnie felt a sharp stab of sympathy for them both. She was sorry she'd brought Damon up, but she hadn't been able to stop herself. The thought that he might be watching over them, irascible and mocking but ultimately kind, had briefly lifted the weight from her heart. Now that weight came crashing back down. "Wel ," she said dul y, "then I don't have any idea who might be warning us. Does anybody else?"

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