Home > Destiny Rising (The Vampire Diaries: The Hunters #3)(15)

Destiny Rising (The Vampire Diaries: The Hunters #3)(15)
Author: L.J. Smith

Ethan glared at Stefan, but his lips slowly curled upward into a terrible smile.

Too late, he mouthed silently, and the glass in his hand toppled backward. Rich, red blood poured out onto the fire.

As soon as the blood touched the fire, it exploded into high blue flames. Elena cringed and shielded her eyes against the sudden burst of light. All around her, the others cowered, vampire, human, and werewolf alike.

The flames and the clearing filled with smoke. Elena was shaking, coughing, her eyes watering, and she could feel Matt wheezing and shuddering beside her.

As the smoke began to clear, a tall, golden-skinned figure took shape and stepped out of the flames. Elena knew him. She thought, as she had the first time she saw him, that he looked like the devil, if the devil were handsome.

He was na**d as he came out of the fire, his body lithe and well muscled, and he held his head up proudly. His hair was white, his eyes blue. His smile was joyous and insane, and every move held the promise of destruction.

Lightning cracked overhead, and he threw back his head and laughed with what sounded like sheer malevolent pleasure.

Klaus had risen.

Chapter 8

Elena couldn't move. She felt numb, her limbs heavy and frozen. Her heart beat faster and faster, the rush of blood thundering in her ears, but she stayed still.

Before the fire, Klaus stretched and smiled, holding his hands out in front of him. He turned them slowly, examining them, admiring his long fingers and strong forearms.

"Unscarred," he said. He spoke softly, but his words resonated across the clearing. "I'm whole again." He tipped his head back to see the three-quarter moon high above him and his smile widened. "And back home," he said.

Ethan wriggled out of a shocked Stefan's loosened grip and dropped to his knees. "Klaus," he said worshipfully. Klaus glanced down at him with an indifferent sort of curiosity. Ethan opened his mouth to say more, his face ecstatic, but before he could, Klaus reached out, wrapped his strong, graceful hands around Ethan's jaw, and pulled.

With a terrible noise of tendons ripping, Ethan's head came away from his neck like a stopper lifting from a jar. His body slumped lifelessly to one side, abandoned. Klaus lifted up the head and held it above him as blood streamed down his arms. Around him, Ethan's followers quivered in fear, but none of them moved. Near Elena, Chloe gasped.

Stefan, his face spattered with Ethan's blood, was watching Klaus narrowly, angling his body to find a good position to attack. No, Elena thought, frightened, willing Stefan back. She hadn't forgotten how strong Klaus was. As if he'd heard her thoughts, Stefan eased back a little, darting an alert glance at their assembled troops, all watching Klaus now with horror.

Klaus gazed at Ethan's slack face for a moment, then tossed the head aside. Holding his right hand up to his mouth, he licked at Ethan's blood thoughtfully with a long pink tongue, and Elena's stomach turned uneasily. Seeing him kill Ethan so casually had been horrible enough, but there was something obscene in the thoughtless sensual pleasure he took in tasting the rivulets of blood.

"Delicious," Klaus said, his voice light. "I like the taste of human better than vampire, but that one was young and fresh. His blood was still sweet." He glanced coolly around the clearing. "Who's next?" he asked.

Then, across the firelit clearing, his eyes locked on Elena's, and his head went up like a dog catching a scent, his face changing from indifference to alertness. Elena swallowed, her throat dry, her heart still beating like a small, frantic bird trapped in her chest. His eyes were so blue, but not the kind light blue of Matt's or Zander's tropical sky blue. Klaus's eyes were like thin ice over dark water.

"You," Klaus said to her, almost gently. "I've wanted to see you again," and he smiled and opened his hands. "And here you are at my rebirth to welcome me. Come to me, little one."

Elena didn't want to move, but she staggered forward toward Klaus anyway, her feet shuffling forward without her consent, as if they were being operated by someone else.

She heard Matt's panicked whisper behind her - "Elena!" - and he gripped her arm, bringing her to a grateful halt. There was no time to thank him, though: Klaus was closing in.

"Should I kill you now?" he asked her, his tone as intimate as a lover's. "You don't seem to have your army of angry ghosts around you this time, Elena. I could finish you in seconds."

"No." Stefan stepped forward, his face hard and defiant.

Meredith came up beside him and they stood shoulder-to-shoulder, glaring at Klaus. Behind them Zander and his Pack, both wolf and human, crowded closer, staying between Elena and Klaus. Zander was staring at Klaus, his eyes wide, his hackles raised and quivering. Slowly, his lips peeled back from his teeth and the werewolf growled.

Klaus looked at them all in mild surprise, then laughed in genuine amusement. "Still inspiring devotion, are you, girl?" he asked Elena across the crowd. "Maybe you have some of the spirit of my Katherine after all."

In one smooth movement, he reached forward and picked Stefan up by the throat, then tossed him aside as easily as he might have thrown a scarecrow. Elena screamed as Stefan landed with a heavy thud on the other side of the fire and lay still.

Meredith, poised and ready, instantly swung her stave toward Klaus's head. Klaus put one hand up and grabbed the stave from midair, ripping it from Meredith's grasp without even looking at her. He flung the stave aside as casually as he had thrown Stefan's body and waded quickly through the crowd, knocking Zander's Pack and Ethan's vampires aside with a brutal, careless efficiency.

On the other side of the fire, Stefan was climbing to his feet. But Elena knew that, even with his vampiric speed, he wouldn't be able to get to Klaus before Klaus reached Elena.

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