Home > Destiny Rising (The Vampire Diaries: The Hunters #3)(2)

Destiny Rising (The Vampire Diaries: The Hunters #3)(2)
Author: L.J. Smith

"Hey," Meredith said, clearly misinterpreting Elena's sudden expression of dismay. Meredith reached forward and touched her shoulder with cool, strong fingers. "Don't worry about it. You'll get on top of everything."

Elena swallowed and nodded. "Absolutely," she said, forcing a smile.

"I did a little world-saving last night with Damon and Stefan, though," Meredith said, almost shyly. "We killed four vampires in the woods at the edge of campus." She lifted her vampire-slayer's stave carefully from her bed and wrapped her hand around its smooth center. "It feels really good," she said. "Doing what I've trained for. What I was born for."

Elena winced a little at this: What was I born for? But there was something she needed to say to Meredith that she hadn't said last night. "You saved me, too," Elena said simply. "Thank you."

Meredith's eyes warmed. "Anytime," she said lightly. "We need you around - you know that." She flipped open the narrow black case for her stave and put it inside. "I'm going to meet Stefan and Matt back at the library and see if we can get the bodies out of the Vitales' secret room. Bonnie said her concealment spell wouldn't last very long, and now that it's dark we should dispose of them."

Elena felt a twinge of anxiety in her chest. "What if the other vampires have come back?" she asked. "Matt told us he thought there was more than one entrance."

Meredith shrugged. "That's why I'm taking the stave," she said. "There aren't many of Ethan's vampires left, and they're mostly pretty new. Stefan and I can handle them."

"Damon's not coming with you guys?" Elena asked, climbing off the bed.

"I thought you and Stefan were back together," Meredith said. She fixed Elena with a quizzical gaze.

"We are," Elena said, and felt her face getting hot. "At least I think so. I'm trying not to . . . do anything to mess that up now. Damon and I are friends. I hope. I just thought you said Damon was with you earlier, hunting vampires."

Meredith's shoulders relaxed. "Yeah, he was with us," she said ruefully. "He enjoyed the fighting, but he got quieter as the night went on. He seemed a little . . ." She hesitated. "I don't know, tired, maybe." Meredith shrugged and her voice lightened. "You know Damon. He's only going to be useful on his own terms."

Reaching for her jacket, Elena said, "I'm coming with you." She wanted to see Stefan, to see him without Damon. If she was going to try to take that day-lit path with Stefan - Guardian or not - then she needed to bring her secrets out into the light, and face Stefan with nothing to hide.

When Elena and Meredith got to the library, Stefan and Matt were already there, waiting in the nearly bare room with the words RESEARCH OFFICE stenciled on its door. Stefan met Elena's eyes with a small, serious smile, and she suddenly felt shy. She'd put him through a lot the last few weeks, and they'd been apart so much lately that it almost felt as if they were starting over.

Next to him, Matt looked terrible. Drawn and pale, his face was set grimly and he clutched a large flashlight in one hand. His eyes were bleak and haunted. While destroying the Vitale vampires had been a victory for the others, those vampires had been Matt's friends. He had admired Ethan, thinking he was human. Elena slipped up beside him and squeezed his arm, trying to silently reassure him. His arm tensed in hers, but he shifted slightly closer to her.

"Down we go, then," Meredith said briskly. She and Stefan rolled back the small rug in the center of the room to reveal the trapdoor beneath, which was still covered with scattered herbs from the locking and protection spells Bonnie had hastily cast the night before. They were able to lift the door easily, though. Apparently, the spell had worn off.

As the four of them trooped down the stairs, Elena looked around curiously. The night before, they'd been in such a panic to save Stefan that she hadn't really observed much of their surroundings. The first flight of stairs was quite plain, wooden and a little rickety, and led to a floor filled with rows and rows of bookcases.

"Library stacks," Meredith muttered. "Camouflage."

The second flight was similar, but when Elena stepped on the first stair, it didn't shake slightly under her feet the way the previous flight had. The banister was smoother beneath her hand, and when they reached the landing, a long empty hallway stretched into darkness in both directions. It was colder here, and as they hesitated for a moment on the landing, Elena shivered. Impulsively, she tucked her hand into Stefan's as they started down the third flight. He didn't look at her, his eyes focused on the stairs ahead of them, but after a moment his fingers tightened around hers reassuringly. Tension flowed out of Elena's body at his touch. Everything's going to be all right, she thought.

The third flight of stairs was solid and made of some heavy, polished dark wood that gleamed beneath the dim lights. The banister was twisted with carvings. Elena could see the head of a snake, the elongated body of a swiftly running fox, and other shapes that were harder to make out in passing.

When they reached the bottom of the last flight, they faced the elaborately carved double doors that led to the Vitales' meeting room. The design followed the same motifs as she'd glimpsed on the banister: running animals, twisted snakes, curving mystical symbols. In the center of each door lay a large stylized V.

The doors were chained shut, as they had left them. Stefan reached out with the hand that wasn't holding Elena's and easily pulled the chain apart, dropping it to the side of the doors with a heavy clunk. Meredith flung the doors wide open.

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