Home > Destiny Rising (The Vampire Diaries: The Hunters #3)(6)

Destiny Rising (The Vampire Diaries: The Hunters #3)(6)
Author: L.J. Smith

"We'll keep looking, though. Just in case," Elena urged. Stefan nodded. There were limits to Stefan's searching Power: someone much stronger than he was could hide from it; someone much weaker might not catch his attention. And some creatures, like werewolves, he couldn't sense at all.

"I know I shouldn't be thinking about this with everything that's going on, but all I want is to be alone with you," Elena confessed quietly. "Things are happening so fast. If Ethan brings Klaus back . . . it feels like we might not have much time."

Stefan let go of Elena's hand and touched her face lightly, his fingers brushing over her cheeks and the curve of her eyebrow, a thumb ghosting across her lips. His eyes darkened with passion, and he smiled. Then he kissed her, softly at first.

Oh, Elena thought, and then, yes.

As if he'd been waiting for her confirmation, Stefan's kisses became more passionate. His hand fisted gently in her hair, and they moved backward until she was pressed against a tree. The bark was rough against her bare shoulders, but Elena didn't care; she just kissed Stefan fiercely, hungrily.

This is right, Elena thought. This is like coming home, and she felt Stefan's agreement and the strength of his love. Yes, he thought, and more.

Their minds entwined and Elena relaxed into the slow familiar spiral of Stefan's thoughts and emotions. There was love there - solid, constant love - and there was a steady bruiselike ache of regret at the time they'd lost. Strongest of all, there was a sense of joyous relief. I didn't know how I was going to live without you, Stefan thought to her. I couldn't live forever, knowing you weren't mine.

At the thought of forever, a thrum of anxiety shot through Elena. Barring a death by violence, forever was a given for Stefan. He would go on, unaging and beautiful, always eighteen. And Elena? Would she grow old and die with Stefan eternally young by her side? She didn't doubt that he would stay with her, no matter what.

There were other possibilities. She'd been a vampire once, and she'd suffered, being separated from her human friends and family, divided from the living world. She knew Stefan wouldn't wish that life on her. But it was an option, although they never talked about it.

Her mind touched on a certain bottle tucked in the back of her closet at home, and shied away again. She'd stolen a single bottle of the water of eternal life from the Guardians when she and her friends had traveled in the Dark Dimension. Its existence, and the choice it offered her, was always at the edges of her mind. But she wasn't ready to make that decision, to end her mortal life. Not yet.

She was still growing, still changing. Was the person Elena was now really the person she wanted to be for the rest of her life? She was so flawed, so unfinished. Drinking the water of eternal life, or becoming a vampire, would close doors Elena wasn't ready to shut yet. She wanted to stay human. She ached inside at that: Would she be human now? Could she be human, if she had to become a Guardian?

All of this she considered in a private corner of her mind while most of her was focusing on the sweet sensations of Stefan's lips and body against hers and the steady thread of love passing between them. Enough of her emotions must have broken through to Stefan, though, that he responded. Whatever you want, Elena, he thought to her, gentle and reassuring. I'll be with you. Forever. However long that might be for you.

She knew that meant Stefan would understand even if she decided to live a natural life, to grow old and die. And there would be reasons to do that. Stefan and Damon had both lost something by never aging, never changing. They sensed that part of their humanity was gone.

But how could she face someday abandoning Stefan? She couldn't imagine dying again, dying and leaving him behind. Elena pressed her back more firmly against the rough bark of the tree and kissed Stefan harder, feeling more fiercely alive with the almost-painful contrast of sensations.

Then she pulled back. She'd kept so much from Stefan since she'd come to Dalcrest. She wasn't going to go down that path again, wasn't going to love him while locking him out of parts of her life.

"There's something I have to tell you," she said. "You need to know everything. I can't - I can't hide things from you, not now." Stefan frowned questioningly, and she dropped her gaze to her hand against his shirt as she twisted the fabric nervously. "James told me something yesterday, before the fight," she blurted. "I'm not who I thought I was, not exactly. The Guardians chose my parents - they made me - and my parents were supposed to hand me over when I was twelve to become a Guardian. My parents refused and that was why they died. It wasn't just a random accident. The Guardians killed them. And now after learning this, I'm supposed to become one of them?"

Stefan looked flabbergasted for a moment, and then his face filled with sympathy. "Oh, Elena," he said, and pulled her close again, trying now to comfort her.

Elena let herself relax against his chest. Thank God Stefan understood that the idea of becoming one of the Guardians, those cold regulators of order, was nothing to celebrate, even if it would bring her Power.

"I'll help you," Stefan said. "If you want to try to bargain your way out of it, or fight this, or go through with it. Whatever you want."

"I know," Elena said, her voice muffled as she pressed her face into his shoulder.

Suddenly, she felt Stefan's body tense against hers and realized he was looking around. "Stefan?" she asked.

He was looking off into the distance over her head, his mouth tight and eyes alert. "I'm sorry, Elena," he said as Elena pulled away and met his gaze. "We'll have to talk about this later. I just felt something. Someone in pain. And now that the wind has changed, I think I smell blood."

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