Home > The Craving (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #3)(12)

The Craving (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #3)(12)
Author: L.J. Smith

“Is that . . . is that Adelina Patti?” I stuttered, pointing at a demure-looking woman standing in the corner and surrounded by admirers. “The opera singer?”

I had seen photographs of her. My father had wanted his sons to have working knowledge of their Italian culture and heritage.

“Yes,” Bridget said, rolling her eyes and stamping a pretty, satin-covered foot. “And over there is Mayor Gunther, and over there is John D. Rockefeller, and . . . can you take me to my seat now? I want to see who asks me to dance.”

Lydia let out a polite cough that sounded suspiciously like a laugh.

“In the South,” I whispered to her out of the corner of my mouth, “it’s considered impolite to dance with your escort overmuch.”

Lydia put a gloved hand to her own mouth, covering her smile. “I’ve heard that they still actually dance the quadrille in the South and have no parlor games at their functions. Good luck, Mr. Salvatore.”

And she glided off into the crowd. Margaret gave me a tiny smirk. She was on the arm of her husband, Wally, a short fellow with a pince-nez and a serious bent. But when she whispered to him, a smile broke out and he was radiant. I felt an odd jab of jealousy. I would never know what that was like, the simple rituals of a close-knit couple.

The orchestra struck up a waltz.

Bridget stuck out her lower lip. “And me without a dance card yet.”

“My lady,” I said, inwardly sighing. I gave her a slight bow and offered her my hand.

Bridget was a fine dancer and it was almost pleasurable twirling her across the floor. I could forget where and who I was for the few minutes of the waltz: just a man in a tailcoat, feet flying, in a room full of beautiful people. She turned her leaf-green eyes up to me, and for one beautiful moment I could pretend she was Callie, alive and well and getting the happy ending she so desperately deserved.

The illusion came to an end the moment the music stopped.

“Lead me by the edge of the dancers,” Bridget begged. “I want everyone to see us!”

She dragged me past the refreshment room, where all manner of exotic food was laid out. Delicate ices made from foreign fruit, real Vienna coffee, blancmange, tiny chocolate cakes, and glass upon crystal glass of champagne to wash it down. For the hungrier set there seemed to be every kind of fowl, from quail to goose, neatly carved into small pieces so a dancer could eat quickly and return to the floor.

Once again I wished I was hungry for normal human food. But instead I indulged in a glass of champagne.

“Hilda, Hilda,” Bridget called out in a voice that carried well considering how crowded the space was. A beautiful girl in a rose-pink gown turned from her gentleman friend, face lighting up when she saw Bridget. Her eyes traveled up and down me with a quick flick of her eyelashes.

“This is Stefan Salvatore,” Bridget said. “He is the one who rescued me!”

“Mademoiselle,” I said with a slight bow, taking her fingertips and bringing them to my lips. Bridget gave me a look that was somewhere between jealousy and pleasure that I was so polite.

“Brooklyn Bridgey! Who’s your friend?” A dapper young man with a twinkle in his eye and giant grin sidled up to us. He had a sharp nose and curly black hair; rosy dots appeared on his cheeks that made him look vaguely tubercular.

“This is Stefan Salvatore,” Bridget told him, exactly as proudly and carefully as she had with Hilda. “He rescued me when I was overcome in the park!”

“Pleasure to meet you! Abraham Smith. You can call me Bram.” He grabbed my hand and shook it hard. “That was terribly naughty of you, leaving the party unescorted like that, Bridgey.” Bram shook a finger at her and she pouted.

“Brooklyn Bridgey?” I asked, my head spinning a little.

“Why, the Brooklyn Bridge is only going to be the biggest, most fantastic suspension bridge ever built!” Bram said, eyes lighting up. “No more ferries, no sir. We’ll drive ourselves back and forth across the mighty East River!”

“Oh look!” Bridget squealed, pointing in a very unladylike manner. “There’s Lydia and her beau! Let’s go talk to them!”

I gave Hilda and Bram a helpless salute good-bye as Bridget directed me toward her sister with an iron grip.

The Italian count was surrounded by admirers, including Lydia. I caught glimpses of him as we walked closer. His raven hair gleamed, and his black formal suit fit him perfectly. He moved with a careless grace waving his arms as he told his story. The glint of a ring shimmered on his hand.

The truth hit me only moments before he turned, as if he’d been expecting my arrival. I did my best to hide my shock when I looked into my brother’s ice-blue eyes.

Chapter 7

Every muscle in my body tensed. Time seemed to stop as we stared into each other’s eyes, both of us silently challenging the other to give himself away. My chest felt tight as anger coiled through my body.

The last time I’d seen Damon, he’d been standing over me with a stake, just after he’d killed Callie. His cheeks had been sunken, his body gaunt from his time in captivity. Now he looked like his human self, the young man who charmed everyone from barmaids to grandmothers. Clean-shaven, dressed smartly, and playing the part of an Italian count flawlessly. Acting human. He had everyone in the room fooled.

Damon raised one eyebrow at me and the twitch of a smile appeared at the corner of his mouth. To any onlooker, it would have seemed just like he was pleased to meet a new acquaintance.

I knew better. Damon was enjoying his charade and waiting to see how I reacted.

“Stefan Salvatore, may I introduce Count Damon DeSangue,” Lydia said.

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