Home > The Craving (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #3)(15)

The Craving (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #3)(15)
Author: L.J. Smith

“I am a master. Who do you think left Bridget for you to find?” he demanded. He stuck his face toward my own so that our noses almost touched. “Who do you think wounded her—just enough—for poor, old, predictable Stefan to find? Stefan, who’s sworn off drinking from humans, who I just knew would rescue the damsel in distress rather than finish her off.”

A cold chill crept up my spine.

“And then of course I compelled the entire family to welcome you and take you in,” he finished with a careless wave of his hand, as if it had been nothing.

A sense of resignation and understanding flooded my body. Of course he had compelled the family. The Sutherlands’ easy acceptance of me into their home had rankled me, and I should have realized earlier that something was hugely amiss. How did a man of Winfield’s stature let a stranger, a vagrant, into his home, and never ask anything about his family or acquaintances? A man of his kind of wealth had to be careful about whom he allowed to get close. And Mrs. Sutherland—she was such a cautious mother, yet she allowed me to escort her and her daughter on a walk in the park. Though this was hardly the time, I couldn’t help but wonder if her seeming affection for me had been true, or if it all had been due to Damon’s Power.

“What do you want, Damon?” I asked again. Here we were, back in the thick of it, but this time I understood just how dangerous my brother was and just how far he’d go to get revenge on me.

“Nothing terrible, Stefan!” he said, grinning and stepping back, throwing his hands in the air. “But think of it! Me with Lydia wrapped around my finger. You with the adoring Bridget. . . . We’ll marry the sisters and, just as you always hoped, we’ll be brothers again for eternity—or at least as long as they live.”

“I’m not marrying Bridget,” I blurted out.

“Yes, you are,” Damon said.

“No, I’m not,” I repeated. “I’m leaving New York. Tonight.”

“You are staying here and marrying Bridget,” Damon said, coming to within an inch of my face, “or I will start to kill all the people in this place, one by one.”

He was deadly serious, all traces of cavalier, joking, devil-may-care Damon gone. The smoldering anger was back.

“You can’t do that,” I growled. “Even you aren’t strong enough to take down an entire ballroom.”

“Oh really?” He snapped his fingers over his shoulder. A maid appeared from the next room, as if waiting for his signal. She already had a kerchief tied around her neck from where he had fed on her previously. He gestured with his chin at the window, and she gamely went over and began to unbolt the latches.

“I can compel Bridget and her entire stupid entourage in there to go jump off a balcony,” Damon growled.

“I don’t believe you,” I said as calmly as I could. Only Lexi seemed able to control more than one person at once. And Damon wasn’t nearly as old as she.

“Or I can stalk them one by one and rip their throats out,” he offered instead. “It makes no difference to me.”

The maid stepped up onto the sill and began to climb onto the rail.

“Bastard,” I murmured, rushing over to grab the poor girl before she killed herself. “Get out of here,” I growled at her, unsure if I was compelling her or not. Suddenly she looked confused and scared, the spell broken. She bolted out of the room, sniffling.

“Why?” I demanded when she had gone. “Why do you want to marry Lydia? Why is it so important that I marry her sister?”

“If I have to live forever, I might as well do it in style,” Damon said, shrugging. “I’m sick of living from person to person, meal to meal, having no place to call home. When I marry Lydia, I’ll be rich. A houseful of servants to attend to my every whim . . . to feed my every need,” he leered. I wasn’t sure he was just talking about blood. “Or, I could just take the money and run. Either way, I’ll be a lot better off than I am now. Winfield is swimming in money.”

“Why involve me?” I asked, feeling weary. “Why not just go off and do whatever it is you need to do, ruining people’s lives?”

“Let’s just say I have my reasons.” Damon flashed me a harlequin’s grin.

I shook my head in exasperation. Just past the door of the study, a couple walked arm in arm through the library, in search of a quiet place to talk. Beyond them were the happy noises of the dancing throng, laughing conversations, the tap of heels on the floor. I watched distractedly, picking out Winfield’s booming voice as he lectured someone on the basic tenets of capitalism.

“What will you do with them?” I asked. With Damon as son-in-law, Winfield Sutherland’s life expectancy had just been drastically reduced—and Lydia’s as well.

“Once I have their money? Pfff. I don’t know,” Damon said, throwing his hand up in the air. “I hear San Francisco is fairly exciting—or maybe I’ll just go and take that grand tour in Europe you’d always dreamed of.”

“Damon—” I began.

“Or I could just live here, like the king I do so want to be,” he continued, cutting me off. “Enjoying myself . . .”

I had a horrible image of Damon satisfying his every carnal desire in the Sutherland household.

“I won’t let you do this,” I said urgently.

“Why do you care?” Damon asked. “I mean, it wasn’t me tearing through New Orleans. . . . What was your body count toward the end there, brother?”

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