Home > The Craving (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #3)(2)

The Craving (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #3)(2)
Author: L.J. Smith

The tiny human part of me might have regretted what I was about to do, but the vampire in me needed the blood.

With a final jump, I caught my prey—a large, greedy squirrel who’d left her pack to scavenge for extra food. Time slowed as I descended, ripped her neck aside, and sank my teeth into her flesh, draining her life into me one drop at a time.

I’d eaten squirrels as a human, which lessened my guilt marginally. Back home in Mystic Falls, my brother and I would hunt in the tangled woods that surrounded our estate. Though squirrels were poor eating for most of the year, they were fat and tasted like nuts in the fall. Squirrel blood, however, was no such feast; it was rank and unpleasant. It was nourishment, nothing more—and barely that. I forced myself to keep drinking. It was a tease, a reminder of the intoxicating liquid that runs in a human’s veins.

But from the moment Damon ended Callie’s life, I had sworn off humans forever. I would never kill, never feed from, and never love another human. I could only bring them pain and death, even if I didn’t mean to. That’s what life as a vampire meant. That’s what life with this new, vengeful Damon as my brother meant.

An owl hooted in the elm that towered over my head. A chipmunk skittered past my feet. My shoulders slumped as I laid the poor squirrel down on the ground. So little blood remained in its body that the wound didn’t leak, the animal’s legs already growing stiff with rigor mortis. I wiped the traces of blood and fur from my face and headed deeper into the park, alone with my thoughts while a city of nearly a million people buzzed around me.

Since I’d sneaked off the train two weeks earlier, I’d been sleeping in the middle of the park in what was essentially a cave. I’d taken to marking a concrete slab with the passing of each day. Otherwise moments blended together, meaningless, and empty. Next to the cave was a fenced-in area where construction men had gathered the “useful” remains of a village they had razed to make Central Park, as well as the architectural bric-a-brac they intended to install—carved fountains, baseless statues, lintels, thresholds, and even gravestones.

I pushed past a barren branch—November’s chill had robbed nearly every tree of its leaves—and sniffed the air. It would rain soon. I knew that both from living in plantation country and from the monster senses that constantly gave me a thousand different pieces of information about the world around me.

And then the breeze changed direction, and brought with it the teasing, cloying scent of rust. There it was again. A painful, metallic tang.

The smell of blood. Human blood.

I stepped into the clearing, my breath coming rapidly. The thick stench of iron was everywhere, filling the hollow with an almost palpable fog. I scanned the area.

There was the cave where I spent my tortured nights, tossing and turning and waiting for dawn. Just outside it was a jumble of beams and doors stolen from knocked-down houses and desecrated graves. Farther in the distance there were the glowing white statues and fountains installed around the park.

And then I saw it. At the base of a statue of a regal prince was the body of a young woman, her white ball gown slowly turning a bloody red.

Chapter 2

I felt the veins in my face crackle with Power. My fangs came out quickly and violently, painfully ripping through my gums. Instantly I became the hunter again: balanced on my toes, fingers flexed, ready to claw. As I made my way closer to her, all my senses became even more aroused—eyes widened to capture every shadow, nostrils flared to gather in the smells. Even my skin prickled, ready to detect the slightest change in air movement, in heat, in the minute pulses that indicated life. Despite my vow, my body was more than ready to slice into the soft, dying flesh and lap up her essence.

The girl was small, but not sickly or dainty. She looked to be about sixteen. Her bosom jerked as she stuggled for breath. Her hair was dark, with curls highlighted gold in the light of the rising moon. She had been wearing silk flowers and ribbons in her hair, but these, along with her tresses, had come undone, trailing out behind her head like sea foam.

Her dress had a dark red slip buoyed by frothy white cotton tulle. Where her petticoats were torn, slashes of scarlet silk showed through, matching the blood that was seeping from her chest and down her bodice. One of her doeskin gloves was white, while the other was nearly black with soaked blood, as if she had tried to stanch her wound before she’d passed out.

Thick, curly lashes fluttered as her eyes rolled beneath their lids. This was a girl who clung to life, who was fighting as hard as she could to stay awake and survive the violence that had befallen her.

My ears could easily make out her heartbeat. Despite the girl’s strength and will, it was slowing, and I could count seconds between each beat.

Thud . . .

Thud . . .

Thud . . .

Thud . . .

The rest of the world was silent. It was just me, the moon, and this dying girl. Her breath was coming slower now. She would most likely be dead in mere moments, and not by my hands.

I ran my tongue over my teeth. I had done my best. I had hunted down a squirrel—a squirrel—to sate my appetite. I was doing everything I could to resist the lure of my dark side, the hunger that had been slowly destroying me from within. I had refrained from using my Power.

But the smell . . .

Spicy, rusty, sweet. It made my head spin. It wasn’t my fault she had been attacked. It wasn’t I who had caused the pool of blood to form around her prone body. Just one little sip couldn’t hurt. . . . I couldn’t hurt her more than someone already had. . . .

I shivered, a delicious pain fluttering up my spine and down my body. My muscles flexed and relaxed of their own accord. I took a step closer, so close that I could reach out and touch the red substance.

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