Home > The Craving (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #3)(8)

The Craving (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #3)(8)
Author: L.J. Smith

“Maybe she was afflicted with a nosebleed . . . ?” I mumbled lamely.

“So you’re saying that you didn’t see any attacker when you came upon my sister?” Margaret asked.

“Oh, Meggie, you and your interrogations,” Winfield said. “It’s a miracle that Bridge is all right. Thank goodness Stefan here found her when he did.”

“Yes. Of course. Thank goodness,” Margaret said. “And what were you doing in the park last night by yourself?” she continued smoothly.

“Walking,” I said, same as I had answered her father the night before.

In the bright light of morning, it struck me as odd that Winfield had asked me nothing more than my name and why I’d been in the park. In times like these, and after his daughter had just suffered a great blow, it was hardly standard to accept a stranger into one’s home. Then again, my father had offered refuge to Katherine when she’d arrived in Mystic Falls, playing the part of an orphan.

A nagging piece of me wondered if our story could have ended differently, if the entire Salvatore brood would still be alive, if only we’d pressed Katherine for answers about her past, rather than tiptoeing around the tragedy she’d claimed had taken her parents’ lives. Of course, Katherine had Damon and me so deeply in her thrall, perhaps it would have made no difference.

Margaret leaned forward, not politely giving up the way Winfield had the night before. “You’re not from around here, I take it?”

“I’m from Virginia,” I answered as she opened her mouth to form the next, obvious question. In a strange way, it made me feel better to offer this family something real. Besides, soon enough I would be out of this house, out of their lives, and it wouldn’t matter what they knew about me.

“Whereabouts?” she pressed.

“Mystic Falls.”

“I’ve never heard of it.”

“It’s fairly small. Just one main street and some plantations.”

There was some shuffling movement under the table, and I could only assume that either Bridget or Lydia was trying to give Margaret a good kick. If the blow was successful, Margaret gave no sign.

“Are you an educated man?” she continued.

“No, ma’am. I planned to study at the University of Virginia. The war put a stop to that.”

“War is good for no one,” Winfield said as he stabbed a piece of bacon with his fork.

“The war put a stop to much casual travel back and forth between the states,” Margaret added.

“What’s that to do with anything?” Bridget demanded.

“Your sister is suggesting that it’s an odd time for me to come north,” I explained. “But my father recently died. . . .”

“From the war?” Bridget demanded breathlessly. Lydia and Mrs. Sutherland glared at her.

“Indirectly,” I answered. A war had claimed my father’s life, a war against vampires—against me. “My town . . . it burned, and there was nothing left for me anymore.”

“So you came north,” Lydia said.

“To try your hand at business, maybe?” Winfield suggested hopefully.

Here was a man with three daughters, three beautiful daughters, but no sons. No one to share cigars and brandy with, no one to push and encourage and compete with in the world of business. I was both worried and amused by the gleam in his eye when he looked at me. Surely there were families with sons in Manhattan who would make for more auspicious marital alliances.

“Whatever I can do, I aim to make my way in the world on my own,” I replied, taking a sip of coffee. I would have to, without Lexi or Katherine to guide me. And if I ever saw Damon again, the only thing he would guide me toward was a newly sharpened stake.

“Where are you living?” Margaret continued. “Do you have family here?”

I cleared my throat, but before I had to tell my first real lie, Bridget groaned.

“Meggie, I’m bored of this interrogation!”

A hint of a smile bloomed on Lydia’s lips, and she quickly hid it behind her napkin. “What would you prefer to talk about?”

“Yourself?” Margaret said with an arched brow.

“Yes, actually!” Bridget said, looking around the table. Her eyes glowed as green as Callie’s, but with her petulance on full display, she no longer reminded me of my lost love. “I still don’t know why I ran out on the party.”

Margaret rolled her eyes. Lydia shook her head.

“I mean, you should have seen the looks I got!” she started up, waving her knife in the air for emphasis. “Flora’s dress was the worst, especially considering she’s a newly married woman. And my new sash—oh no, was it ruined last night? I would hate to have it ruined! Mama! Was it on me when Stefan brought me home? We have to go back to the park and look for it!”

“How about we go back to the park and look for the person who tried to kill you,” Margaret suggested.

“We’ve already had a discussion with Inspector Warren about it. He promises a thorough investigation,” Mrs. Sutherland said. “But, Bridget, you must promise not to run off from the Chesters’ ball this evening or I will be forced to stand watch over you in your bedroom.”

Bridget crossed her arms over her chest with a huff.

“And neither shall you run off,” Mrs. Sutherland said more pointedly to Lydia. The middle sister blushed.

“Lydia has fallen in love with an Italian count,” Bridget confided, her pout evaporating as she indulged in gossip. “We all hope he asks her hand in marriage—wouldn’t that be splendid? Then we’d all be like royalty, sort of, and not just rich merchants. Imagine, Lydia a countess!”

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