Home > The Ripper (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #4)(13)

The Ripper (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #4)(13)
Author: L.J. Smith

I felt my thoughts reach her mind, and I sensed the moment when her brain seemed to yield. I nodded to try to speed the process.

Then I saw a flicker in her eyes. I wasn't sure if my compulsion had worked or if it was exhaustion, but I had to believe it. I took my hand off her mouth and she blinked dazedly at me.

"You'l be safe with me. We have to leave the park. I'l carry you," I explained as I picked Violet up and draped her over my shoulders. I sped out of the woods and darted into the streets. Faster and faster, I ran on the uneven cobblestones, always fol owing the Thames River, its glassy surface reflecting the moon and the stars. I ran through al eys and back streets until we reached a part of the city with plenty of gas lamps and pedestrians.

Even at this late hour, they were walking the streets as though it were broad daylight. I al owed myself to stop, ducking under an awning. Despite the heat that stil clung to the late-summer night, the women had furs draped over their bare shoulders while the men were wearing top hats and three-piece suits. Dozens of marquees lit up either side of every street.

I al owed Violet to slip off my shoulders and the two of us stood, facing each other, as throngs of pedestrians passed on either side of us.

Immediately, Violet began to panic again, and I could tel she wanted to scream, with only my compulsion holding her back.

"Shhh!" I tried to calm her. "Shhh!" I said again, rubbing her shoulders. A few passersby turned to stare.

"Listen to me," I whispered, hoping that she'd take a hint from my lowered voice. "You're safe. I'm your friend." She continued to sniffle. Her eyes were red-rimmed, and her hair was tangled in thick vines around her freckled face. "You're safe," I said, not breaking eye contact. She nodded slowly.

"You have to trust me. Can you do that, Violet? Remember, I'm a good man. You said so yourself." I fished in my pocket and pul ed out a white handkerchief, just purchased from the tailor. It seemed like a lifetime ago.

I handed it to her and Violet whimpered noisily. The few passersby who'd stopped to watch us on the street continued walking, obviously satisfied that nothing untoward was happening between us.

I let go of her, not wanting to compel her for a second longer than necessary. She seemed so innocent that I felt guilty for doing it, even though I knew it was for her own good.

"St-St-Stefan . . ." she said, gasping for breath. "The blood . . . and the words . . . was it the murderer?" Her voice broke into another wail. She was bordering on hysteria again.

"Shhh," I said, trying to make my voice sound like the soothing whoosh of waves I'd heard on the boat to Britain. "Shhh," I repeated.

Violet sucked in her breath. "What if he has my sister? She's been missing since yesterday, and I haven't heard from her. And I thought . . ."

"He doesn't," I said firmly, wishing I knew that were true.

"I can't go back to the tavern," Violet said in a smal voice.

"There's no need," I said, gently holding her wrist and pul ing her toward the side of the street. In the dim light of a gas lamp she looked pale and drawn, and I felt a surge of sympathy toward her. Right now, I was al she had. "We'l find you a place to sleep," I decided, turning my mind back to the matters at hand.

"But I've got no money," she said worriedly, her hands searching the pockets of her pinafore.

"Don't worry. You're with me," I said, glancing around at the lights that cut through the fog, searching for a hotel or tavern where we could take our bearings. A sign down the street caught my eye: CUMBERLAND HOTEL.

"Let's go there," I suggested as I led Violet across the street. Together, we marched up the red carpet - covered marble steps and through the gilt-gold doors, held open by a butler in a three-piece suit. With Lexi, I'd spent some time at some of the finest hotels in America, but I quickly realized that this establishment was on an entirely different level. Fresh-cut flowers were placed in large crystal bowls on every polished, gleaming surface, and the chandeliers were heavy gold. The man behind the desk glanced suspiciously at Violet and me.

"May I help you, sir?" he asked, his voice barely containing his disgust at her disheveled appearance. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a woman in a silver chiffon gown with a train glide up the stairs, fol owed by two servants. At the corner bar, two men in tuxedos were draining crystal tumblers of whiskey. I felt my shoulders relax. For now, we were safe.

"Sir?" the man behind the desk prompted.

"Yes." I cleared my throat. I needed to pul myself together to successful y compel him. It was one thing to compel someone who was half-starved and hysterical, and entirely another to compel a man in charge of his wits.

"Yes, you may help me," I said, confidently stepping up to the marble-topped counter while a terrified Violet trailed behind me. The lighting in the old-fashioned lobby was dim, with dozens of candelabra giving the room in an orange glow that cast large, hulking shadows on the wal s. Every time one of the shadows moved, I glanced over my shoulder.

"What may I do for you?" the man behind the desk prompted pointedly.

I squared my shoulders and looked into his beady, gray eyes. I concentrated on the pupils, al owing my gaze to center in until the blackness was al I could see. "We need a room."

"I'm sorry. We don't have any rooms available for tonight," the man said.

"I know it's short notice, but there must be a room reserved for when royalty come to visit. My wife and I need that room," I said.

"But Stefan!" Violet squeaked behind me. Without breaking eye contact, I gently placed my foot on top of hers in warning. I'd learned the trick of asking for a room reserved for VIP guests from Lexi. It always worked.

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