Home > The Asylum (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #5)(6)

The Asylum (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #5)(6)
Author: L.J. Smith

“It’s all right,” I said, softening my voice. “Sometimes I just don’t trust myself.”

“Well, if you can’t trust yourself, then who could trust you?” Cora asked, her piercing gaze boring into me. “Besides, I don’t think I’ll ever be safe,” she said ruefully.

An uncomfortable silence fell between us. Beyond the sounds of dripping water and scrambling rodents, I could hear a symphony of human sounds from far off in the tunnel: coughing, limbs creaking, a steady thrum of hearts pumping blood through bodies. Our immediate vicinity was deserted, and I knew Cora couldn’t hear our neighbors like I could. But we weren’t the only inhabitants of the Underground. I wondered if that was why Damon had been in such a hurry to leave us.

“He’s feeding, isn’t he?” Cora asked, reading my mind.

“Most likely,” I said. I sat back on the ground, the dust settling around me. In the darkness of the tunnel, it was impossible to tell whether it was night or day. Not like it mattered much. Without a plan, we were in limbo.

“You saw me feed last night.” It was not a question.

Cora nodded. “I heard the snap of bones breaking, so I looked over. It wasn’t terrible. Not so different than watching some of the men at the Tavern slurp soup. You don’t frighten me, Stefan,” she said, as though it were a challenge.

“Does Damon?”

Cora shook her head, a faraway expression in her eyes. “No. Maybe he should. But he doesn’t. If anything, Damon … what’s the opposite of fright?” Cora asked, biting her lip.

“I suppose the opposite would be comfort,” I said, mystified as to how we’d gotten into this thread of conversation.

“Comfort … no, not that,” Cora mused. A small smile appeared on her pale face. “I think you’re more comforting, even if you are very destructive to rodents. Damon keeps me … sharp. He makes me think. I feel like there’s an edge to him, and you always have to be at the top of your game. I never would have thought of him stealing the conductor’s clothes on my own. It only came to me when I was watching him.”

“It was a good idea,” I said, thinking it was she, not Damon, who was sharp. She’d known about this tunnel, after all.

“Well, thank you. I only hope I keep coming up with them,” Cora said, smiling slightly. Then she turned away. “Do you think Violet is drinking human blood?”

“Yes.” There was no reason to sugarcoat the subject. If Violet was with Samuel, she most certainly was drinking human blood. The only uncertainty was who her food supply would be—a compelled blood-slave or some poor soul soon to be considered another one of Jack the Ripper’s bloody conquests.

“What’s it like?” she asked, whispering even though no one else could hear us.

“It’s… “I paused. What was feeding like? I’d spent decades trying to forget. But as soon as she asked, I remembered the warm, rich taste of human blood. Of course, I wanted to say that it was terrible, that Violet wasn’t enjoying it, and that she’d stop as soon as we were able to find her and pull her out of Samuel’s clutches. But that wouldn’t be true.

“It’s like nothing anyone could imagine unless they’ve tried it. I suppose it’s like coming into a firelit room after spending a night sleeping in the rain.” I had no idea where the comparison came from, but it was remarkably apt. Human blood made me feel whole, warm, alive in a way that animal blood didn’t.

“So … why would anyone stop?” Cora asked.

I shrugged. “A lot don’t. But there are benefits to abstaining from human blood. I can still feel things, feel emotions like I could when I was human. The need for blood, the thirst, can become so overpowering that you have to shut them off when you’re feeding so you don’t think of the consequences. But without it, I don’t have to feel like a monster, or get lost in the darkness. When I see Violet, I’ll explain it to her. But for now, take comfort in the fact that she’s nourished, and she’s not in pain.”

Cora shook her head in disbelief. “I can’t imagine her ever hurting a living thing,” she said quietly. “There was once a field mouse that had gotten into the house, and my mum was all set to kill it. Violet was about eight at the time, and she cried and cried until my mum set it loose. Vi even used to put out food for it, just in case it came back and was hungry.” Cora’s voice broke and she covered her face with her hands. “I just want to find her!” she yelled, the sound muffled by her fingers.

“She’s not here, that’s for certain.” Damon strode out of the darkness, wiping his mouth. He was still wearing his blood-spattered clothes from the night before, but there were no longer dark circles under his eyes. Under the circumstances, he looked incredibly handsome. Cora dropped her hands to her lap and stared at him.

“Did you find your breakfast?” Cora asked tersely, her hand unconsciously brushing against her neck. An image flashed in my mind: Samuel, hunched down, fangs bared over Cora’s smooth skin. I wondered how often he had fed on her. And it might have been my imagination, but I thought I saw two tiny scars, small and round as pinheads and waxy pink in color, midway between her shoulder and her ear. I shuddered.

An inscrutable expression crossed Damon’s face. “Yes, I did,” he said simply. “At first, I was simply making sure the tunnel was safe. And it is safe for us. There are a few souls down here, although none that will bother us. Everyone here is pretty bad off. It was rather easy to feed.”

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