Home > Unmasked (The Vampire Diaries: The Salvation #3)

Unmasked (The Vampire Diaries: The Salvation #3)
Author: L.J. Smith, Aubrey Clark

1

“I’m going to plant the herb garden right there,” Bonnie told Zander, gazing out across their new yard. Green grass spread out in front of her, running right to the edge of a winding country road. There was a little space, half in sun and half in shade, that would be perfect for growing herbs for her spells and charms. Beyond the road rose white-topped mountains—real mountains, much higher than the rolling hills of Virginia.

Behind her, Zander wrapped his arms around her waist and tucked his chin against her shoulder. Bonnie leaned back comfortably against his warm bulk. Taking a deep, satisfied breath of the crisp Colorado air, she told him, “It’s absolutely gorgeous here.”

They’d only been here for a few days, and each morning when Bonnie opened her eyes, she was startled by her own happiness. She’d moved here because she couldn’t bear to lose Zander, but she had never considered that she might actually like it.

Even on the plane flying here, she’d had an anxious pit in her stomach. Bonnie had never lived so far away from her family before, never spent more than a few months some place where she couldn’t drive to her mom or one of her sisters if she needed them. And she’d always had her other sisters, the ones she’d chosen, Elena and Meredith, by her side.

Bonnie had felt like a traitor leaving Elena and Meredith. They’d assured her that they understood and reminded her she was only a phone call away. But that didn’t relieve Bonnie’s guilt. Stefan, Elena’s true love, had died. Meredith had been turned into a vampire. Surely it was wrong for Bonnie to abandon them, especially now.

But being here felt right. The Colorado sky stretched bright and blue overhead, so clear and deep that Bonnie almost thought she could hold her arms above her head and fly straight up into its limitless space.

There was something about that endless sky, something about the open country and nature all around her that made Bonnie feel like she was bursting with Power.

“I’m getting stronger every day,” she said, twining her fingers with Zander’s and pulling his arms tighter around her.

“Mmhmm,” Zander agreed, kissing her neck softly. “This place is really alive. Jared told me he ran for miles last night in the mountains as a wolf, and there was nothing to avoid, no cars or towns in his way. Pretty cool.”

He tugged her around by the hand, and Bonnie followed him into the house. Our house. How awesome is that? she thought. She’d liked their old apartments, she guessed, but this little white ranch house had no neighbors to complain about noise, no landlord laying down rules. It was theirs.

“We can do anything we want here,” she told Zander.

He grinned down at her with his slow, devastating smile. “And what is it that you want to do, Miss Bonnie?”

Bonnie’s face widened in a mischievous grin. “Oh, I’ve got a few ideas,” she said lightly, and went up on her tiptoes to kiss him, her eyes fluttering closed.

The same familiar zing that Zander’s kisses always gave her was there, but with something extra: They were married now. Till death do us part. He was hers.

She opened her eyes and looked up into Zander’s warm, ocean-blue ones. A thrill of happiness shot through her. Channeling a shred of Zander’s energy into herself, Bonnie concentrated for a moment. Joy shot through her as she felt the essence of her sweet, cheerful husband. In the fireplace, violet and green sparks flew, filling the space with light and color.

“Beautiful,” Zander said. “Like tiny fireworks.”

Bonnie was about to say something cheesy but honest, something like, That’s how I feel with you all the time—fireworks. But before she could, her phone rang.

Meredith. Her friend no doubt wanted to know how the honeymoon had been and what Colorado was like. Bonnie answered, still smiling, “Hey! What’s up?”

There was a pause. Then, Meredith’s voice, thin and ragged. “Bonnie?”

“Meredith?” Bonnie stiffened. Her friend sounded broken.

“It’s Elena,” Meredith said, almost too quietly for Bonnie to hear. “Can you come home?”

Sitting on the edge of Elena’s bed, Damon closed his eyes, just for a moment. He was so tired, a bone-deep exhaustion worse than any he could remember feeling before. He’d sat by Elena’s bedside for hours, her hand in his, silently willing her to keep breathing, and her heart to keep pounding.

Willing Elena to wake up.

And she’d kept breathing, somehow, although each slow, rattling breath seemed like it would be her last. All the way across the Atlantic from Paris, back to her home here in Virginia, she’d kept breathing. He could hear her heart beating, but weakly and irregularly.

But still, she was unconscious. It didn’t matter how hard Damon willed her to wake up. It didn’t matter if he pleaded with Elena herself, or if he pulled out all the half-forgotten prayers of his childhood and begged a god who he was sure had turned away from him long ago.

Nothing Damon did mattered.

Gently, he brushed back a long strand of Elena’s hair from her cheek. The once bright gold was duller now, tangled and matted, and her cheeks were sallow. She looked so close to death that Damon’s heart clenched.

Lifting his hand away from Elena’s face, Damon pressed his fist briefly against his chest. There was a dull empty ache there, where he was used to feeling Elena’s emotions running bright and strong through the bond between them. He hadn’t felt anything from their bond since Elena had fallen unconscious.

“Come as fast as you can,” he heard Meredith say in the living room. On the other end of the phone line, he could hear Bonnie’s distressed voice promising to drop everything, to catch the first plane out. When Meredith finally hung up, there was a moment of pure silence before she gave a tearful sniff.

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