The only thing in the world that’s constant is war. It was an aphorism murmured in the sticky summer of 1864 as the Civil War tore America apart—and it was a truth that had only become more evident in my more than twenty years as a vampire. Every time I picked up the paper, there were stories of humans fighting humans: brawls on the streets of San Francisco, uprisings in India, insurrections all over Europe. And once blood had been shed and graves marked, they’d start all over again.
But the war my brother, Damon, and I were fighting against the evil vampire Samuel Mortimer was far different. It was a battle without limits. After all, soldiers instinctively fear death. As vampires, we’d already conquered it. What we feared was the reign of terror Samuel would surely inflict upon London if he won. Evil would run rampant.
To the citizens of London, Samuel Mortimer was a member of the city’s political elite. But we knew his true nature: He was a fiendish vampire, one we’d been trying to destroy for weeks. Not only had he fed on the blood of innocent women and tried to kill me, he had framed my brother as Jack the Ripper—a now infamous name for the deranged killer responsible for the Whitechapel murders, which Samuel himself was committing.
He’d also been one of Katherine’s lovers.
Katherine, the vampire who’d seduced Damon and me and fanned the flames of discord between us two decades prior, had turned us into the creatures we now were. Samuel was convinced we’d killed his love, and he wanted revenge. It didn’t matter that Damon and I hadn’t been the ones to trap and burn her in the church back in Mystic Falls. He would never believe we’d tried to save her. Samuel needed someone to pay for her death, and he’d chosen us.
No matter what, it seemed neither decades nor miles nor oceans could separate me from Katherine’s legacy.
But this time had been different. Her memory hadn’t divided my brother and me. Instead, it had united us against Samuel. We’d managed to kill Samuel’s brother, Henry, before the battle had taken a terrible turn, but Samuel had captured Damon. I knew he could kill Damon in a second if he wanted to. Right now, the only thing keeping Damon from death was Samuel’s penchant for torture and sadistic games. I had to rescue Damon from his suffering before Samuel tired of him.
I wasn’t afraid to die. But, as odd as it was after our years of fighting, I was afraid to live in a world without Damon. My brother was callous, rude, and destructive. And yet he had saved me on more than one occasion during our time in London. He was the one on whom I could count when no one else could be trusted. He was all I had.
After all, we were bound by blood. And if I’d learned anything from my time as a vampire, it was that blood was life. Without Damon, my life force would ebb. Now, I had to do everything in my power to get him back…
There was a moment after Samuel dragged Damon away when it seemed as though my spirit had left my body. It was how I’d felt when a bul et from my father’s gun had pierced my chest al those years ago in Mystic Fal s: a split-second of agony, fol owed by a blankness that radiated from the very core of my being.
But I wasn’t dead. And I wouldn’t let Samuel escape with Damon. Once I’d made sure Cora was al right, I took a deep breath and catapulted my body out the window of the Magdalene Asylum. Glass shattered around me, and a shard pierced my cheek. Blood ran down my skin. I didn’t care.
“Damon!” I yel ed. The Asylum was empty—no one would hear me. Al the residents, nuns, and priests were at a midnight church service, which had been convenient for Damon and me when we set our trap for Samuel.
We’d had weapons. We’d had plans. We’d had the element of surprise. And stil , we’d fal en short. It was as if Samuel had purposely al owed us to get closer and closer, only to outwit us—just like his alter ego, Jack the Ripper, had done to the Metropolitan Police when he sent them on a cat-and-mouse chase through London.
I ran through the city streets at vampire speed, trying to listen for shouts, scuffles, even labored breathing—anything that would lead me to my brother. I knew it was useless, but I had to do something. After al , Damon had saved me from Samuel. He deserved the same from me.
I ran through Dutfield Park, the overgrown square where Damon and I had first realized we were being hunted. It would be poetic justice for Samuel to kil him here, beneath the stone wal where he’d written a chil ing message in blood to let us know he would have his revenge. But I noticed nothing amiss. The only sounds were the scampering of squirrels in the underbrush and the whistling of the wind through barren trees.
I ran to the highest point of the park and glanced around in al directions: the elegant dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral, the ominous, dark ribbon of the Thames snaking through the city, the run-down buildings crowding the park. Damon could be anywhere.
He could already be dead.
I jammed my hands in my pockets and turned around, slowly walking back to the Asylum. I needed to get Cora; together, we’d come up with something. It was what we’d been doing for the past several weeks: trailing Samuel, thinking we’d captured him, and then finding ourselves in a worse situation than ever.
Even before I reached the gates of the Asylum, I could hear a low-pitched moan: Cora. My heart twisted in sorrow, thinking of her. I wasn’t the only one missing a family member. Samuel had taken Cora’s sister, Violet, and turned her into a vampire. Violet had attacked her own sister. Of course Cora was mourning.
I entered the Asylum through the window I’d broken. The smel of Henry’s burning flesh stil clung to the room. There was blood pooled on the floor and spattered across the wal s, as though the subterranean office had become an impromptu butcher shop. Which, I suppose, it had.