Home > The Compelled (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #6)(4)

The Compelled (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #6)(4)
Author: L.J. Smith

I closed my eyes and pressed my hand to my forehead, a gesture that did nothing to ease the relentless pounding in my skul . Cora’s suggestion echoed in my mind: Drink human blood.

Could I? I hadn’t in twenty years, not since I was in New Orleans, where I’d sometimes drank the blood of four, five, ten humans a day with little thought to the consequences. I often dreamt of it, the moment when I was bent over a victim, smel ing the rushing, liquid iron, knowing it was about to run down my throat. Sometimes the liquid was bitter, like strong, black coffee. Sometimes it was sweet, with traces of honey and oranges. It used to be a private, perverse game of mine: to guess the taste before the blood touched my tongue. But no matter what the flavor, the result was the same: With human blood in me, I was stronger, faster.

And ruthless.

In a way, Cora was right. In the short term, blood could be the fuel to power me to rescue Damon. But in the long run, it would destroy me. And as much as I needed to save Damon, I needed to save myself, too.

I reached into the darkness and al owed my hand to graze Cora’s slim fingers. She took it and gently squeezed.

“I know you’l find a way to save Damon,” Cora said. “…

with or without blood.”

It was meant to be reassuring, but I knew from the hesitancy in Cora’s voice that she was simply trying to make me feel better. She didn’t real y believe it—which only made me feel worse.

I turned to face Cora.

“I promise, if I need to drink blood, I wil . You have my word.”

Relief flickered in her large eyes. “Thank you,” she said.

I didn’t fal asleep for a long time after that. I could sense from Cora’s slow, deep breathing that the evening of terror had taken its tol . She was resting, exhausted, her face in calm repose. Meanwhile, my brain was reeling.

Damon, I whispered into the darkness.



The next day, I left the tunnel, tel ing Cora I needed to do some errands. Cora didn’t offer to join me, and I wondered if she thought I was off to hunt human blood. If so, I let her believe it. But instead, al I did was joylessly kil a squirrel, feeling weak even as the blood hit my tongue. Human blood would make me feel sharp, alive. This only made me feel more despair.

Darkness had fal en when I returned to the tunnel. Cora climbed out to join me, and the two of us headed toward the Asylum. We knew Samuel often stopped there at the end of the day. If we could catch a glimpse of him as he exited, then fol ow him, we hoped he’d lead us to Damon. We were armed with stakes, but they provided minimal comfort. My stake was jammed in the shaft of my boot and poked my skin every few steps. It didn’t make me feel any safer. At this point, stakes were as commonplace to us as guns were to hunters heading into the woods. But having a gun didn’t guarantee a hunter couldn’t be kil ed.

The crisp fal air smel ed like burning leaves, and, unlike the East End, this part of town was fil ed with wel -dressed men and women, strol ing from dining clubs to the theater to their fancy hotels. I didn’t mind the crowds. Having to navigate through the masses and around horse-drawn carriages took my mind off the task at hand.

Gradual y, the crowds thinned out and the smel of il icit fires made with newspaper kindling replaced the aroma of roasted chestnuts. The streets were empty, but the slums surrounding them were ful , and I could sense eyes watching us suspiciously behind plateglass windows as we walked up High Street, the main thoroughfare of Whitechapel. From there, we turned onto Crispin Street and soon arrived at the Magdalene Asylum. The stone edifice towered, churchlike, over the now-empty Spitalfields Market. Cora’s attention was focused on the padlock on the heavy iron gates surrounding the building. The only sign that anyone inhabited the Asylum was a lone candle flickering in an upper window. It was only a little past eight o’clock, but unlike the rest of London, the street and building were as quiet as a tomb. It was, after al , only two blocks away from Mitre Square, the location of Jack the Ripper’s most recent kil s.




the Whitechapel Vigilance

Committee had urged residents of the East End to stay indoors. Clearly, they were taking the request seriously.

“I hope they’re al right,” Cora said quietly, and I knew she was thinking of the girls she’d met when she’d infiltrated the Asylum. Al young and down on their luck, they’d seen the organization as a chance to get back on their feet. When they’d entered the Asylum, how could they possibly have known their blood would be used to feed monsters or that their benefactor would handpick them to be slain on the streets?

Behind us, I heard the sound of leaves crunching. I turned, ready to face whatever new danger was headed our way, but it was only a watchman, swinging his nightstick in one hand and holding a lantern in the other.

Don’t come over here, I wil ed, focusing my Power on him. He moved toward me, and for half a second, our eyes locked. Turn. Go back where you came from. He paused, but didn’t shine the light our way. Instead, he pivoted on his heel and walked back in the opposite direction.

“Did something happen?” Cora whispered sharply as she noticed my cocked head.

“Shh!” I motioned for her to be quiet until the footfal s faded. Cora didn’t have the same ultra-honed senses I had and was oblivious to our near miss.

Before I could explain what I’d seen, the front door of the Asylum opened and Samuel strode out into the darkness, an attaché case under his arm and a silk top hat on his head. I stiffened as Cora grabbed my arm. I pul ed her up the street behind a hedgerow, but Samuel didn’t look toward us. To anyone passing him on the street, he was simply the future London councilor, out doing charity work for the poor. They would think him admirable, I reflected in disgust. He turned down the flint path toward the curb and up the street, in the direction of the barren Spitalfields Market. As soon as he did, a coach veered toward him.

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