Stefan’s Diaries: Bloodlust Chapter 14-15

Chapter 14

My hands still in the air, I pressed my lips together.Id already learned that any sign of stress caused my fangs to bulge and my pupils to grow larger; I didnt want to prepare to attack until I knew what I was dealing with.

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“Jake? Charley?” a female voice called as two burly men ran toward me from the main house.Although twice my bulk, they were definitely human.

Each man grabbed one of my arms, though I noted with cold calculation that it would take only one quick twist to shake both off before I lunged for my attack.

But I fought with every core of my being to stay still, my hands high in the air, hoping Id just look like a common vagrant. There was no guarantee that a fight would lead to Damons rescue.

A girl walked toward me from the porch and stopped a foot away.

“I apologize,” I said to her. I tried to make my voice sound like I was nervously gasping for breath. “I didnt realize this was private property. Im new to town, and I was in the tavern, and, well ” I trailed off, unsure of whether my lies would get me into even deeper trouble.

“You thought youd steal from me?” The girl stepped forward. Her hair tumbled in flaming curls down her back, and she wore what looked suspiciously like a vervain wreath on her head. She had on a white nightdress, but she was wearing mens boots, and I could see calluses on her hands. Though she was clearly from a wealthy family, this was no coddled city girl.

“No. No! I wasnt stealing, I was just looking for the vampire,” I said.

She knit her eyebrows together. “To steal him ?” she asked leadingly, hands on her hips.

“No!” I said again, my arm jerking involuntarily. One of the men holding me dropped my arm in surprise. “No,” I said again, forcing myself to remain still. “I saw the poster for the show down by the lake, and, well, I guess my curiosity got the best of me.” I shrugged.

A rooster crowed. Sunlight slowly spilled over the backyard. I glanced down at my gleaming ring, thankful that Lexi had left.

“Okay, then,” the girl said. She snapped her fingers, and the two large men dropped my arms. “If you are new to town, then where do you come from?”

“Mys Mississippi,” I fibbed. “Right across the river.”

She opened her mouth as if to say something, then closed it. “Well, welcome to New Orleans,” she said. “I dont know what things are like back in Mississippi, but you cant go sneaking into peoples backyards looking at their livestock. And the next time you may not meet someone as friendly as me.”

I fought my urge to snort at her idea of friendliness, given my brothers wretched state.

“So, whats your name, stranger?”

“Stefan,” I said. “Are you Miss Gallagher?”

“Smart,” she observed sarcastically. “That I am. Callie Gallagher.”

One of the large men stepped toward her protectively.

“Leave us,” she commanded. “Ill escort Mr. Stefan out.”

“Thank you,” I said contritely as I followed her around the long gravel path, past the sun-room of the house, and toward the gate. “Thanks for trusting me,” I said.

“Who says I trust you?” she asked sharply, but an amused smile flitted across her lips.

“Well, then, perhaps I should thank you for not letting your brutes kill me.”

She smiled again, wider this time. Her teeth were pearly white, and one of her front teeth was slightly crooked. Freckles dusted her upturned nose. She smelled sweet, like oranges. I realized it had been a long time since I had found a woman beautiful for more than the sweet smell of her blood. But cruelty lay behind her beauty, because this woman was responsible for my brothers imprisonment.

“Maybe youre too handsome to be killed. And everyone deserves a little kindness, dont you think?”

I gazed at her callused hands, a thought entering my mind. “Would it be too forward of me to ask for more of your kindness?”

Callie narrowed her eyes. “Depends on what you ask for.”

“A job,” I said, straightening my shoulders.

The girl shook her head incredulously. “You want me to hire you? After you trespassed on my property?”

“Think of it as an expression of my drive and my enthusiasm for freaks,” I said, the lies now floating easily from my tongue. “Being new, Ive had trouble finding work, and to be honest, Ive always wanted to be part of a circus.”

She set her jaw, and I was worried shed suddenly call her henchmen on me. But then she looked up and down at my faded trousers and sighed. “I have a feeling Ill regret this, but come down to Lake Road tomorrow night. We do need a new ticket taker–our last one ran off with one of the fat ladies. Youll need to arrive early–and stay late. Its going to be busy tomorrow night because of the fight.”

“Right. The fight,” I said, once again clenching my fists and biting back words of anger.

“Yes.” She smiled somewhat ruefully. “Then youll have the chance to see your vampire in action.”

“I suppose I will,” I said, turning on my heel and exiting the wrought-iron gate. But if I had my way, no one would see the “vampire in action” because Damon and I would be long gone before the fight ever commenced.

Chapter 15

October 7, 1864

Something has changed. Maybe it is merely age, a sort of hyper-maturation into the role of an adult vampire. Maybe it is Lexi’s tutelage. Or the fact that I am faced with an actual challenge, a death-defying challenge, and I simply know I can’t expend my energy killing for sport. Whatever the cause, the result is the same. Though the scent of blood is still everywhere, I no longer feel compelled to hunt for sport. Hunting is distracting. My hunger is something to be sated quickly rather than enjoyably.

Of course, the question is, how will I free Damon? Attack everyone in sight, creating a melee of destruction? Convince Callie to shed her vervain wreath so I can compel her to do my bidding?

But Callie seems to have a power all her own. That much is clear to her henchmen, and to me.

Of course, my Power is stronger. I have no doubt that I’ll persevere. I’ll save Damon, and then I’ll reward myself with a drink from Callie’s neck.

I spent the entire day pacing my room, cutting a path through the dust that lined the wooden floor. Plans to free Damon flitted through my head one by one, but just as quickly as they came, I shot them down for being too daring, too risky, too destructive. Id already learned from the siege on the vampires in Mystic Falls that one false move can cause a domino effect of violence and despair.

“You look like a caged animal,” Lexi said, appearing at my doorway. Her voice was light, but worry lines creased her forehead.

I let out a low growl and raked my hands through my hair. “Ifeellike a caged animal.”

“Have you thought of a plan yet?”

“No!” I exhaled loudly. “And I dont even know why Im trying. He hates me.” I looked down, suddenly ashamed. “He blames me for turning him into what we are now.”

Lexi sighed and closed the distance between us. She took my hand. “Follow me.” She led me out of the room and walked slowly down the stairs, running her pale fingers along the portraits that lined the walls. All the paintings were covered with a layer of grime. I wondered how long theyd been hanging on the walls, and whether any of the subjects still roamed the Earth–alive or undead.

At the very bottom stair, Lexi stopped and pulled a portrait off the wall. It was newer than the others, with a gold frame and the glass polished to a gleam. A young, serious-looking blond boy stared out at me. His blue eyes contained a hint of sadness, and his cleft chin jutted in defiance. He looked incredibly familiar.

My eyes widened. “Is that your–“

“–brother,” Lexi said. “Yes.”

“Is he ” I trailed off, not wanting to finish the sentence.

“No, hes not with us anymore,” she said, tracing the cleft of the boys chin with her index finger. “How did he die?” I asked.

“Does it matter?” she said, her voice sharp.

“No, I suppose it doesnt.” I touched the edge of the photo. “Why do you keep it?”

She sighed. “Its a connection to the past–to who I used to be before I was”–she gestured down the length of her body–“before I becamethis. Its important not to lose that final thread of attachment to humanity.” Her gaze grew serious.

I knew what she meant: Remaining connected to her humanity was how she maintained control and why she made the choice to feed only from animals.

“So, are you ready to save him?”

As usual, Lexi didnt wait for an answer, and I had to hustle out the door behind her. Together, we walked in silence toward Gallaghers place under the cover of the inky night.

Fifteen minutes later we turned the corner onto Laurel Street and the house came into view. A tall man with salt-and-pepper hair was climbing the stairs of the white structure, tapping each step with a gold-tipped cane. Behind him were two black-suited men. The three were engaged in intense conversation.

Lexi put her hand on mine. “Gallagher.”

The men paused on the porch. “Im telling you, the vampire I have is the real thing. I could have him killed and sell you his blood. Youd make a fortune marketing it as the fountain of youth or an elixir of life,” Gallagher said roughly.

My stomach plummeted. Damons body was being divided before he was even dead.

“Blood,” a stocky man mused, rubbing his bald head as if it were a crystal ball. “Im just not sure people would try that. But how much would you sell the fangs for?”

The men entered the home, shutting the wooden door with a definitive thud.

I sniffed the air. The cloying scent of vervain burned my nose, but I didnt sense Damon anywhere.

Lexi pushed the gates open and stepped onto the lawn.

“What are you doing?” I hissed. “I dont think Damons here anymore.”

“Yes, but you need to know exactly who and what youre up against. The more you know, the better you can gauge what the best course of action will be,” she said.

I nodded, and together we stole in the shadows toward the main house. We ducked under a window ledge and knelt in order to escape notice; we could just make out the scene unfolding in the parlor at the back of the house. Gallaghers voice drifted through the open window as he took a seat in a maroon leather club chair, his feet up and a glass of port already in his hands. He wore a large gold ring on his finger.

In the far corner, Callie Gallagher sat in a pair of weathered overalls and a white linen shirt. Her red hair fell down her back in a vervain-laced braid, and her head was bent as she pored over a ledger book. A garland of vervain was strung along the marble mantle, and I noticed a few vampire muzzles–the same sort that my father had used to subdue Katherine–tossed carelessly on an end table.

“I have something else that might interest you,” Gallagher said, locking eyes with the elderly man while the other sat, silently. “I didnt want to bring it up out on the street.”

“Yes?” The man leaned forward. His voice sounded disinterested, but he rubbed his stubby fingers together eagerly.

“The monster wears a ring. Its an unusual one. Silver with a blue stone, but it seems to give him additional power. None of my men have been able to get it off his finger, but when hes dead “

“Father!” Callie interjected. The two men stared at her.

“Yes, girl?” Gallagher asked, his voice dangerously low.

“Ive been looking over the books, and well make a fortune if hes kept alive. Its the best for the show.” Though her expression was all business, her tone didnt actually sound mercenary.

“My boss.” Gallagher laughed ruefully, but from the way the vein in his temple throbbed, I could tell he didnt appreciate Callies interjection. “Girl, can you get us some brandy?”

Callie stood up and stalked out of the room. I was surprised to feel a sliver of sympathy–and kinship–with her. I knew what it was like to have a headstrong father. Id wanted nothing more than to please him, but Giuseppe Salvatore always thought he knew best. I dared to disagree only once, and he killed me for it.

“As I was saying, the ring ” Gallagher said. I snapped back to attention.

“You kill that monster and Ill buy it all. The fangs, the blood, the ring. Everything. And Ill give you a very good price,” the elderly man said in a trembling voice, barely concealing his excitement.

Before I could pounce, shattering the glass that separated me from the man who was trying to sell my brother in bits and pieces, an iron-firm grip clasped my arms behind me and dragged me back out to the street.

“Get a hold of yourself, Stefan!” Lexi hissed as she pulled me along the sidewalk. When she reached the corner of Laurel Street, she let me go.

“That man is a sadist!” I fumed.

“Hes a businessman. He wants to kill your brother, and if they find out about you, theyll certainly want to kill you too,” Lexi said, pushing her blond braid over her shoulder.

My mind spun. “What about the girl?” I asked.

Lexi snorted derisively. “What about her?”

“She thinks Damon should be kept alive. Maybe she can convince her father of that,” I said desperately.

“Dont even think about it. Shes a human, and she will follow her fathers orders until the end of her days,” Lexi said, dropping her voice to lower than a whisper as another couple walked toward us.

As they passed, the man tipped his top hat, and Lexi curtseyed back. To anyone else, we were a young couple, out to romance each other in the moonlight.

“Damons life is at stake,” I said in frustration. Lexi had offered to help, but everything shed done so far had seemed designed only to dissuade me. “We have to do something!”

“I know you will find a way to save him,” she said firmly.

We turned another corner and the spire of the church across from Lexis house came into view. “But Stefan, you must remember that controlling yourself around humans is much more than simply not attacking them.” When we reached the back porch, she stopped and put her hands on my shoulders, forcing me to look into her clear amber eyes. “Do you know the real reason why we dont drink human blood?”

“Why?” I asked.

“Because if we dont drink human blood, we dont need humans,” she said in a tight voice. She pushed open the door. Buxton, Hugo, and Percy were sitting around the coffee table, playing poker. They looked up when we entered, and Buxton narrowed his eyes at me.

“Boys, were going dancing tonight. We need some lightness,” Lexi announced, pouring herself a glass of blood from the decanter on the side table. She glanced around the room. The three nodded. “Will you come, Stefan?”

I shook my head. I was not in the mood for lightness. “No,” I said, then headed upstairs to plan Damons rescue alone.

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