I ran past the shanties set up around the circus through the deep woods, following the tracks of the wagon until I lost the vehicles scent completely at the outskirts of the city proper.A drunk was leaning against a brick building, whistling tunelessly.
In a blind rage, I roughly fell to my knees and grabbed him, biting into his neck and sucking his blood before he even had time to gasp.It tasted bitter, but I kept drinking, gulping it in until I could stand no more.
Sitting back on my heels, I wiped my mouth with the back of my hand, and looked around.
Confusion and hatred coursed through my veins. Why couldnt I save Damon? Why had I just watched as Gallagher goaded the audience into placing even more bets, as the mountain lion pounced onto my brother? And why had Damon allowed himself to be captured and put me in this impossible position?
I wished Id never insisted on turning him into a vampire in the first place. If he werent here and I were alone in the city, everything would be so much easier. Now I was trying to be a good brother, and a good vampire, and yet was failing at everything.
I walked home, clomping up the steps to the house. I slammed the door, causing the hinges to rattle and one of the paintings in the parlor to fall on the floor with a clatter.
Instantly, I saw Buxton glaring at me from the opposite side of the room, his eyes glittering in the darkness. “Is there some sort of problem youre having with the door?” he asked through clenched teeth.
I tried to brush past him, but he blocked my path.
“Excuse me,” I muttered, pushing him.
“Excuse you,” Buxton said, crossing his arms over his chest. “Coming in as if you own the place. Stinking like humans. While Im not one to question Miss Lexi, I do think its time you show a little respect for her home, brother.”
The wordbrotherawakened something within me. “Watch what you say,” I hissed, baring my teeth.
But Buxton just chuckled. “Ill watch what I say when you watch how you act.”
“Boys?” Lexi called from upstairs, her lilting voice a contrast to the tense scene. She glided down the stairs, her eyes softening with concern when they rested on me. “Is Damon ?”
“Hes alive,” I muttered. “But I couldnt get to him.”
Lexi perched on the edge of a rickety rocking chair, her eyes large and sympathetic. “Buxton, can you please get us some goats blood?”
Buxtons eyes narrowed, but he shuffled out of the parlor and into the kitchen. In the living room, I could hear Hugo playing a lively French march on the piano.
“Thanks,” I said, sinking into an overstuffed love seat. I didnt want goats blood. I wanted to gorge myself on gallons and gallons of human blood, drinking until I got sick and passed out in total oblivion.
“Remember, hes strong,” Lexi said.
“Im not worried about Buxton,” I said.
“I meant your brother. If hes anything like you, hes strong.”
I looked up at her. She came over and took my chin in her hand.
“Thats what you have to believe. Its what I believe. The trouble with you is that you want everything done right away. Youre impatient.”
I sighed. The last thing I needed was another lecture about how I had no sense of the way the real vampire world worked.
Besides, I wasnt impatient. I was desperate.
“You just need to think of another plan. One we can help with.” Lexi glanced over as Buxton entered, carrying a silver tray laden with two mugs.
Buxton paused midstep. “Faut-il l’aider?” he asked in French.
“Nous l’aiderons,” Lexi replied.
Neither Lexi nor Buxton knew that Id learned French at my mothers knee; it was odd to listen to them speakabout whether to help me free Damon. I stared at my hands, which were still covered with crusted blood from my hunt earlier in the evening.
Buxton banged the tray against the polished cherrywood table. “You will not put us in danger,” he growled, his fangs inches away from my neck. He shoved me with all his might against the wall, and the back of my head cracked against the fireplaces marble mantle.
My Power took over, and I pushed his shoulders hard. But Buxton was older and stronger than I was, and he kept me pinned to the wall, his hands firmly against my chest. I could feel blood beginning to seep from my skull, where Id hit my head.
“You selfish, ungrateful monster,” Buxton whispered, hatred dripping from his voice. “Ive seen vampires like you before. You think the world is yours for the taking. You dont care about others. You dont care who you kill. You give us a bad name.”
I twisted and writhed, trying to escape his grip, when suddenly I felt the pressure release from my chest, followed by an enormous crash as Buxton fell to the floor.
“Buxton,” Lexi lectured, staring at the prone body lying at her feet. “How many more centuries will it be before you learn how to treat a guest? And, Stefan, wont you agree with me that human blood simply doesnt agree with you? That behavior wasnt necessary.” Lexi shook her head like an annoyed schoolmarm. “Now, Ill drink my blood in peace. Be nice, boys,” she said as she glided out of the room, the mug of blood in her hands.
How could she walk away so casually, knowing that my brother was out there imprisoned and tortured? I had come to depend on Lexi for many things, and support in finding and saving Damon was my only priority now.
As if reading my mind, she paused at the archway to her quarters, glancing from one of us to the other. “If and when I say we help Damon, we will. Is that clear to both of you?”
“Yes, Miss Lexi,” Buxton murmured as he slowly eased onto his knees then stood up.
I nodded, barely containing my scowl.If?
Buxton limped out of the room, but not before he threw one last glare in my direction.
Suddenly the house felt too small, as though the walls, floors, and ceilings were pressing in at me from all sides. Letting out one last growl, I flew through the parlor, out the door, and back down to Lake Road.