Stefan’s Diaries: Bloodlust Chapter 25

When I got back to the vampire house, the moon was hanging high in the sky.Lexi was sprawled on the sofa, her eyes closed as she listened to Hugo play the piano.The piano was so out of tune that the music he pounded out, which was supposed to be a rousing revolutionary march, sounded more like a funeral dirge.

Still, I couldnt help but pull Lexi up, whirling her around in an impromptu dance.

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“Youre late,” Lexi said, ducking out of the twirl. “Or were you on anotherdate?”

“Or killing more humans?” Buxton asked, entering the room.

“Are you in love?” Percy asked, leaning his elbows on his knees and glancing up at me jealously from the corner table, where he was playing a game of solitaire. Percy clearly loved women, but his childlike face made him look like a boy of fifteen, and often the women he was most attracted to assumed Lexi was his mother. I was thankful Id been turned into a vampire at the age I had been.

I shook my head. “Imnotin love,” I said, wondering if I was saying it to convince myself. “But Im settling into the routine at the freak show. I think Im learning to like New Orleans.”

“Thats great news,” Buxton breathed sarcastically.

“Buxton.” Lexi glanced at him reproachfully before turning her attention back to me. “Did you forget our plans?”

I racked my brain, but finally shook my head. “Im sorry.” Lexi sighed. “Remember–Im taking you shopping. I may be a vampire, but I still have a womans vanity, and it simply doesnt suit me to be surrounded by men in ill-fitting clothing. What would the neighbors think?” She laughed, amused by her own joke.

“Oh, right.” I inched toward the stairway. “Maybe we could go tomorrow? Im exhausted.”

“Im serious, Stefan,” Lexi said, taking my arm. “You need clothes, and its a tradition of sorts. I took those two gentlemen in for fittings, and look at them now,” she said, nodding toward Buxton and Hugo as if exceptionally pleased with her work. It was true. From Buxtons high-collared blue coat to Hugos well-tailored britches, theydidlook handsome. “Besides, you dont have a choice,” she said mischievously.

“I dont?”

“No.” Lexi opened the door with a flourish. “Boys, were off. When we come back, you wont even recognize Stefan, hell look so handsome!”

“Bye,handsome!” Buxton yelled sarcastically as the door clicked closed. Lexi shook her head, but I didnt mind. In an odd way, Id gotten used to Buxton. He was like a brother of sorts. A brother with a potentially fatal short temper, but one Id gotten used to managing.

Together, Lexi and I walked companionably into the cool night air. I saw Lexi looking at me out of the corner of her eye, and I wondered what she saw.

I felt I was living three distinct lives: In one, I was a loyal brother, in another I was a new member of a club I didnt quite understand, and in the third I was a young man placing my trust in a human woman–a woman whom I had staked my own flesh and blood to save. The trouble was, I wasnt sure how to seamlessly live all three lives.

“Youre quiet,” Lexi said in midstep. “And”–she sniffed the air–“you havent been drinking human blood. Im proud of you, Stefan.”

“Thanks,” I murmured. I knew she wouldnt be proud of me if I told her about the conversation Callie and I had shared. Shed say that I was too impulsive, too na�ve, that Id made a huge mistake telling Callie my secret. Although I hadnttoldas much asconfirmedher remarkably accurate suspicions.

“Here we are,” Lexi said, stopping at a nondescript wooden door on Dauphine Street. She took a slim metal hook from her pocket and jiggled it in the lock of the front door. After a moment, it clicked open.

“And now, the shop is open for business.” Lexi spread her hands wide, perching on a stiff leather ottoman. “Take your pick.”

A dozen mannequins with puffed-out chests held court in the store. One in a tweed jacket lifted its arm in a wave, while another in a sailors cap had a hand above its eyes, as though staring straight out to sea. Bolts of fine fabrics were propped up against the back wall, and a row of cuff-links glistened under glass. Stacks of ready-made shirts kept silent watch over the darkened shop, and a few cravats spilled out of a drawer.

Lexi crossed her ankles beneath her skirts and gazed at me, a look of pride on her face as I pulled a camel-hair coat off a mannequin and draped it around my shoulders.

I stood stiffly, waiting for approval, as I had done when my mother had taken me shopping.

“Well, I cant tell when you stand there as wooden as a mannequin. Walk around a bit. See what you think,” Lexi said with an impatient wave of her hand.

I rolled my eyes but took a turn around the room, acting like the rich men Callie and Id seen at the burlesque show. I held out my hand to Lexi with a flourish. “Care to dance?” I said in an exaggerated British accent.

Lexi shook her head, amusement evident in her eyes.

“Okay, I get it. Its a little too dandy. How about that one?” She angled her chin at a mannequin in black trousers and a gray coat with red piping. I removed my jacket and pulled the coat around my shoulders.

Lexi nodded, her eyes taking on a faraway look.

“What are you thinking about?” I asked.

“My brother,” she said.

I thought of the boy in the portrait, his eyes so much like Lexis. “What about him?”

Lexi picked up a silk cravat and laced it between her fingers. She didnt look at me as she spoke. “After our parents died, I started taking walks with a boy who was a vampire. He asked if I wanted to live forever. And of course I did, because I was young, and whowouldn’twant to always be young and beautiful? Also, if I turned, it meant Id never have to leave Colin. Hed already lost so much, and I thought, well, at least he could know that hed never lose me.”

“Was Colin a vampire?”

Lexi pulled the cravat through her fingers and cracked it like a whip. “Id never do that to someone I loved.”

The image of me forcing Damon to drink from Alice, the barmaid in the tavern back home, flashed through my mind. I looked down, not wanting Lexi to sense what Id done to someone I loved. “So what happened?”

“People got suspicious. I didnt know then how careful we needed to be. My brother was growing up, and I was staying the same. People wondered. And there was a siege, and our house was torched. And the irony is, I escaped and Colin didnt. And he was the innocent one. He was only sixteen.”

“Im sorry,” I said finally. I tried to imagine Lexi as a human, leaning on the arm of the man who had promised the world to her, just as Katherine had promised the world to me. I pictured him spiriting her away to a dark alley, taking just a little blood at first, asking her to drink his, then stabbing her through the heart to complete the transformation.

Lexi waved her hand, wiping away the image of herself as a young girl. “Dont be sorry. It was more than a century ago. Hed be dead anyway by now.” She appraised me. “That jacket looks good on you.”

“Thank you,” I said. Suddenly the weight of my discussion with Callie felt heavy in my stomach. “I have a plan to save Damon,” I blurted out.

Lexis head jerked up, her eyes flashing. “What?”

“Tomorrow night. Callies helping me.” I allowed my eyes to meet Lexis. “Damons back at Laurel Street. Her father will be out of the house at a card game, so well free Damon then.”

“Did you tell Callie what you are?” she asked, her voice low and hard.

I chewed on my thumb. “No.”

“Stefan!”

“She guessed,” I said defensively. “And I trust her.”

“Trust!” Lexi spat. She stood up so abruptly the ottoman toppled over. “You dont know the meaning of the word. Callie is the daughter of Patrick Gallagher, who just forced your brother to fight a mountain lion to the death. How do you know this isnt some elaborate plan to imprison you, too?”

“How stupid do you think I am?” I challenged, stepping closer to Lexi. “I may be young, but I have good instincts.”

Lexi gave a derisive snort. “You mean the same instincts that landed you backed up in a butcher shop with three vampires surrounding you? The same instincts that led you to murder that woman on the train?”

“Im still here, arent I?”

“Because of me! And the boys back at the house. But I will not allow you to drag us into confronting Patrick Gallagher, of all people.”

“No ones dragging you into anything!” I yelled in frustration. “Just because you let your brother die doesnt mean Im going to let mine! I owe him that much.”

“You ungrateful child!” she spat, pushing me with all her force against a gold-framed mirror. I fell as the mirror shattered around me. One large shard cut a large gash across my arm, but it barely hurt. Instead, I was shocked by Lexis strength. Id seen it before, but Id never been on the receiving end.

Lexi towered above me, her eyes glittering. “You need to learn your place, and you need to learn it fast. Youre a vampire. And vampires donotconsort with humans.”

I leaped to my feet and pushed her away from me. She flew across the store and landed against the bolts of fabric.

“This one does, if it means saving Damon,” I growled. Then I stalked out of the shop and into the blackness of the night.

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