Home > The Ripper (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #4)(11)

The Ripper (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #4)(11)
Author: L.J. Smith

"Wait!" I said. "I might be able to help you. But can we talk?"

"I don't know," she said. Her eyes darted nervously around the tavern.

"Have a seat," I said.

Nervously, she perched on the stool. I nudged the plate over toward her. "Would you like it?" I asked, locking eyes with her. I could hear her heart beating faster against her rib cage. She must have been starving. "Here," I added encouragingly, pushing the plate closer to her.

"I don't need charity," she said insistently, a hint of pride in her voice. Stil , I noticed her eyes continue to dart from my dinner to me.

"Please take it. You look hungry, and I'd like you to have it."

She eyed the plate suspiciously. "Why?"

"Because I'm not hungry anymore. And it sounds like you're having a hard day," I said gently. "My name's Stefan. And you are . . . ?"

"V-V-Violet," she said final y. She picked up a fork and took one bite, then another, of the fish. Catching me staring, she picked up a napkin and shyly dabbed her mouth. "You're a good man, Stefan."

"I try to be." I shrugged as I gave her a smal smile. She was quieter than Cal ie had been, but had far more spunk than Rosalyn did. I'd inwardly cheered when she told Alfred off under her breath. She had pluck, and I just knew that, more than anything else, would save her. "So about Cora - "

"Shhh!" Violet interrupted me.

I turned over my shoulder and saw Alfred storm out from around the bar toward our table. Before I could react, he'd grabbed Violet's long hair and yanked it, causing her to yelp.

"What are you doing, girl?" he growled, his face showing none of the earlier jocularity he'd had behind the bar. "Begging for food like a mongrel?"

"No, sir, let her go. I invited her to dine with me!" I said, quickly standing up. I clenched my hands into fists and stared into Alfred's beady eyes.

"She's not good enough to dine with my customers. Out on the street is where you belong," Alfred yel ed, his voice rising as he ignored my protests. "You're worse than them ladies over there," he said, jutting his chin at the trio of women who stil seemed to be surveying the crowd. "At least they've got something to offer," he said, his face turning red.

"Please, sir!" Violet said, her entire frame shaking. Alfred loosened his grip on her hair, but his mouth was stil set in a firm line. "I'l do anything.

Please don't take away my job."

"What job? Your sister doesn't come in, so she sends you. You're too smal to lift anything and not pretty enough to keep the customers coming back. So I give you one task. Take the orders and bring them to the cook. And you can't even do that!" Alfred boomed.

"Please!" I interjected desperately, placing a hand on his arm. I'd only meant for the gesture to stop him from grabbing Violet again, but in the moment, I'd forgotten my strength. His arm flew back, propel ing him away from Violet.

I watched as he staggered backward into the table. The plate of fish landed upside down on the floor with a clatter. Violet looked terrified and I realized that the normal din had quieted to a churchlike hush. Al eyes were on us.

Alfred scowled at me, rubbing his arm, as if debating whether or not to start a fight. "Wel ," he said, clearing his throat.

"I apologize, but she wasn't doing anything wrong. I asked her to join me. I offered her my meal," I said in a smooth, low voice. I was furious, but I needed to control my temper. "Do you understand me?" I asked.

"Yes," Alfred said, jerking his gaze away. He turned toward Violet.

"That true, girl?" he asked roughly.

"Yes," Violet said in a smal voice. "And I said no, but you say the customer is always right, and I thought that you'd want me to do what he said, so . . ."

Alfred raised his hand to cut her off and turned toward me. "Now I don't know what you were trying to do, but Violet is not on offer," Alfred said stiffly, stil rubbing his arm. "If you wish to meet a lady, there are ones I'd be delighted to introduce to you. I know you're not from around here, but this is my bar and my rules. Are we agreed? Now you," he said, turning to Violet. "Out!" He pointed toward the door.

"Love, I can keep you warm tonight, if you know what I mean!" one of the bar patrons yel ed as he reached to pinch her rear end. Another man fol owed suit, pawing at her. But she stared straight ahead, even as tears fel down her cheeks, and walked toward the front door.

"It's for the best," Alfred said roughly, crossing his beefy arms over his chest as the door closed with a thud. "You don't run this bar. I do. And she was bothering you."

"She wasn't bothering me!" I said, angrily throwing a few shil ings on the table before stepping menacingly toward him. A flicker of fear registered in Alfred's face. I considered taking my frustrations out on him, but it was no use. Violet was gone. And every second she was outside meant she was in danger.

I stormed out of the bar without a second glance and walked into darkness. Only a few stars peeked through the tattered gray blanket of the London evening. I pul ed out my pocket watch, a gift from Winfield Sutherland back in New York. After al those years, it stil worked. It was nearly midnight. The witching hour.

A sliver of a moon hung high in the sky, and a layer of fog, so thick I could feel dewy condensation on my skin, swirled around the dilapidated buildings surrounding me. I cocked my head like a hunting dog. I could hear laughter emanating from the tavern, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't hear the ba-da-bump, ba-da-bump gal op of Violet's heartbeat.

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