Home > The Ripper (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #4)(2)

The Ripper (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #4)(2)
Author: L.J. Smith

"Why, hel o, Stefan," she said in a dulcet tone as she advanced toward me. "Did I scare you? You look as if you've seen a ghost!"

"You're dead," I spat, stil unable to believe she was in front of me.

She laughed, a sound as warm and enveloping as whiskey on a cold winter night.

"Wasn't I always? It's good to see you. You look wel . Although maybe a bit too pale," Katherine admonished.

"How did you get here?" I asked final y. Her body had been burned, buried in a Virginia church an ocean away. And yet, it was undeniable that she was standing not two feet from me in the Abbott kitchen.

"I needed to see you," Katherine said, biting her lower lip with her perfectly white teeth. "I'm terribly sorry, Stefan. I feel we had so many misunderstandings. I never truly explained myself or my nature to you. Do you think you could ever forgive me?" she asked.

I found myself nodding, despite my hatred for what she'd done to me. I knew I needed to flee, but I couldn't look away from Katherine's large eyes. I wasn't being compel ed. It was worse. I was being driven by love. I tentatively reached out and al owed my fingers to graze her skin. It was smooth, and instantly I was consumed with the need to touch her again and again.

"Sweet Stefan," Katherine cooed, as she leaned toward me. Her petal-soft lips brushed against my cheek. I leaned in, succumbing to her lemon-ginger scent. My desire, suppressed for twenty years, was unleashed. I didn't care about the past. I didn't care what she'd done to me or my brother. I wanted her. My lips hungrily found hers, and I kissed her, sighing with happiness and contentment.

She pul ed back, and my gaze lifted to her face. Her eyes were bulging, and her fangs were glinting in the sunlight.

"Katherine!" I gasped. But I couldn't escape. Her icy-cold hands were around my neck, drawing me into her, and then I felt a searing pain at my throat. I tried to turn away but the pain went deeper, farther into my body until it reached into the depths of my soul. . . .

Everything around me went dark.

And then I heard a sharp, persistent knocking.

"Katherine?" I groped around in confusion as I realized I was bathed in sweat. I blinked. Above me was the sloped roof of my thatched cottage.

Sunlight streamed in through the cracks in the ceiling.

The knocking continued.

I scrambled from my bed and pul ed on my breeches and shirt. "Come in!" I cal ed.

The door swung open and Mrs. Duckworth bustled in, concern stamped on her round, red face. "You al right, then?" Mrs. Duckworth asked.

"Fine. Just a dream," I said, shifting uneasily from one foot to another. Was it just a dream? I hadn't thought about her in ages, but in my dream, Katherine had seemed so real, so alive.

"Having a nightmare, you was," Mrs. Duckworth said knowledgeably, crossing her arms across her expansive, matronly chest. "I could hear you yel ing outside the door. And you gave me a right fright, I'd thought you were attacked by one of them foxes from the woods. Mrs. Medlock up at the Evans farm said one got a few of their chickens the other day. In broad daylight, too!"

"A nightmare . . ." I repeated, as I steadied myself against the wooden post of my bed. The sun was just beginning its descent and the forest outside my window was blanketed in an amber light.

"Yes," Mrs. Duckworth replied patiently. She was wearing a starched white apron over her blue-and-white-striped dress, and her gray hair was pul ed back in a severe bun. She'd been a servant at the Manor for over twenty years, and oversaw everything that went on in the house with a motherly concern. George Abbott always joked that she, not him, was truly in charge. Seeing her calmed me, a reminder that the events were al in my head, and that I was safe here. "I just hope the missus didn't hear you. Wouldn't want her to think you was haunted."

"Not me," I said impatiently, picking up my bedclothes and tossing them back on the bed. I didn't like the implication of Mrs. Duckworth's col oquialisms, or that she was never quite able to produce a grammatical y correct sentence. "You mean the cabin is haunted. Which it's not," I said quickly.

"No, I meant you's haunted," Mrs. Duckworth said sagely. "You must have something in your mind that's troubling you. Not letting you rest." I looked down at the rough, uneven floorboards. It was true. Even though I had fled from home, I was stil haunted by visions from my past.

Sometimes, when I dreamt of Damon and myself as children, racing horses against each other through the Virginia woods, the dreamscapes were pleasant. Other times, they reminded me that even though I was destined to live on Earth for eternity, a part of me was always in hel .

"No matter," Mrs. Duckworth said, crisply brushing her hands together to create a loud clapping sound. "I was coming to fetch you for Sunday supper. The boys can't stop asking for you," she said, an affectionate smile on her face as she spoke of Luke and Oliver, the two young Abbott boys.

"Of course," I said. I loved Sunday suppers. They were casual and noisy, fil ed with delicious food and good-natured bickering between Luke and Oliver. Their father, George, would bounce four-year-old Emma, the youngest Abbott, on his knee, while their mother, Gertrude, would smile proudly at her brood. I'd sit at the far edge of the table, thankful that I, too, was part of the tableaux. They were just a normal family, enjoying a typical Sunday. And to me, there was nothing - not the finest mansions in San Francisco or the glittering, champagne-soaked bal s of New York City - that could possibly compare.

When I'd come to Abbott Manor last fal , I had only the shirt on my back and a horse I'd won in a game of cards at a portside bar just outside of Southampton. She'd been a black beauty who'd reminded me of Mezzanotte, my horse from my Virginia childhood. I'd named her Segreto, Italian for secret, and we spent the month roaming the countryside before arriving in Ivinghoe, a town about fifty miles outside of London. Looking for someone who would purchase Segreto, I'd been directed to George Abbott, who, upon hearing my careful y crafted tale of woe, had offered me both the price of the horse and a job as caretaker.

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