Home > The Ripper (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #4)(3)

The Ripper (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #4)(3)
Author: L.J. Smith

"You best hurry up," Mrs. Duckworth said, interrupting my memory. She strode out of my cottage, closing the door with a thud.

I glanced hastily at my reflection in the looking glass that hung over my simple chest of drawers. I quickly slicked my brown hair back and ran my tongue over my gums. My fangs rarely made an appearance anymore, at least not in my waking hours. I'd even taken to hunting my prey with a bow and arrow, then draining the blood into a glass and drinking it as I relaxed by the fire. I remember how my friend Lexi had tried and tried to get me to take goat's blood tea, back when I was a young vampire, wreaking havoc on the city of New Orleans. Back then, I'd resisted, thinking goat's blood was an affront to what blood should taste like - rich, sweet, human.

If only she could see me now, I thought rueful y. I sometimes wished that she was here, especial y during the long, dark nights. It would be nice to have someone to talk to, and Lexi was a true friend. But she and I had parted ways upon reaching Britain. She'd decided to go on to the Continent, while I chose to stay and see what the country had to offer. It was just as wel . Although we'd parted on good terms, I could sense sometimes she grew impatient with my melancholic disposition. I didn't blame her. I grew impatient with myself, too, wishing that I could simply move on. I wished I could flirt with Daisy without fear of my fangs making an appearance. I wished I could discuss my former life in America with George without letting slip that I'd been alive during the Civil War. And I wished, more than anything, I could erase Damon from my mind. I felt that being by myself and on my own two feet was what I needed to move forward. Until one nightmare would send me back into my misery.

But only if I let it. I'd learned that memories were just that - memories. They had no power to hurt me, unless I let them. I learned that I could trust humans. And late at night, my body warmed by badger blood and listening to the sounds of the forest come to life, I felt almost happy.

There was little excitement and adventure. What there was - and what I was thankful for - was routine. The job was much like what I'd been doing in my youth in Virginia, back when Father had been priming me to take over Veritas Estate. I bought livestock, oversaw the horses, and mended anything that might need fixing. I knew George approved of my work, and we were even going into London tomorrow to discuss the finances of the farm, a true sign of his trust in me. In fact, the entire Abbott family seemed to like me, and I was surprised to find how much I liked them. I knew in a few years I'd have to move on, since they'd soon notice that I wasn't aging as they were. But I could stil enjoy the time I had left.

Hastily, I pul ed on a merino-wool jacket, one of the many items of clothing George had given me in the few short months I'd been at Abbott Manor. Indeed, he often said he thought of me like a son, a sentiment which simultaneously warmed and amused me. If only he knew that he was actual y a few years younger than me. He took his position as a father figure seriously, and although he could never replace my real father, I welcomed the gesture.

Not bothering to lock the door to my cottage, I strode up the hil to the house, whistling a nameless tune. Only as I got to the chorus did I realize its origin - it was "God Save the South," one of Damon's favorites.

Grimacing, I mashed my lips together and practical y ran the remaining steps to the rear door of the manor. After twenty years, any recol ection of Damon was as sharp and abrupt as a clap of thunder on a dry, hot summer day. I stil remembered him - his brooding blue eyes, his lopsided smile, and his sarcasm-tinged Southern accent - as vividly as if I'd only seen him ten minutes ago. Who knew where he was now?

He could even be dead. The possibility sprang into my mind out of nowhere. I uneasily shook off the thought.

Arriving at the house, I swung open the door. The Abbotts never kept it locked. There was no need. The next house was five miles down the road, the town another two beyond that. Even then, the town only consisted of a pub, post office, and train station. There was nowhere safer in al of England.

"Stefan, my boy!" George cal ed eagerly, striding into the foyer from the sitting room. Giddy and already a little drunk on pre-supper sherry, George was flushed and seemed even more rotund than last week.

"Hel o, sir!" I said enthusiastical y, glancing down at him. He stood at only a little bit above five feet, and his bulk seemed to be his way of making up for his short stature. Indeed, sometimes I worried for the horses when it struck George's fancy to go for a ride in the woods.

But even though the other servants occasional y mocked him for his unwieldy body and fondness for drink, I saw in him nothing but friendliness and goodwil . He'd taken me in when I had nothing, and not only had he given me a roof over my head, but he'd given me hope that I could find companionship with humans again.

"Spot of sherry?" George asked, pul ing me out of my reverie.

"Of course," I said amiably, as I settled into one of the comfortable red velvet chairs in the sitting room, a smal and homey space with Oriental rugs covered in dog hair. Gertrude Abbott had a soft spot for the farm dogs, and would let them inside the Manor whenever it rained - which was nearly every day. The wal s were covered with portraits of Abbott relatives, identifiable by their dimples. That made al of them, even a stern portrait of Great-uncle Martin, who stood watch over the bar in the corner, seem almost friendly.

"Stefan!" A lisping voice shrieked as the two Abbott boys tumbled into the room. First came Luke, devious and dark-haired, with a cowlick that simply wouldn't behave no matter how much his mother pushed it down against his forehead. Oliver fol owed, a seven-year-old with straw-colored hair and skinned knees.

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