Origins (Page 37)
"Shall we dance?" asked Katherine, taking my hand and pressing it to her cheek.
Through the crowded dance floor, I spotted Father, Mr. Cartwright, and the rest of the Founders whispering furiously in a far corner.
"No," I whispered huskily. "Let’s go home."
I grabbed Katherine’s shoulder, and we whirled around the dance floor until we reached the kitchen, where servants were busily preparing refreshments. Hand in hand, we tore through the kitchen–much to the confusion of the servants –and exited at the back of the house.
We sprinted into the night, oblivious to the cold air, the shrieks of laughter from the mansion, and the fact that we’d just run out on the social event of the season.
The coach was tied near the Lockwoods’ stable. Alfred was no doubt playing craps with the other servants. "After you, my lady," I said, lifting Katherine by the waist and placing her in the passenger seat. I hoisted myself up to the driver’s seat and cracked the whip, which immediately caused the horses to start clip-clopping in the direction of home.
I grinned at Katherine. We had an entire evening of freedom in front of us, and it was intoxicating. No having to sneak into the carriage house. No skirting the servants. Just hours of uninterrupted bliss.
"I love you!" I yelled, but the wind stole the words as soon as they left my mouth. I imagined them traveling with the breeze, floating through the entire world until every person in every town knew of my love.
Katherine stood up in the coach, her curls whipping wildly around her face. "I love you, too!" she shouted, and then collapsed into giggles on the seat.
By the time we got back to the carriage house, we were both sweaty and red-cheeked. The second we reached Katherine’s chambers, I pulled the dress off her slim frame and, seized by my passion, gently ran my teeth against her neck.
"What are you doing?" She stepped back and stared at me sharply.
"I’m just …" What was I doing? Playacting? Trying to seem as if Katherine and I were the same? "I guess I wanted to know how you feel when you …"
Katherine bit her lip. "Maybe someday you’ll find out, my innocent, sweet Stefan." She lay back on the bed, arranging her hair on the snow-white goose-down pillow. "But right now, all I want is you. "
I lay down next to her, tracing the curve of her chin with my index finger as I put my lips to hers. The kiss was so soft and tender that I felt her essence and mine combine, creating a force that was larger than ourselves. We explored each other’s bodies as if for the first time. In the dim light of her chambers, I was never sure where reality ended and my dreams began. There was no shame, no expectation, just passion and desire, and a sense of danger that was mysterious and beautiful and consuming.
That night, I would have allowed Katherine to consume me entirely and claim me for her own. I would have gladly offered up my neck if it meant that we could have stayed locked in that embrace for all of eternity.
That night, though, the embrace did end, and I fell into a black, dreamless sleep. But my mind and body jerked into sudden wakefulness when I heard a sharp clanging sound that seemed to reverberate through my limbs.
The words floated through the open window, chant-like. I crept to the window and creaked open the shutter. Outside, across the pond, there were flashes of fire, and I even heard the sound of rifles firing. Dark bodies moved en masse, like a swarm of locusts descending upon a cotton field.
I began to make out more and more words from the angry roar of the crowd. There had to be at least fifty men in attendance. Fifty drunken, angry, murderous men. I grabbed Katherine’s shoulder and began shaking her hard.
"Wake up!" I whispered urgently.
She sat up with a start. The whites of her eyes looked huge, and there were shadows beneath her eye sockets. "What is it? Is everything okay?" Her fingers fluttered to her necklace.
"No, it’s not okay," I whispered. "The brigade is out. They’re searching for vampires. They’re on the main road right now." I pointed out the window.
The yelling and shouts were getting closer. The fire blazed in the night, flames reaching toward the night sky like red daggers. Fear shot through me. This wasn’t supposed to be happening–not yet.
Katherine slipped out of bed, tucking the white quilt around her body, and closed the shutters with a bang. "Y father," she said, her voice hard.
I shook my head. It couldn’t be. "The siege is set for next week, and Father is not the type to deviate from an established plan."
"Stefan!" Katherine said sharply. "Y ou promised you would do something. Y have to ou stop this. These men don’t know what they’re fighting, and they don’t know how dangerous this is. If they keep doing this, people will get hurt."
"Dangerous?" I asked, rubbing my temple. I suddenly had a pounding headache. The shouting grew quieter now; it seemed the mob was pressing forward–or perhaps dispersing. I wondered if this was more a protest spurred by liquid courage than an actual siege.
"Not from me, but from whoever has launched these attacks." Katherine’s eyes met mine. "If the townspeople know what’s safe for them, what’s best for them, they’d stop the hunt. They’d allow us to resolve things. They’d allow us to find the source of the attacks."
I sat on the edge of the bed and rested my elbows against my knees, staring down at the worn wooden floorboards in dismay, as if I could find some sort of answer, some sort of way to stop what already seemed to be happening.
Katherine took my face in her hands. "I am entirely at your mercy. I need you to protect me. Please, Stefan."