Origins (Page 38)

"I know, Katherine!" I said half-hysterically. "But what if it’s too late? They have the brigade, they have their suspicions, they even have an invention designed to find vampires."

"What?" Katherine reared back. "An invention? Y didn’t tell me that," she said, her voice taking

ou on a note of accusation.

A hard lump settled in my chest as I explained Jonathan’s device. How had I failed to mention it to Katherine? Would she ever forgive me?

"Jonathan Gilbert." Katherine’s face twisted in contempt. "So that fool thinks he can just hunt us down? Like animals?"

I recoiled. I’d never heard Katherine use that harsh tone.

"I’m sorry," Katherine said in a more composed voice, as if she’d sensed the flicker of fear in my heart. "I’m sorry. It’s just … you simply can’t imagine what it’s like to be hunted."

"The voices seem to be quieting." I peeked through the shutters. The mob was indeed beginning to disperse, the flames becoming shaky dots in the inky black night. The danger was seemingly gone.

For now at least. But by next week, they’d have Jonathan’s invention. They’d have a list of vampires. And they’d find every single last one of them.

"Thank goodness." Katherine sank down onto the bed, pale as I’d ever seen her. A lone tear fell from her eye and trickled down her alabaster skin. I reached to wipe it away with my index finger, then gently touched my tongue to my skin, an echo of what I’d done at the Founders Ball. I sucked my finger, finding that her tears tasted salty. Human.

I pulled her to me, wrapping her in a tight embrace. I’m not sure how long we sat there, together. But as the faint light of the morning came through the windows, I stood up.

"I will stop it, Katherine. I will protect you to the death. I swear it."

Chapter 24

September 25, 1864

They say love can conquer all.

But can it conquer Father’s belief that Katherine and those like her are demons–devils?

I do not exaggerate when I say Katherine is an angel. She saved my life–and Anna’s. Father must know the truth. Once he does, he will be unable to deny Katherine’s goodness.

It is my duty as a Salvatore to stay true to my convictions and to the ones I love.

Now is the time for action, not doubt. Confidence courses through my veins. I will make Father understand the truth–that we are all the same. And with that truth will come love. Father will call off the siege.

This I swear on my name and my life. For the rest of the day, I sat at my desk in my bedroom, glancing at an empty notebook as I contemplated what to do. If Father knew Katherine was a vampire, he’d call off the hunt. He had to. I’d seen him laugh with Katherine, attempt to impress her with stories of his boyish antics back in Italy, and treat her as he’d have treated a daughter. Katherine gave my father a vigor I’d never seen in him. She gave my father life.

But how could I persuade him of this, when he so deeply despised demons? Then again, Father was rational. Logical. Maybe he could learn what Katherine had already taught me: that vampires weren’t all evil. They walked among us, they cried human tears; all they wanted was a true home –and to be loved.

Finally, I steeled my courage and stood up, closing the notebook with an abrupt clap. This wasn’t a schoolboy’s assignment, and I didn’t need notes to speak from my heart. I was ready to speak to Father man to man. After all, I was nearly eighteen, and he was planning to leave me Veritas.

I took a deep breath and walked down the winding staircase, through the quiet living room, and knocked sharply on the door to Father’s study.

"Come in!" Father’s muffled voice called. Before I had even put my hand on the knob, Father swung the door open himself. He wore a tailored jacket, with a sprig of vervain in the lapel, but I noticed that instead of being clean shaven, he sported salt-and-pepper stubble and his eyes were bloodshot and hooded.

"I didn’t see you last night at the ball," Father said as he ushered me into his study. "I hope you weren’t part of that noisy, careless mob."

"No." I shook my head vigorously, feeling a flicker of hope. Did this mean Father was no longer planning an attack?

"Good." Father sat at his oak desk and slammed his leather-bound book shut. Beneath it, I could see complicated drawings and diagrams of the town, with X’s over certain buildings, including the apothecary. And just like that, the flicker of hope was extinguished, and cold, hard fear took up residence in its place.

Father followed my gaze. "As you can see, our plans are much more thought-out than that foolish brigade of drunks and boys. Luckily Sheriff Forbes and his team put a stop to them, and none of them will be welcome at our own siege." Father sighed and steepled his fingers together. "We’re living in dangerous and uncertain times, and your actions need to reflect that." His dark eyes softened for a second. "I just want to make sure your decisions, at least, are prudent." He didn’t add "unlike Damon’s," but he didn’t have to. I knew that was what he was thinking.

"So the siege …" "Will happen next week as planned."

"What about the compass?" I asked, remembering the conversation with Katherine.

Father smiled. "It works. Jonathan’s been tinkering with it."

"Oh." A wave of horror rushed through me. If it worked, then that meant there was no doubt Father would find Katherine. "How do you know that it works?"

Father smiled and rolled up his papers. "Because it does," he said simply.

"Can I talk to you about something?" I asked, hoping my voice betrayed none of my nerves. An image of Katherine’s face flashed in my head, giving me the strength to lock eyes with Father.