Origins (Page 39)

"Of course. Sit down, Stefan," Father commanded. I perched in the leather wingback chair near the bookshelves. He stood up and walked over to the decanter of brandy on the corner table. He poured a glass for himself, then one for me.

I took the tumbler and held it to my lips, taking a tiny, almost imperceptible sip of the liquid. Then I steeled my courage and stared straight at him. "I have concerns about your plan for the vampires."

"Oh? And why is that?" Father leaned back against his chair.

I nervously took a large gulp of brandy. "We’re making the assumption that they’re as evil as they’ve been characterized. But what if that’s not true?" I asked, willing myself to meet Father’s gaze.

Father snorted. "Have you any evidence to the contrary?"

I shook my head. "Of course not. But why take what people say at face value? Y taught us

ou differently."

Father sighed and walked to his decanter, pouring more brandy. "Why? Because these creatures are from the darkest parts of hell. They know how to control your mind, seduce your spirit. They are deadly, and they need to be destroyed."

I glanced down at the amber liquid in my glass. It was as dark and murky as my thoughts.

Father tipped his glass to me. "I shouldn’t have to tell you, son, that those who stand with them, those who bring shame to their families, will be destroyed as well."

A chill went up my spine, but I held his gaze. "Anyone who stands with evil should be destroyed. But I hardly think it’s prudent to assume that all vampires are evil just because they happen to be vampires. Y always taught us to see the good in

ou people, to think for ourselves. The last thing this town needs, when there have already been so many deaths from the war, is more senseless killing," I said, remembering Pearl and Anna’s terrified expressions in the woods. "The Founders need to rethink the plan. I’ll come to the next meeting with you. I know I haven’t been as involved as I could have been, but I’m ready to take on my responsibilities."

Father sank back into his chair, leaning his head against the wooden back. He closed his eyes and massaged his temples. For several long moments he remained in that posture.

I waited, every muscle in my body coiled to receive the angry flurry of words that was sure to fly from his mouth. I stared dejectedly into my glass. I had failed. I had failed Katherine, Pearl, and Anna. I had failed at securing my own happy future.

Finally, Father’s eyes snapped open. To my surprise, he nodded. "I suppose I could give the matter some thought."

Cool relief flooded my body, as if I’d just jumped into the pond on a scorching summer day. He would give the matter some thought! To some, that might not seem to be much, but from my stubborn father, it meant everything. It meant there was a chance. A chance to stop sneaking around in the dark. A chance for Katherine to remain safe. For us to be together, forever.

Father lifted his glass to me. "To family."

"To family," I echoed.

Then Father drained the rest of his glass, which compelled me to do the same.

Chapter 25

Excitement coursed through my veins as I stole out of the house, across the dew-dropped lawn, and toward the carriage house. I slid past Emily, who held the door open for me, and bounded up the stairs. I no longer needed the candle to find my way to Katherine. There, in the bedroom, she was wearing her simple cotton nightdress and absentmindedly swinging a crystal necklace that sparkled in the moonlight.

"I think Father may be persuaded to call off the siege. At least he’s willing to talk. I know I’ll be able to change his mind," I exclaimed, twirling her around the room.

I expected her to clap with glee, for her smile to mirror my own. But instead Katherine disengaged herself from my grip and placed the crystal on her nightstand.

"I knew you were the man for the job," she said, not looking at me.

"Better than Damon?" I asked, unable to resist.

Finally Katherine smiled. "Y need to stop

ou comparing yourself to Damon." She stepped closer to me and grazed my cheek with her lips. I shivered with pleasure as Katherine pulled my body toward hers. I held her tightly, feeling her back through the thin cotton of her nightdress.

She kissed my lips, then my jaw, running her lips, feather light, down the curve of my neck. I moaned and pulled her even closer, needing to feel all of her against all of me. Then she plunged her teeth into my neck. I let out a strangled gasp of pain and ecstasy as I felt her teeth inside my skin, felt her draw blood from me. It felt as though a thousand knives were piercing my neck. Still I held her more tightly, wanting to feel her mouth on my skin, wanting to fully submit myself to the pain that fed her.

Just as suddenly as she bit me, Katherine broke away, her dark eyes on fire, agony etched on her face. A small stream of blood trickled from the corner of her lip, and her mouth twisted in excruciating pain. "Vervain," she gasped, stepping backward until she collapsed on the bed in pain. "What have you done?"

"Katherine!" I put my hands to her chest, my lips to her mouth, trying desperately to heal her the way she had healed me back in the forest. But she pushed me away, writhing on the bed, clutching her hands to her mouth. It was as if she were being tortured by an unseen hand. Tears of agony spilled from her eyes.

"Why did you do this?" Katherine clutched her throat and closed her eyes, her breath slowing into guttural gasps. Every anguished cry from Katherine felt like a small stake in my own heart.

"I didn’t! Father!" I shouted as the dizzying events of that evening occurred to me. My brandy. Father. He knew .

There was a clatter from downstairs, and then Father burst in.