Post Reply chapter 8
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Posted 5/22/10
Elena had gone into the bathroom dazed and numbly grateful. She came out angry.
She wasn't quite sure how the transformation had taken place. But sometime while she was washing the
scratches on her face and arms, annoyed at the lack of a mirror and at the fact she'd left her purse in
Tyler's convertible, she startedfeeling again. And what she felt was anger.
Damn Stefan Salvatore. So cold and controlled even while saving her life. Damn him for his politeness,
and for his gallantry, and for the walls around him that seemed thicker and higher than ever.
She pulled the remaining bobby pins out of her hair and used them to fasten the front of her dress
together. Then she ran through her loosened hair quickly with an engraved bone comb she found by the
sink. She came out of the bathroom with her chin held high and her eyes narrowed.
He hadn't put his coat back on. He was standing by the window in his white sweater with bowed head,
tense, waiting. Without lifting his head, he gestured to a length of dark velvet laid over the back of a chair.
"You might want to put that on over your dress."
It was a full-length cloak, very rich and soft, with a hood. Elena pulled the heavy material around her
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shoulders. But she was not mollified by the gift; she noticed that Stefan hadn't come any closer to her, or
even looked at her while speaking.
Deliberately, she invaded his territorial space, pulling the cloak more tightly about her and feeling, even at
that moment, a sensual appreciation of the way the folds fell about her, trailing behind her on the floor.
She walked up to him and made an examination of the heavy mahogany dresser by the window.
On it lay a wicked-looking dagger with an ivory hilt and a beautiful agate cup mounted in silver. There
were also a golden sphere with some sort of dial set into it and several loose gold coins.
She picked up one of the coins, partly because it was interesting and partly because she knew it would
upset him to see her handling his things. "What's this?"
It was a moment before he answered. Then he said:
"A gold florin. A Florentine coin."
"And what's this?"
"A German pendant watch. Late fifteenth century," he said distractedly. He added, "Elena—"
She reached for a small iron coffer with a hinged lid. "What about this? Does it open?"
"No." He had the reflexes of a cat; his hand slapped over the coffer, holding the lid down. "That's
private," he said, the strain obvious in his voice.
She noticed that his hand made contact only with the curving iron lid and not with her flesh. She lifted her
fingers, and he drew back at once.
Suddenly, her anger was too great to hold in any longer. "Careful," she said savagely. "Don't touch me,
or you might get a disease."
He turned away toward the window.
And yet even as she moved away herself, walking back to the center of the room, she could sense his
watching her reflection. And she knew, suddenly, what she must look like to him, pale hair spilling over
the blackness of the cape, one white hand holding the velvet closed at her throat. A ravaged princess
pacing in her tower.
She tilted her head far back to look at the trapdoor in the ceiling, and heard a soft, distinct intake of
breath. When she turned, his gaze was fixed on her exposed throat; the look in his eyes confused her.
But the next moment his face hardened, closing her out.
"I think," he said, "that I had better get you home."
In that instant, she wanted to hurt him, to make him feel as bad as he'd made her feel. But she also
wanted the truth. She was tired of this game, tired of scheming and plotting and trying to read Stefan
Salvatore's mind. It was terrifying and yet a wonderful relief to hear her own voice saying the words she'd
been thinking so long.
"Why do you hate me?"
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He stared at her. For a moment he couldn't seem to find words. Then he said, "I don't hate you."
"You do," said Elena. "I know it's not… not good manners to say it, but I don't care. I know I should be
grateful to you for saving me tonight, but I don't care about that, either. I didn't ask you to save me. I
don't know why you were even in the graveyard in the first place. And I certainly don't understand why
you did it, considering the way you feel about me."
He was shaking his head, but his voice was soft. "I don't hate you."
"From the very beginning, you've avoided me as if I were… were some kind of leper. I tried to be
friendly to you, and you threw it back in my face. Is that what agentleman does when someone tries to
welcome him?"
He was trying to say something now, but she swept on, heedless. "You've snubbed me in public time
after time; you've humiliated me at school. You wouldn't be speaking to me now if it hadn't been a matter
of life or death. Is that what it takes to get a word out of you? Does someone have to nearly be
murdered?
"And even now," she continued bitterly, "you don't want me to get anywhere near you. What's the matter
with you, Stefan Salvatore, that you have to live this way? That you have to build walls against other
people to keep them out? That you can't trust anyone?What's wrong with you ?"
He was silent now, his face averted. She took adeep breath and then straightened her shoulders,
holding her head up even though her eyes were sore and burning. "And what's wrong withme ," she
added, more quietly, "that you can't even look at me, but you can let Caroline Forbes fall all over you? I
have a right to know that, at least. I won't ever bother you again, I won't even talk to you at school, but I
want to know the truth before I go. Why do you hate me so much, Stefan?"
Slowly, he turned and raised his head. His eyes were bleak, sightless, and something twisted in Elena at
the pain she saw on his face.
His voice was still controlled—but barely. She could hear the effort it cost him to keep it steady.
"Yes," he said, "I think you do have a right to know. Elena." He looked at her then, meeting her eyes
directly, and she thought, That bad? What could be as bad as that? "I don't hate you," he continued,
pronouncing each word carefully, distinctly. "I've never hated you. But you… remind me of someone."
Elena was taken aback. Whatever she'd expected, it wasn't this. "I remind you of someone else you
know?"
"Of someone I knew," he said quietly. "But," he added slowly, as if puzzling something out for himself,
"you're not like her, really. She looked like you, but she was fragile, delicate. Vulnerable. Inside as well
as out."
"And I'm not."
He made a sound that would have been a laugh if there had been any humor in it. "No. You're a fighter.
You are… yourself."
Elena was silent for a moment. She could not keep hold of her anger, seeing the pain on his face. "You
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were very close to her?"
"Yes."
"What happened?"
There was a long pause, so long that Elena thought he wasn't going to answer her. But at last he said,
"She died."
Elena let out a tremulous breath. The last of her anger folded up and disappeared from under her. "That
must have hurt terribly," she said softly, thinking of the white Gilbert headstone among the rye grass. "I'm
so sorry."
He said nothing. His face had closed again, and he seemed to be looking far away at something,
something terrible and heartbreaking that only he could see. But there was not just grief in his expression.
Through the walls, through all his trembling control, she could see the tortured look of unbearable guilt
and loneliness. A look so lost and haunted that she had moved to his side before she knew what she was
doing.
"Stefan," she whispered. He didn't seem to hear her; he seemed to be adrift in his own world of misery.
She could not stop herself from laying a hand on his arm. "Stefan, I know how it can hurt—"
"Youcan't know," he exploded, all his quietness erupting into white rage. He looked down at her hand
as if just realizing it was there, as if infuriated at her effrontery in touching him. His green eyes were
dilated and dark as he shook her hand off, flinging a hand up to bar her from touching him again—
—and somehow, instead, he was holding her hand, his fingers tightly interlocked with hers, hanging on
for dear life. He looked down at their locked hands in bewilderment. Then, slowly, his gaze moved from
their clasping fingers to her face.
"Elena…" he whispered.
And then she saw it, the anguish shattering his gaze, as if he simply couldn't fight any longer. The defeat
as the walls finally crumbled and she saw what was underneath.
And then, helplessly, he bent his head down to her lips.
"Wait—stop here," said Bonnie. "I thought I saw something."
Matt's battered Ford slowed, edging toward the side of the road, where brambles and bushes grew
thickly. Something white glimmered there, coming toward them.
"Oh, my God," said Meredith. "It's Vickie Bennett."
The girl stumbled into the path of the headlights and stood there, wavering, as Matt hit the brakes. Her
light-brown hair was tangled and in disarray, and her eyes stared glassily out of a face that was smudged
and grimy with dirt. She was wearing only a thin white slip.
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"Get her in the car," said Matt. Meredith was already opening the car door. She jumped out and ran up
to the dazed girl.
"Vickie, are you all right? What happened to you?"
Vickie moaned, still looking straight ahead. Then she suddenly seemed to see Meredith, and she
clutched at her, digging her nails into Meredith's arms.
"Get out of here," she said, her eyes filled with desperate intensity, her voice strange and thick, as if she
had something in her mouth. "All of you—get out of here! It's coming."
"What's coming? Vickie, where is Elena?"
"Get outnow . …"
Meredith looked down the road, then led the shaking girl back to the car. "We'll take you away," she
said, "but you have to tell us what's happened. Bonnie, give me your wrap. She's freezing."
"She's been hurt," said Matt grimly. "And she's in shock or something. The question is, where are the
others? Vickie, was Elena with you?"
Vickie sobbed, putting her hands over her face as Meredith settled Bonnie's iridescent pink wrap around
her shoulders. "No… Dick," she said indistinctly. It seemed to hurt her to speak. "We were in the
church… it was horrible. It came… like mist all around. Dark mist. And eyes. I saw its eyes in the dark
there, burning. They burnt me…"
"She's delirious," said Bonnie. "Or hysterical, or whatever you call it."
Matt spoke slowly and clearly. "Vickie, please, just tell us one thing. Where is Elena? What happened to
her?"
"I don'tknow ." Vickie lifted a tear-stained face to the sky. "Dick and I—we were alone. We were…
and then suddenly it was all around us. I couldn't run. Elena said the tomb had opened. Maybe that was
where it came from. It was horrible…"
"They were in the cemetery, in the ruined church," Meredith interpreted. "And Elena was with them. And
look at this." In the overhead light, they could all see the deep fresh scratches running down Vickie's neck
to the lace bodice of her slip.
"They look like animal marks," said Bonnie. "Like the marks of cat's claws, maybe."
"No cat got that old man under the bridge," said Matt. His face was pale, and muscles stood out in his
jaw. Meredith followed his gaze down the road and then shook her head.
"Matt, we have to take her back first. Wehave to," she said. "Listen to me, I'm as worried about Elena
as you are. But Vickie needs a doctor, and we need to call the police. We don't have any choice. We
have to go back."
Matt stared down the road for another long moment, then let out his breath in a hiss. Slamming the door
shut, he put the car into gear and turned it around, each motion violent.
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All the way back to town, Vickie moaned about the eyes.
Elena felt Stefan's lips meet hers.
And… it was as simple as that. All questions answered, all fears put to rest, all doubts removed. What
she felt was not merely passion, but a bruising tenderness and a love so strong it made her shake inside.
It would have been frightening in its intensity, except that while she was with him, she could not be afraid
of anything.
She had come home.
This was where she belonged, and she had found it at last. With Stefan, she was home.
He pulled back slightly, and she could feel that he was trembling.
"Oh, Elena," he whispered against her lips. We can't—
"We already have," she whispered, and drew him back down again.
It was almost as if she could hear his thoughts, could feel his feelings. Pleasure and desire raced between
them, connecting them, drawing them closer. And Elena sensed, too, a wellspring of deeper emotions
within him. He wanted to hold her forever, to protect her from all harm. He wanted to defend her from
any evil that threatened her. He wanted to join his life with hers.
She felt the tender pressure of his lips on hers, and she could hardly bear the sweetness of it.Yes , she
thought. Sensation rippled through her like waves on a still, clear pond. She was drowning in it, both the
joy she sensed in Stefan and the delicious answering surge in herself. Stefan's love bathed her, shone
through her, lighting every dark place in her soul like the sun. She trembled with pleasure, with love, and
with longing.
He drew back slowly, as if he could not bear to part from her, and they looked into each other's eyes
with wondering joy.
They did not speak. There was no need for words. He stroked her hair, with a touch so light that she
could scarcely feel it, as if he was afraid she might break in his hands. She knew, then, that it had not
been hatred that had made him avoid her for so long. No, it had not been hatred at all.
Elena had no idea how much later it was that they quietly went down the stairs of the boarding house. At
any other time, she would have been thrilled to get into Stefan's sleek black car, but tonight she scarcely
noticed it. He held her hand as they drove through the deserted streets.
The first thing Elena saw as they approached her house was the lights.
"It's the police," she said, finding her voice with some difficulty. It was odd to talk after being silent so
long. "And that's Robert's car in the driveway, and there's Matt's," she said. She looked at Stefan, and
the peace that had filled her suddenly seemed fragile. "I wonder what happened. You don't suppose
Tyler's already told them… ?"
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"Even Tyler wouldn't be that stupid," said Stefan.
He pulled up behind one of the police cars, and reluctantly Elena unclasped her hand from his. She
wished with all her heart that she and Stefan could just be alone together, that they would never need to
face the world.
But there was no help for it. They walked up the pathway to the door, which was open. Inside, the
house was a blaze of lights.
Entering, Elena saw what seemed like dozens of faces turned toward her. She had a sudden vision of
what she must look like, standing there in the doorway in the sweeping black velvet cloak, with Stefan
Salvatore at her side. And then Aunt Judith gave a cry and was holding her in her arms, shaking her and
hugging her all at once.
"Elena! Oh, thank God you're safe. But where have you been? And why didn't you call? Do you realize
what you've put everyone through?"
Elena stared around the room in bewilderment. She didn't understand a thing.
"We're just glad to see you back," said Robert.
"I've been at the boarding house, with Stefan," she said slowly. "Aunt Judith, this is Stefan Salvatore; he
rents a room there. He brought me back."
"Thank you," said Aunt Judith to Stefan over Elena's head. Then, pulling back to look at Elena, she said,
"But your dress, your hair—what happened?"
"You don't know? Then Tyler didn't tell you. But then why are the police here?" Elena edged toward
Stefan instinctively, and she felt him move closer to her in protection.
"They're here because Vickie Bennett was attacked in the cemetery tonight," said Matt. He and Bonnie
and Meredith were standing behind Aunt Judith and Robert, looking relieved and a little awkward and
more than a little tired. "We found her maybe two, three hours ago, and we've been looking for you ever
since."
"Attacked?" said Elena, stunned. "Attacked by what?"
"Nobody knows," said Meredith.
"Well, now, it may be nothing to worry about," said Robert comfortingly. "The doctor said she'd had a
bad scare, and that she'd been drinking. The whole thing may have been in her imagination."
"Those scratches weren't imaginary," said Matt, polite but stubborn.
"What scratches? What are you talking about?" Elena demanded, looking from one face to another.
"I'll tell you," said Meredith, and she explained, succinctly, how she and the others had found Vickie.
"She kept saying she didn't know where you were, that she was alone with Dick when it happened. And
when we got her back here, the doctor said he couldn't find anything conclusive. She wasn't really hurt
except for the scratches, and they could have been from a cat."
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"There were no other marks on her?" said Stefan sharply. It was the first time he'd spoken since entering
the house, and Elena looked at him, surprised by his tone.
"No," said Meredith. "Of course, a cat didn't tear her clothes off—but Dick might have. Oh, and her
tongue was bitten."
"What?" said Elena.
"Badly bitten, I mean. It must have bled a lot, and it hurts her to talk now."
Beside Elena, Stefan had gone very still. "Did she have any explanation for what happened?"
"She was hysterical," Matt said. "Really hysterical; she wasn't making any sense. She kept babbling
about eyes and dark mist and not being able to run—which is why the doctor thinks maybe it was some
sort of hallucination. But as far as anyone can make out, the facts are that she and Dick Carter were in
the ruined church by the cemetery at about midnight, and that something came in and attacked her there."
Bonnie added, "It didn't attack Dick, which at least shows it had, some taste. The police found him
passed out on the church floor, and he doesn't remember a thing."
But Elena scarcely heard the last words. Something had gone terribly wrong with Stefan. She couldn't
tell how she knew it, but she knew. He had stiffened as Matt finished speaking, and now, though he
hadn't moved, she felt as if a great distance was separating them, as if she and he were on opposite sides
of a rifting, cracking floe of ice.
He said, in the terribly controlled voice she had heard before in his room, "In the church, Matt?"
"Yes, in the ruined church," Matt said.
"And you're sure she said it was midnight?"
"She couldn't be positive, but it must have been sometime around then. We found her not long after.
Why?"
Stefan said nothing. Elena could feel the gulf between them widening. "Stefan," she whispered. Then,
aloud, she said desperately, "Stefan, what is it?"
He shook his head. Don't shut me out, she thought, but he wouldn't even look at her. "Will she live?" he
asked abruptly.
"The doctor said there was nothing much wrong with her," Matt said. "Nobody's even suggested she
might die."
Stefan's nod was abrupt; then he turned to Elena. "I've got to go," he said. "You're safe now."
She caught his hand as he turned away. "Of course I'm safe," she said. "Because of you."
"Yes," he said. But there was no response in his eyes. They were shielded, dull.
"Call me tomorrow." She squeezed his hand, trying to convey what she felt under the scrutiny of all those
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watching eyes. She willed him to understand.
He looked down at their hands with no expression at all, then, slowly, back up at her. And then, at last,
he returned the pressure of her fingers. "Yes, Elena," he whispered, his eyes clinging to hers. The next
minute he was gone.
She took a deep breath and turned back to the crowded room. Aunt Judith was still hovering, her gaze
fixed on what could be seen of Elena's torn dress underneath the cloak.
"Elena," she said, "whathappened ?" And her eyes went to the door through which Stefan had just left.
A sort of hysterical laughter surged up in Elena's throat, and she chokedit back. "Stefan didn't do it," she
said. "Stefan saved me." She felt her face harden, and she looked at the police officer behind Aunt Judith.
"It was Tyler, Tyler Smallwood…"
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