Origins (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.

"Vampire!" he roared, holding up a crudely made stake. Katherine writhed on the floor in pain, shrieking in a high-pitched tone I'd never heard before.

"Father!" I shouted, holding my hands up as he used his boot to prod Katherine. She moaned, her arms and legs kicking in opposite directions.

"Katherine!" I fell to my knees and held Katherine's body close in my arms. She shrieked, her eyes rolling back so all I could see was white. Foam appeared at the corner of her blood-caked lips, as though she were a rabid animal. I gaped in horror and let go, her body falling to the floor with a sickening thud.

I inched back, sitting on my heels and gazing at the ceiling as if in prayer. I couldn't face Katherine, and I couldn't face Father.

Katherine let out another high-pitched wail as Father prodded her with his stake. She reared up –foaming at the mouth, her fangs bared, her eyes wild and unseeing–before falling back in a writhing pile.

Bile rose in my throat. Who was this monster?

"Get up." Father dragged me to my feet. "Don't you see, Stefan? Don't you see her true nature?"

I gazed down at Katherine. Her dark curls were matted to her forehead by sweat, her dark eyes were wide and bloodshot, her teeth were covered with foam, and her entire body was shaking. I didn't recognize any part of her.

"Go get Sheriff Forbes. Tell him we have a vampire."

I stood transfixed in horror, unable to take a step in any direction. My head pounded, my thoughts whirled in a confused tangle. I loved Katherine. Loved her. Right? So why now did this … creature disgust me?

"I did not raise my sons to be weak," Father roared, shoving a bundle of vervain in my shirt pocket. "Now go!"

My breath came in deep rasps. The heat was suddenly stifling, unbearable. I couldn't breathe, couldn't think, couldn't do anything. All I knew was that I couldn't stand being in that room for one second longer. Without a backward glance at my father or at the vampire writhing on the floor, I rushed out of the house, taking the steps three at a time, and raced for the road.