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Illusion (Chapter 10 Wrong Until You Make It Right)

When the room started to come back into focus, the first thing I felt was the back of my head throbbing. Attempting a groan, it was muffled, my mouth gagged, a cloth shoved between my lips. And my hands and feet…they were numb from the tight cord that had them bound, tied behind my back and strapped to a chair in the kitchen. The events leading up to this started to come back to me, flooding my brain in an overload of information. The last thing I remembered was seeing Anna's eyes widen in surprise and feeling the impact of the blow when everything went dark.

Anna and Lukas! Where were they?!? I instantly lost the last of the grogginess that was fogging my brain and forced myself to think. Bringing down my shields, I concentrated on trying to sense her emotions. Immediately I was bombarded with her overwhelming fear, her panic mixing with my own, amplifying and intensifying my own terror. Attempting to free my hands from my restraints, I heard a deep, condescending laugh from behind me. Struggling even harder, a male voice spoke, heavily accentuated with a Southern accent.

"You can't get away and you're wasting your time and energy. Are you looking for this?"

Derek stepped into my line of vision, gripping Anna by the back of her neck. Her hands were tied in front of her and as he thrust her ahead of him, I noticed that her face was streaked with tears and blood was running from one side of her nose, her cheek bruised and swollen.

"We meet again, Josephine. I'll remove your gag as long as your promise to remain quiet. One shout, one scream, and your friend dies. Got it?"

Glancing from Derek to Anna, a solitary tear escaped from my eye and ran down my face as I nodded to him.

Derek reached and yanked the rag from my mouth. I wearily watched Derek as he stepped back, still holding on to Anna tightly.

"Good girl." He forcefully shoved Anna to the kitchen floor and she fell at my feet, her muffled cries of fear and pain renewing my efforts to get myself free. I frantically twisted and turned my wrists until they burned and I could feel the wetness of my blood trickle down my wrists.

"Humans are so easy to fool. Even half-breeds like you and your idiotic brother aren't much better." Derek's voice distracted me for a moment, my eyes scrutinizing him as he wandered around the the room, stopping to pick up random items. As I observed him, the thought crossed my mind that if he wasn't such an arrogant, evil psychopath he'd be handsome with his dark hair and gray eyes.

I closed my eyes for a moment and tried to push my shield out to see if I could wrap it around Derek. Either I needed my hands to control it, or I was too frightened. My numerous attempts to direct it seemed useless. Sighing in defeat, I opened my eyes to resume watching him as he leisurely strolled around the kitchen.

Derek pulled another chair across the floor, the legs scraping loudly across the wood floor as he pushed it to sit directly in front of me. He leaned back, his gray eyes cold as steel as they looked over me. He then let his cold stare flicker to Anna, who was trying to hide behind my legs the best she could with her hands restrained.

"What exactly do you want, Derek?" I rasped. My throat was parched and dry from the gag that had been shoved in my mouth.

"What do I want? I'd enjoy this more if Stefan was here beside you. Unfortunately for your friend, she happened to be in the right place at the wrong time."

He laughed again, his head falling backwards against the chair, his grating cackle echoing throughout the villa. He was still snickering as reached over and grabbed Anna by her hair and pulled her between his legs, his fangs at her neck. Her eyes went wide with fear and her entire body trembled as he let his fangs drag across her skin.

Derek wanted me, not Anna. She was a pawn in this sick game he was playing. A desperate mixture of dread and terror settled over me as I fully realized the seriousness of the situation we were in. "Anna, I'm so sorry."

"Save your sorries. I've been sent to do a job. I was supposed to bring you back. I've decided that I'm going to say I had no choice but to kill you both." He released Anna's hair and she dropped back to the floor. I repeatedly pulled at my restraints, wincing as the cord dug deeper into my wrists.

"Who sent you, Derek? And where is Lukas?" I asked, trying to keep him talking. The longer I could keep him occupied with conversation, the more time it kept us breathing.

Derek picked up an old magazine from the table and flipped through the pages, not really focusing on any of the articles. Without looking up, he snorted. "Like I'm going to tell you anything. You don't know what my ability is, do you? Lukas was never here, I simply took on his form. I can shift into any vampire I choose. It's a handy talent to have since you both bought it."

He puffed up his chest and smiled smugly. Prick. He hadn't totally fooled me. I thought back to how strange Lukas' behavior was earlier. It didn't make sense then, although now it made my earlier suspicions seem justified.

"Derek, you know who my father is. If he finds out what you've done you'll meet your final death. And if Kian doesn't kill you, Stefan will finish you. Let us go now and it's over," I whispered, hoping he'd buy my lie.

Stefan would never let this go. He'd follow Derek into the depths of hell to have his revenge and Derek was smart enough to know it. I was simply stalling, trying to keep him talking and his brain, regardless of how little, occupied. I wondered how much time I could buy Anna and myself before Stefan realized I missing? Would we still be alive? Derek had been able to sneak around Stefan's ability somehow too. But how?

He closed the magazine, slapping his hand on the table with so much force that the wood splintered under the pressure. Anna and I both jumped and she cowered against me, letting out another terrified sob.

"You. You are nothing! You use Kian's name and your heritage when it suits you and you turn your back on your father any other time." His voice faded, raising an eyebrow as a thought occurred to him. A cruel smile broke over his face. "Stefan will be too preoccupied mourning your unfortunate demise to worry about killing me. If I'm lucky, he'll seek out his own death. Pussy," Derek jeered, his words laced with hatred and resentment.

A new emotion surged through me. Anger. I struggled to remain calm, trying to concentrate on strategies to keep him talking, aware that it would be the only chance we stood to make it out of here alive. Derek was hell bent on killing us, regardless of the consequence.

"Derek, let Anna go," I begged. "She has nothing to do with this."

A terrifying, reptilian smile broke over his face, his grin so wide it nearly split his face. "Why would I do that? I don't want her precious blood go to waste, silly girl." He clicked his tongue against his fangs. "I'm going to make you watch me slowly drain your friend until she dies. You can see her life fade away while you sit there, helpless. I'm going to take my time with you, Josephine. It's a pity Stefan won't be here to watch you die."

I swallowed roughly and the room went out of focus as his words washed over me. It wasn't a matter of how I was going to die, it was when. It was a waste of time trying to talk him into sparing Anna's life, or my own. He had no humanity left inside of him. He was simply a cold blooded, sadistic killer.

Even though I knew it was pointless, I started to chant Stefan's name over and over like a mantra in my mind, praying that somehow it would get him to me faster. It helped me focus on staying present instead of letting panic totally overtake me when I needed to keep my mind focused.

Derek leaned forward with a sneer on his face. "I know all about your meeting with Nigel and your brother about your whore of a mother," Derek spat, crossing his legs at his ankles. "Did Nigel tell you how he fucked her while she was still married to your father? If Nigel wasn't so important to the Council, he'd have met his final death as well. Your mother was easy to dispose of. Humans always are."

Shrugging off his words, I struggled to keep my face neutral. "Nigel told me everything. And what Nigel didn't tell me, Nikolaus showed me."

This seemed to intrigue him and his eyes flashed to me. "What do you mean he 'showed you'?"

I let out a hoarse laugh. "Kian doesn't know what Nikolaus can do, Derek. He can read Kian's tiny mind like a book. I know everything…and I mean everything. So does Stefan…and Lukas. And you know how Lukas is. He likes to talk. A lot."

Derek's smug expression faded. A look of disbelief took its place. "What are you talking about?"

"Do I have to spell it out for you? Nikolaus can read human and vampire minds, Derek. He can also transfer the thoughts, at least to me. He showed me everything my father has done. Even the things I didn't ever want to see." I leaned forward as far as I could, waggling my eyebrows and lowering my already hoarse voice to a whisper. "You know, private things."

"You know nothing!" His eyes narrowed and he glanced between Anna and myself, as if he was engaging some sort of internal battle. Derek blurred to Anna and sunk his fangs into her neck, swallowing deep mouthfuls of her blood. Anna tried futilely to get away, straining against him.

"No! She's innocent!" I cried out, pulling against my restraints. The chair wobbled in my futile effort to try to free myself and get to Anna.

She sagged against him as her strength started to wane and Derek let her fall from his arms. He ripped his teeth from her neck, leaving gaping holes in her throat, her blood running down her neck to drip slowly on the floor by my shoes.

Watching her blood drip from her neck, I did the only thing I could do for her. I needed to distract Derek, keep him occupied in talking. If he chose to drink from Anna again, he'd kill her. Playing my final card, I revealed the secret I knew would bother Derek the most.

"I know my mother may have cheated on Kian, but he was no better. He flaunted women in front of her and…oh, never mind." My voice faltered and I looked away.

Derek was at my side before I could blink. He yanked my head backwards so I was forced to look at him. "Start talking. What do you know?"

"I just didn't realize you swung that way, Derek. I have to admit, it was a shock to find out you were Kian's little play thing until I saw it all play out in my brother's mind. Nikolaus has a vivid memory and pays attention to details. Like the juicy little tidbit about you and my father. You slept with Kian while my mother was still alive. Numerous times." I smiled brazenly, bracing myself for his wrath, aware that it would more than likely involve pain. "Was it just about the power, or do you love actually love him? Kian doesn't give a shit about you. You know that, right? You're a piece of ass to him. So tell me Derek, who's the whore now?"

He backhanded me, the force tipping the chair backwards. My head slammed against the side of the table, my cheek stinging from the impact of his hand. I saw double, the room spinning as I struggled to stay conscious. Stefan's face flashed in my mind and I focused on his image, willing myself to keep fighting. I promised Stefan I wouldn't let anyone separate us. I was going to do everything in my power to keep myself alive as long as I could.

Derek grabbed my hair and pulled me upright by the hair. Biting the inside of my lip to stifle my cry, I refused to let him know the amount of pain I was in. He leaned close to whisper in my ear, his voice a condescending song. "Look Josephine, your friend is almost dead. Soon you'll get to join her."

Cringing under the weight of his body and fangs against my neck, the door to the villa flew open, startling Derek. Stefan momentarily darkened the doorway, becoming a streak of blond as he blurred through the room, his powerful body colliding with Derek's as he was yanked from me, the momentum of Stefan's speed crushing him against the wall.

Stefan had him by the neck, his large hand wrapped around the smaller vampire's throat. His blue eyes were dark as he glanced away from Derek to focus on me. "Josephine, did he harm you?"

Tears filled my eyes as I struggled to find my voice. "I'm fine. Stefan…"

"Lukas, take care of her while I finish this." Stefan focused back on Derek, his deep voice missing its normal inflection. The Enforcer had surfaced and Stefan had taken a backseat to his other side, the dark part of himself I'd never seen. I felt his mind close off from mine, severing the link between us.

Lukas sped to my side and ripped the thick cords away with his fingers, freeing my hands and legs. Rubbing my already healing wrists, I collapsed to the floor to cradle Anna in my arms, pulling the gag from her mouth. She stirred weakly and coughed, her eyelids fluttering and blood leaking from the corner of her mouth.

I looked at Lukas anxiously. "Lukas, she's dying."

Lukas was motionless as he stared down at Anna in horror. He covered his mouth with his hand and looked at me with his frightened, arctic blue eyes.

"Lukas, you have to help me!" I shrieked at him frantically. "Look at her!"

He shuddered and shook his head. "I'll kill her, Josie. I won't be able to stop. I can't do it."

Gasping back a sob, I held Anna closer to me. I smoothed her hair back from her pale, clammy face as I spoke to her and put my hand against her neck, applying pressure to try to stop the flow of blood. "Don't you die on me, Anna. Hold on, please hold on."

Derek's sudden scream of pain brought my attention back to the one-sided battle playing out in front of me. Stefan was slowly and systematically torturing Derek, inflicting blow after brutal blow to Derek's face and torso. He was unrecognizable, his eyes almost swollen shut and his lips split and bloody. Stefan stopped his punishing attack and gripped Derek's right arm. He leaned down so his face loomed in front of him, his expression deadly and calm.

"I had hoped that when I had my opportunity to kill you I would have more time to torture you. However, we have a plane to catch. This is for touching what is mine," Stefan growled as he ripped the arm from the socket, the sound making a wet, snapping noise. He let the limb fall from his hand to roll across the kitchen floor, the fingers of Derek's hand still twitching.

Derek's face contorted in pain, letting out an anguished scream as he dropped to his knees in front of Stefan. "Please, no more. I'll give you anything you want."

Stefan's expression never changed but his voice dripped with contempt as he spoke. "Look at you. You beg and cry like a child. You had no issue torturing my mate and her friend. Neither begged as you do now. The only thing you can offer me in return for their pain is your agony. This is for hurting what is mine."

Stefan slammed his fist repeatedly into Derek's sternum in a series of powerful blows. Derek fell backwards to the floor, making a futile attempt to pull himself away with his one remaining arm.

"You cannot leave now, Derek. We are just beginning to have fun." Stefan took a step and placed his enormous boot against Derek's chest, stopping his failed escape. Stefan reached down to yank Derek's other arm off with one swift pull, ignoring his tortured wail as he carelessly tossed it over his shoulder to join the other appendage.

There was a part of me that knew I should be disgusted and should look away. Instead, I stared transfixed as Stefan grasped him by his torn and bloody shirt, jerking him to his feet. He held Derek's head in his large hands. A menacing smile was on Stefan's lips as he brought Derek's face within inches of his. Derek tried to instinctively recoil from him, making Stefan snicker with enjoyment as resignation flashed across Derek's face.

"Here we are again, Derek. How many centuries have we danced around your death? You have been lucky. Each time your life was spared by the Board because of your talent." Stefan taunted coldly. "This time there is no one to save you. You attacked my mate and now your life is mine to dispose of. The fate of your life…your depraved, vile existence is in my willing hands."

Stefan's voice lowered to a murmur. "M? gudarna skicka dig direkt till helvetet." With a flick of his wrists, Derek's head detached from his neck with a sickening crunch. His body began disintegrating as it fell to the floor, slowly turning into a pile of ash. Stefan didn't give a second glance at the head in his hands. He let it slip from his fingers and Derek's head wobbled and twirled across the wood floor until it came to rest against the refrigerator.

Stefan turned to face me, approaching me cautiously. He knelt beside of me, his eyes sweeping over me, visually examining me. He was covered in Derek's blood, matting his blond hair and staining his handsome face. He glanced down at Anna in my arms, exhaling a deep breath.

"You have to save her, Stefan. Anna…she doesn't deserve to die like this." I blurted out. I could hear the anguish in my voice.

"Josephine, please do not ask me to turn her," Stefan reached to touch my cheek and I pulled away, refusing to let him lay a hand on me. A rare look of hurt flashed across his face before he promptly buried it. In its place, his handsome features arranged into a stony mask.

"Please. I can't let her die like this. Please," I pleaded with him, rocking Anna gently. "I'd do it if I could but I can't. Please, Stefan. Please."

"Vackra, you do not understand what you are asking me to do. Is this a life she would want for herself? She knows nothing of our existence," Stefan reasoned. "It may be much too late to save her."

Still holding Anna, I reached out to grab his hand with mine. His blue eyes were piercing as I met his stare. "I don't know if she would want this, Stefan. This should be me here on this floor dying. Not her. Please, Stefan. I'm begging you to save her."

He squeezed my hand and his broad shoulders sagged. "I can deny you nothing."

Stefan sighed in defeat and took Anna from me. He held her in his arms, his fangs sinking into her neck. He drank from her, stopping to slice open his wrist with his teeth. He placed his bloody wrist against her lips and watched as his blood trickled into her mouth.

His wound healed and he carried her into the living room, gently placing her limp body on the couch. He stood over her, simply staring at her prone form.

"It is done."

Scrambling to my feet, I rushed into the living room where I launched myself at his chest. I didn't care about the blood or the gore. I just wanted to feel him against me, to know that he was here with me.

"Is she going to make it? Did it work?" I mumbled against him.

"We will find out in two days. She may have been too far gone for me to save her." Stefan reminded me. He wrapped his arms around me, his fingers stroking over my hair.

"Thank you, Stefan. I was so scared. I thought I'd never see you…"

"Never say those words," Stefan interrupted me. "You made me a promise."

"I know. I love you."

Stefan placed his head against mine as I gave into my tears. I cried for Anna, for my mother and for the happiness I felt to be at Stefan's side and to be able to tell him I loved him.

Without moving, Stefan stared barking out commands to Lukas, his voice clipped and sharp. "Lukas, go to Anna's home. Pack as much of her personal belongings as possible and grab her passport. Got to her place of employment and force your will on all of her co-workers there. Tell them Anna decided to return to the US. Call Nigel. Make sure to tell him that my favorite bird stopped singing today. He will send someone to take care of this mess for me."

For once, Lukas had no smart remark or witty response. He inclined his head and dashed from the house, his phone already at his ear.

Stefan reluctantly released me from his arms as he blurred into action. He also began making phone calls, pacing the floor. His words and steps were too fast to follow. My eyes moved from watching Stefan's dizzying pace to drift over the pile of ash scattered across the floor, raising to take in the blood that was splattered against the ivory walls of the kitchen. Not knowing what else to do, I sat down beside Anna, taking her cold, lifeless hand in mine.

I knew she couldn't hear me, and I could only hope the magic of Stefan's blood would save her now. "I did what I thought was best, Anna. I hope you don't hate me for this. I couldn't let you die. Not like that."

Stefan stopped to rest his hand on my shoulder, rubbing my shoulder in comfort. He was still on the phone but his voice had slowed to a normal pace. "We need to delay our take off time by two hours. Something unexpected happened and you need to make the necessary changes to the itinerary." He ended the call without saying a goodbye and closed his eyes, attempting to run his fingers through the dried blood in his hair.

"Stefan, I'm sorry. I…"

He shook his head and held up his hand to stop my words. "Vackra, I only wanted to turn one other person in my life. You." He let out a resigned sigh. "Plans change. Anna will have to adjust to this life and she may not be happy if and when she awakes. You must prepare yourself for that."

Rubbing my forehead with my palm, I rested my pounding head against my hand. "So she'll hate me for begging you to change her. And then she'll hate you for doing it."

He crouched down beside of me, his blue eyes softening. "Do not be sorry and you cannot worry about the what if's now. You loved your friend and wanted to save her. I understand. We will deal with the consequences of this together."

Stefan stood, offering me his outstretched hand. "Come with me, vackra. I started the shower for us,"

"Should I stay with her?" I asked. I wanted to go with him, but I was hesitant to leave her unattended.

"Josephine, she is fine. We still have a plane to catch. We just have an extra passenger now." Stefan uttered softly. "Shower with me."

Letting go of Anna's hand, I reached for his. I followed him into the bathroom and watched him as he tore his bloody, ruined clothing from his body. When he was finished, he faced me and his blue eyes bored into mine.

"I want to see you," Stefan murmured. He stepped closer and took my arms in his hand, inspecting the angry, red marks that still encircled my wrists. His eyes closed for a moment and he inhaled a shaky, unnecessary breath as his fingers gingerly traced the welts on my skin.

His beautiful blue eyes reopened and he swallowed unevenly. As if he was convincing himself to continue, he licked his lips and nodded, his hand releasing my wrists. He raised his hand to brush his thumb over the bruise that was forming on my cheekbone, his fingers trailing down the side of my face.

"Stefan, sweetheart. It's over." I cupped my hand against his stubbled cheek. "You can't kill him again."

He swallowed again and pressed his face against my hand. He said nothing, his blue eyes unblinking.

"Stefan? You have to talk to me," I said softly. His mind was still closed to me and his silence, both mental and verbal, was unnerving.

He shook his head and his jaw clenched. He stood taller and simply stared down into my eyes, his expression one I'd never seen before. He looked ancient and flinty, the lines of his face severe.

"If you won't let me see what you're thinking you have to tell me."

The corner of his lip flinched. When he finally spoke, his voice was deep and filled with bitterness. "You saw what and who I am today. I want him to meet a thousand deaths for what he did to you. I longed to torture him for days, punishing him for touching you. Is that what you wished to hear me say?

"What you did today isn't you. It's only part of who you are," I retorted softly. "Will holding on to this change what he did, Stefan?"

"No." He chuckled and his eyes traced along my discolored cheekbone. "However, it would satisfy the selfish part of me that wants vengeance."

My hand lowered from his face to rest against his silent chest, placing my hand over where his heart would be beating if he was still alive. "You have to let this go, Stefan. Let this go for you, for me. For us. He's dead and you saved me."

"You watched as I savagely killed a creature in front of you. I tell you how I wanted him to suffer more and it is you that soothes me. You have to see the absurdity in this," Stefan marveled. He gathered my shirt and ripped it up the middle, dropping the scraps of material to the bathroom floor. He made short work of removing my jeans, tossing them to join the growing pile of destroyed clothing.

He lifted me into the shower with him and the spray of the hot water ran over us, the water dripping red trails down his chest as it ran over his tangled, bloody hair.

"Sit down. Let me wash your hair." I pointed to the seat in the corner. I could wash away the blood and the gore, yet I ached to have to power to wash away his all-consuming anger and need for revenge.

He obeyed and sat on the small bench, his large frame filling the entire corner of the shower. He closed his eyes as I lathered his hair with shampoo, a purring sound grumbling in his chest as my nails scratched over his scalp. Grabbing the handheld attachment, I rinsed his hair and watched as the pink suds disappeared, revealing his shiny blond hair. Reaching for the bar of soap, I washed him, my slick, bubbly hands running over every curve and muscle of his body. When I finished, I lowered my lips to his soft mouth. My hand gripped the back of his neck, pulling him closer to me. My tongue slipped between his lips, seeking out his. When they met, he moaned into my mouth, his fingers running through my hair.

He pulled me onto his lap, our embrace never breaking. I only raised my lips from his for a moment to catch my breath and he buried his head between my breasts, leaving me to wrap my arms around him and hold him as he breathed deeply against my wet skin.

"You saw me at my darkest moment, yet somehow you still manage to love me."

I pressed my cheek against his damp hair. "I'll always love all of you. Everything was wrong until you made it right."

His shoulders shook in response to my words. All I could do was hold him to me and let him have this moment, absently stroking his hair while the shower rained down on us.

* * *

Somehow we managed to make it to Denpasar Internation Airport in time to catch our flight. Stefan had a final hushed phone conversation with Nigel during the trip to the airport. As we sped towards our plane, I noticed a black car parked near the hangar. A stocky vampire in a dark suit stood with his arms crossed in front of him, waiting for our arrival.

Stefan parked the car and unfolded himself from the car, his tall frame approaching the much shorter man and placed a key ring in his outstretched hand. The dark haired vampire inclined his head and disappeared into the black sedan, driving off into the early evening Bali night. I could only assume he was the one responsible for cleaning up the mess that we left behind at my villa.

Opening my car door, I stepped out onto the concrete, inhaling the humid air. Stefan popped the trunk and began setting luggage beside his car. Lukas carefully picked up Anna's slack body and carried her up the steps, disappearing inside of the plane.

"Get settled inside, vackra. I will need to talk to the crew and I will join you in a moment."

"Please hurry."

His blue eyes were somber as he glanced my way and nodded, turning his attention to two men that were waiting for his instructions. Climbing up into the plane, I ducked inside and looked around, my eyes stopping as they focused on Anna lying on the couch. Lukas had placed a blanket over her and if I didn't know better, I would assume she was sleeping. If only…

"I'm sorry." Lukas' soft voice beside of me pulled me out of my thoughts.

Turning to face him, I reached out and pulled him to me in a gentle hug. Obviously caught off guard by my burst of emotion, he awkwardly patted my back. I released him and looked into his blue eyes, holding each side of his face in my hands. "Don't be sorry, Lukas. You were honest."

Lukas smiled weakly and walked to stand at the edge of the couch, shifting his eyes to examine Anna for a moment. "She'll be fine with this, Josie. If she wakes up to her new life, she won't hate you if you're worried about that." His voice wavered as he moved to sit by her on the couch. He glanced at the floor before fixing his searching gaze on me. "Did he really look like me?"

Between to hearing the big 'if' of Anna's fate and the mere thought of Derek made an icy finger of dread run down the length of my spine. "Yes. He looked exactly like you and even sounded like you. He couldn't pull off the mannerisms though."

He pursed his lips for a moment. "What do you mean?"

I wanted to roll my eyes at him. "The lip pursing and whole fists on your hip thing you do. He didn't know your mannerisms."

Lukas stood up with his hands on his hips when Stefan's presence in the place brought our conversation to a halt. He lowered himself into one of the leather upholstered seats and held out his hand for me to join him. Crossing the small plane, I went to sit in the seat beside of him. He stretched his long arm over to me and my hands automatically closed over his wrist, my thumbs running over the raised veins.

"Thank god for laptops and headphones," Lukas muttered as he moved from the couch and found his own seat, up two rows from where we were sitting.

I leaned over to peek out the window of the plane, saying goodbye to the place where my life truly began. I continued to stroke small lines across his wrist, enjoying the feeling of his satiny skin under my fingertips.

"My life began that night I saw you across the restaurant, vackra."

He'd been reading my mind again. I swiveled in the chair to face him, a small smile across my lips.

"It's not fair to cut your mind off from me and still freely pick through mine, you know?" I asked.

A ghost of a smile graced his face for the briefest of moment. He watched my fingers as they stroked his skin. "I never claimed to play fair, Josephine."

"Stefan, let me in." My mind brushed against his, missing our mental connection. His eyes snapped up to mine and he slowly let his thoughts flow, his presence a gentle hum in the back of my mind again.

Happy to have the connection back, I rested my head against the seat and simply continued stroking his wrist and admiring the vampire sitting next to me. He looked exhausted, his face drawn and heavy, the usual quirk to his lips had been replaced with a slight frown.

"I heard you, Josephine. You called for me and I heard you. All the miles between us and I heard your voice. You were like a beacon, calling me to you," Stefan softly mused. "I could only hear you say my name, over and over. It was maddening, hearing your cries and being so close, yet so far away. I knew as long as I heard you, you were still alive. That was my only consolation."

My fingers stopped moving over his wrist and I leaned out of chair to search out his downcast eyes. "You heard me? How?"

A slight smile pulled at the side of his mouth as his sea blue eyes glinting as they flickered up to meet mine. "We are one now."

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