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Origins (Chapter 31)

I crept through the house, cringing every time my foot hit a loose floorboard or a creaky corner. From the light at the far end of the house, I could tell Father had left the sitting room and was already in his study, no doubt writing down the record he and Jonathan had concocted in his own journal. I stood in the door frame and watched him for a moment. His hair was snow-white, and I saw age spots on his hands. Despite the lies I'd heard earlier, my heart went out to him. Here was a man who'd never known an easy life and who, after burying a wife, now had to bury two sons.

I took a step toward him, and Father's head jerked upward.

"Dear God …," he said, dropping his pen to the floor with a clatter.

"Father," I said, holding out my hands to him. He stood up, his eyes darting wildly.

"It's okay," I said gently. "I just want to talk with you."

"Y ou're dead, Stefan," Father said slowly, still gaping at me.

I shook my head. "Whatever you think of Damon and me, you have to know that we didn't betray you."

The fear on Father's face abruptly turned to fury. "Y did betray me. Not only did you betray

ou me, you betrayed the whole town. Y should be

ou dead, after the way you've shamed me."

I watched him, anger rising up inside me. "Even in our death, you feel only shame?" I asked. It was something Damon would say, and in a way, I felt his presence beside me. I was doing this for him. I was doing it for both of us, so that at least we'd die with truth on our side.

But Father was barely listening. Instead, he was staring at me. "Y ou're one of them now. Isn't that right, Stefan?" Father said, backing away from me, slowly, as if I were about to lunge and attack him.

"No. No. I'll never be one of them." I shook my head, hoping against hope that Father would believe me.

"But you are. I watched you bleed and take your last breath. I left you for dead. And now I see you here. Y are one of them," Father said, his

ou back now against the brick wall.

"Y saw me get shot?" I asked in confusion. I

ou remembered the voices. The chaos. Vampire being yelled over and over again in the darkness. Feeling Noah pull me off Damon. Everything fading to black.

"I pulled the trigger myself. I pulled it on you, and I pulled it on Damon. And apparently it wasn't enough," Father said. "Now I need to finish the job," he said, his voice as cold as ice. "Y killed your own sons?" I asked, anger of

ou my own coursing through my veins.

Father stepped toward me menacingly, and even though he thought I was a monster, I was the one who felt fear. "Y were both dead to me as

ou soon as you sided with the vampires. And now, to come in here and ask forgiveness, as if what you did could be excused with an I'm sorry. No. No." Father stepped away from his desk and walked toward me, his eyes still darting to the left and the right, except that now it was as if he were the hunter, rather than a hunted animal. "Y know, it's

ou a blessing your mother died before she could see what a disgrace you've become."

"I haven't turned yet. I don't want to. I came to say good-bye. I'm going to die, Father. Y did ou what you set out to do. Y killed me," I said. Tears

ou sprang from my eyes. "It didn't have to be this way, Father. That's what you and Jonathan Gilbert should write in your false history, that it didn't have to be this way."

"This is the way it has to be," Father said, lunging for a cane that he kept in a large vase in the corner of the room. Swiftly, he broke it in two on the floor and held the long, jagged end out toward me.

Quickly, without thinking, I sidestepped Father and yanked his free arm back, sending him tumbling sideways against the brick wall. Father screamed in anguish as he hit the floor. And then I saw it. The stake was protruding from his stomach, blood spurting in all directions. I blanched, feeling my stomach rise to my chest and bile fill my throat.

"Father!" I rushed over to him and bent down. "I didn't mean to. Father …," I gasped. I grabbed the stake and yanked it out of his abdomen. Father shrieked, and immediately blood gushed like a geyser from the wound. I watched, horrified, but also entranced. The blood was so red, so deep, so beautiful. It was as if it were calling to me. It was as if I'd die that second if I didn't have the blood. And so, unbidden, I moved my hand to the wound and brought my cupped hand to my lips, tasting the liquid as it touched my gums, my tongue, and my throat.

"Get away from me!" Father hoarsely whispered, pushing himself away until his entire back was pressed against the wall. He scratched my hand in an effort to bat it away from the wound, then slumped against the wall, his eyes closing.

"I …," I began, but then felt a shooting, stabbing pain in my mouth. It was worse than what I remembered about being shot. It was a feeling of tightness, followed by the sensation of a million needles sticking into my flesh.

"Get away …," Father breathed, covering his face with his hands as he struggled for air. I pulled my own hands from my mouth and ran my fingers over my teeth, which had become sharp and pointed. Then I realized: I was one of them now.

"Father, drink from me. I can save you!" I said urgently, reaching down and pulling him up to a sitting position against the wall. I took my wrist and brought it to my mouth, allowing my newly knife- sharp teeth to easily rip the skin. I flinched, then held the wound toward Father, who backed away, blood continuing to gush from his wound.

"I can fix you. If you drink this blood, it will heal your wounds. Please?" I begged, looking into Father's eyes.

"I'd rather die," Father pronounced. A moment later his eyes fluttered shut and slumped back on the floor, a pool of blood forming around his body. I placed my hand on his heart, feeling it slow until it stopped.

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