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The Craving (Chapter 14)

On Friday Winfield took Damon and me to get fitted for a custom suit. A visit to Pinotto's Tailoring might have been fun at some other point in my life – as it had been the night I went shopping with Lexi in New Orleans. Pasquale Pinotto was a master of his craft, descended from a long line of tailors to kings and queens of Europe. With his pince-nez glasses and chalk and measuring tape around his neck, he could have been someone out of a fairy tale. I enjoyed trying to speak the few words of Italian I knew to him; he took pleasure in it as well, though he corrected my accent. Damon, of course, pretended that he only wanted to speak English now that he was in America – which is how he got around the tailor's delight at meeting a fellow countryman.

"Look at this." Damon held up a bolt of scarlet red silk to his face. "We could have our jackets lined with it. Doesn't it just bring out the color in my lips? Or… Lydia's neck?" He moved it to the side, just about where the fang wounds would have been on him.

Winfield looked confused. "She has taken to wearing scarves around her neck, lately. Is that what you mean? It's dashed peculiar – she never used to."

Damon flicked him a quick look, a flash of surprise and annoyance so fast only I caught it. It was interesting that Mr. Sutherland noticed the subtle changes occurring around him, even if he was ultimately powerless against Damon's compulsion. Although any safety the rich old man had was in staying completely ignorant of my brother's schemes.

I leaned against the wall for support, tension exhausting me. I felt claustrophobic among all the rolls of expensive fabric and labyrinthine rooms of mirrors and sewing machines, as trapped in that room as I was in my life.

Mr. Sutherland made his way to a chair to rest his ponderous bulk. He seemed a touch fidgety – he kept reaching for his cigar, but he was not allowed to smoke one of his famous cigars in the atelier, as the smoke would ruin the fabric.

"Now here is some cloth I am thinking you will like," Signor Pinotto said, presenting us with black wool crepe so fine and soft it might have been silk. "I get it from a tiny village in Switzerland. They work…"

"Leave the cloth to me," Winfield said, twirling an unlit cigar in his hand. "I know the business. Let the young men pick out whatever style they want."

Damon started looking through the jackets, pulling one out and holding it against him to see how it fit.

"In this morning coat and that black crepe, we'll look like real creatures of the night," Damon observed. "Don't you think so, Stefan?"

"Yes, yes we will," I agreed stonily.

"Here, try this on." Damon tossed me a smaller version of the jacket. Dutifully, I took off my own and put it on. The jacket fit me well except for being too big in the shoulders and chest. Damon was distracted by the tailor and Winfield, discussing patterns and linings and buttons. It occurred to me in that moment that I could leap out the window and run away. Would my brother actually carry through on all of his threats? Would he really kill the Sutherlands – or worse?

But then I thought of the message in blood and realized I would never let the world find out the answer to that question. I wanted no more deaths on my conscience.

"Is that the sort of thing young men prance around town in these days?" Winfield asked, frowning at my jacket. "I've never really been a – what did you call it? – 'creature of the night.'"

Damon gave him a cold smile. "Never say never."

And then Damon was suddenly standing next to me in front of the mirror, buttoning up his jacket and fluffing out the tails. Very assiduously he fixed mine as well.

"Well, would you look at that," he said to our reflections, putting an arm around my shoulders. "We could almost be brothers."

"We were brothers at one time," I hissed so quietly that only Damon's highly tuned ears could hear. "Though you are now as alien to me as the devil himself."

"Eh?" Winfield looked up. "You do resemble each other a little. The… hair. And the… face." He waved a hand vaguely at us. Then he smiled widely. "I'll have a whole set of matching grandchildren! Dozens of them, dandling on my knees."

Damon grinned. "Absolutely. I plan on having a large family, Mr. Sutherland. It's important that my bloodline goes on."

"You're really pushing it," I said.

"I haven't even started," he whispered, smiling.

"Oh really? Then what was that message you left for me in blood?" I said.

Damon's forehead crinkled. "Message?"

"Actually, I rather like the scarlet." Winfield held a bolt of the fabric in his hands, and didn't seem to notice the tension in the air. "It's perfect. Damon DeSangue – bloodred, or of blood, right?"

Damon looked surprised. I was taken off guard, too.

"I speak four languages, boys," Winfield said with a bit of a growl in his grin. "And can read another four. I-tal-ian is just one."

So Sutherland wasn't quite the buffoon he appeared to be. There were layers in him, and of course there had to be for such a successful businessman.

"And speaking of languages, ho bisogno di vino, something to wet my throat. I brought something from my own cellar, a fantastic amontillado. Care to join me?"

"I really could drain a good Sutherland dry just about now," Damon said gamely, clapping me on the shoulder like our future father-in-law did.

I slumped in despair. When we'd first become vampires, I'd wanted nothing more than to spend eternity with my brother. But now I couldn't wait to be rid of him.

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