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The Craving (Chapter 15)

The night before the wedding, I stood staring out the window of my bedroom. A beautiful quarter-moon shown through the ornately paned glass. It felt like the entire nighttime world was teasing me, calling out: Come play. Come hunt. Come disappear into the darkness. My skin prickled whenever a hint of the night air breezed through, and my nostrils flared at the thousand and one scents it carried.

I am not meant to stay captive inside at night…. I had thought I was miserable in the park hunting squirrels, but here I was trapped by my word, by my guilt, by these stupid walls, by a family of humans under a spell, by my brother.

Mrs. Sutherland came in earlier that evening. She didn't say much, just patted my hand and pinched my cheek, telling me not to worry, the wedding would soon be over and then we all – we all – could get back to the normal happy business of being a family.

Little did she know that after Damon was through with them, the Sutherlands would never be able to be normal or happy again.

A knock at the door interrupted my thoughts. I turned and tightened the nice silk smoking jacket Winfield had loaned me, wondering if Mrs. Sutherland had left something behind. But then the door cracked open and a pink, mischievous face poked through.

"Bridget," I half-groaned. I looked around me desperately, as if some sort of exit would suddenly appear that I could escape through.

She giggled and suddenly shoved her way in, slamming the door behind her, leaning against it like she had just shut out an invading army.

"Stefan," Bridget said in what she probably thought was a sexy, dulcet tone. She was dressed in a chiffon robe with giant chenille cabbage roses. Underneath, instead of a simple nightgown, she wore a complicated corseted dress made of bright pink silk with a rose-red sash that left her shoulders and neck bare.

"Bridget," I said warningly, backing up. My head hit one of the beams of the four-poster bed.

"I thought maybe we could start the honeymoon early," she whispered, pushing herself into my arms.

"Uh – " I stammered.

Her cheeks were red and her eyes were heavy-lidded. Despite Damon's compulsions, she was also under the sway of her own emotions, stirred to amorous feelings for the man she was about to marry.

She pushed me – with remarkably strong arms – down on to the bed and fell upon me, crushing me under wave after wave of silk. Her breasts heaved over the corset, and I could feel her warm skin through my robe.

I had a perfect view of her bare white neck. Her heart pumped quickly, giving her skin a hot, rosy glow and filling my senses with her blood. I could smell it all over her, salty and warm and human. A shiver went through my body as her chest pressed against mine, and I could feel the pain begin along my jaw. Such a sweet pain – and it had been such a long time since I had had human blood….

It couldn't hurt, part of me said. She wouldn't mind me biting her, even without compulsion. It didn't have to be painful, and she might even enjoy it. Before I knew what I was doing I had pressed my lips to her shoulder, just to feel the skin, to take a little lick…

She felt me moving beneath her and misinterpreted it, kissing me harder and getting into a more comfortable position, entwining her legs in mine.

"No!"

I managed to get control of myself and shoved her off me. I didn't mean to do it so forcefully, but even in my weakened state I was still several times stronger than a human. She fell to the end of the bed, against one of the posts, looking shocked.

And then she began to cry.

"You… don't want me…" she wailed, fat droplets of tears rolling down her cheeks.

"Bridget, no, I…" My fangs retracted and I was aching with the pain and my need for blood. "It's just… we're getting married tomorrow, Bridget. Just one more day. If we wait until it's… uh… proper, it will be even more special. Just think, we'll have completed a… beautiful day… with you in your beautiful, uh…"

"Cream brocade with Flemish lace on the sleeves and bodice and an ivory satin sash with a veil of matching ivory silk flowers," she sniffled.

"Right." I touched her elbow delicately and tilted her chin up so she had to look at me. She wiped the tears off her face with a piece of her robe. "Let my first night with you be with that image of you in my mind, my blushing bride."

She nodded, sniffing again, giving me a faint smile. "All right."

Then she giggled again, back to her old self, and flounced off the bed and to the door.

"Good night… lover," she cooed before exiting.

As soon as she was gone I fell back on the bed, muffling a groan in my pillow. It did nothing to abate my frustration. I stood, pacing from the window to the door, wanting to leave, to escape, to hunt, to do something. But I had no choice, no option. I was trapped in this room, in this situation, in the terrible in-betweenness of being neither a human nor a monster.

I ripped the pillow straight in two, feathers exploding around the room like a white powder keg.

Damn you, Damon, I thought violently, for putting me in this position. And damn you, too, Katherine, for beginning all this.

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