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The Craving (Preface)

Everything has changed. My body, my desires, my appetite.

My soul.

In seventeen short years, I've born witness to more tragedy than anyone should – and been the cause of far too much of it. With me I carry the memory of my death and that of my brother. I'm haunted by the sound of our last breaths in the mossy woods of Mystic Falls, Virginia, and the image of my father's lifeless body on the floor of his study in our magnificent Veritas Estate. I still smell the charred church where the town's vampires burned. And I can almost taste the blood I took and the lives I stole out of sheer hunger and indifference after my transformation. Most clearly I see the curious dreamer of a boy I once was, and if my heart could beat, it would break for the vile creature I've become.

But though the very molecules of my being have morphed beyond recognition, the world continues to turn. Children grow older, their plump faces thinning with the passage of time. Young lovers exchange secret smiles as they discuss the weather. Parents sleep while the moon keeps watch, wake when the sun's rays nudge them from slumber. They eat, labor, and love. And always, their hearts pump with rhythmic thuds, the blood as alluring to me as a snake charmer's tune is to a cobra.

I once scoffed at the tediousness of human life, believing the Power I had made me more. Through her example, Katherine taught me that time holds no sway over vampires, so I could become divorced from it, living from moment to moment, moving from one carnal pleasure to the next with no fear of consequences. During my time in New Orleans I was heady with my new Power, my limitless strength and speed. I tore through humans as if their lives were meaningless. Every warm drop of blood made me feel alive, strong, fearless, and powerful.

It was a haze of bloodlust. I killed so many, so casually. I can't even remember the faces of my victims. Except for one.

Callie.

Her flame-red hair, her clear green eyes, the softness of her cheeks, the way she stood with her hands on her hips . . . every detail stands out in my memory with painful clarity.

It was Damon, my brother and former best friend, who dealt Callie her final blow.

In turning him into a vampire, I had taken Damon's life, so he took from me the only thing he could – my new love.

Callie made me remember what it was to be human, and what it meant to value life. Her death weighs heavily on my conscience.

Now my strength is a burden, the constant thirst for blood a curse, the promise of immortality a terrible cross to bear. Vampires are monsters, killers. I must never, ever forget that again. I must never let the monster take over. While I will forever bear the guilt of what I did to my brother – the choice I made for him – I must also avoid the dark path he is so hell-bent on following. He revels in the violence and freedom of his new life, while I can only regret it.

Before I left New Orleans, I battled the demon my brother, Damon, had become. Now, as I remake myself up North, far from anyone who's ever known me as either a human or a vampire, the only demon I have to battle is my own hunger.

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