L. J. Smith
The Vampire Diaries
The Return: Shadow SoulsVol. 2
For my wonderful agent, Elizabeth Harding
Contents 1 “Dear Diary,” Elena whispered, “how frustrating is this? I left… 2 Elena burst out of the backseat of the Jaguar and… 3 Time stopped. Elena found that she was instinctively groping for… 4 “You’re shaking. Let me do it alone,” Meredith said, putting… 5 Elena got into the backseat of the Jaguar and put… 6 Elena was using all her considerable talents at negotiation to… 7 Elena woke to the sound of Damon impatiently rapping on… 8 As they hastened from the car to the secluded motel… 9 Even as Elena opened her mouth to speak, she could… 10 The next morning Elena got up and dressed quietly in… 11 Arizona was as hot and barren a state as Elena… 12 Elena checked the edges of the hotel room’s draperies for… 13 The Demon Gate. 14 “All right,” Damon said as he and Elena reached Bonnie… 15 Hurrying behind Damon, Elena tried not to look either to… 16 Damon clearly decided to throw himself on the mercy of… 17 “Her name’s Ulma,” a voice said, and Elena looked down… 18 Elena came back to the real world slowly, fighting it… 19 Damon wouldn’t have thought a sadistic old fool who whipped… 20 Elena had seldom felt such relief as she did when… 21
Pandemonium. Elena whipped her head up, confused as to whether… 22 The afternoon after Elena’s “discipline,” Damon took out a room… 23 That “night” they moved in, choosing the hour while the… 24 Elena put down the pen and stared at her diary… 25 “Oh, I just want to take a little peek,” Bonnie… 26 “We have to keep our minds on saving Stefan,” Elena… 27 Elena felt confident and just a little light-headed as they… 28 They walked right by the weeping door-guards. But very quickly,… 29 Someone was trying to make her drink out of a… 30 Matt watched Mrs. Flowers go over Sheriff Mossberg’s badge, holding it lightly… 31 “I’m feeling much better,” Elena told Dr. Meggar. “I’d like to… 32 Elena was radiantly happy. She had gone to sleep happy,… 33 To her surprise, Elena felt no anger, only a determination… 34 I don’t think about those things, Elena answered in the… 35 “Nevertheless”—Damon’s eyes took on a steely glint—“without the amulet my… 36 “What?” shouted Damon over the music, while adding: Run—go! telepathically… 37 Elena had been tied, like someone in a B-movie who… 38 “Talon! Uh—heel!” Elena shouted and began to race as fast… 39 Elena waded into the crowd feeling like a soldier. She… 40 Matt and Mrs. Flowers were in the bunker—the addition to the… 41 “Stefan!” Elena screamed and knew that she sounded like a… 42
By now Matt and Mrs. Flowers couldn’t ignore the blinding lights… 43 Elena had a feeling she couldn’t quite describe. It wasn’t… 44 Elena was wakened by shouting. She’d already once awakened to… ? About the Author Other Books by L. J. Smith Credits Copyright About the Publisher
“Dear Diary,” Elena whispered, “how frustrating is this? I left you in the trunk of theJaguar and it’s two o’clock in the morning.” She stabbed her finger on the leg of hernightgown as if she had a pen and was making a period. She whispered even more softly, leaningher forehead against the window, “And I’m afraid to go outside—in the dark—and get you.
I’m afraid!” She made another stab and then, feeling tears slip down her cheeks, reluctantlyturned her mobile on to record. It was a stupid waste of the battery, but she couldn’t helpit. She needed this.
“So here I am,” she said softly, “sitting up in the backseat of the car. This has to be mydiary entry for today. By the way, we made a rule for this road trip—I sleep in the Jag’sbackseat and it’s the Great Outdoors for Matt and Damon. Right now it’s so dark outside thatI can’t see Matt anywhere…. But I’ve been going crazy—crying and feeling lost—and solonely for Stefan….
“We have to get rid of the Jaguar—it’s too big, too red, too flashy, and too memorable whenwe’re trying not to be remembered as we travel to the place where we can free Stefan. Afterthe car is sold, the lapis lazuli and diamond pendant Stefan gave me the day before hedisappeared will be the most precious thing I have left. The day before…Stefan got trickedinto going away, thinking he could become an ordinary human being. And now…
might be doing to him, at this very second—whoever“How can I stop thinking about what They
‘They’ are? Probably the kitsune, the evil fox spirits at the prison called the Shi no Shi.”
Elena paused to wipe her nose on her nightgown sleeve.
“How did I ever get myself into this situation?” She shook her head, hit the seatback with
her clenched fist.
“Maybe if I could figure that out, I could come up with Plan A. I always have a Plan A. And myfriends always have a Plan B and C to help me.” Elena blinked hard, thinking of Bonnie andMeredith. “But now I’m frightened that I’ll never see them again. And I’m scared for theentire town of Fell’s Church.”
For a moment she sat with her clenched fist on her knee. A small voice inside her was saying,“So stop whining, Elena, and think. Think. Start from the beginning.”
The beginning? What was the beginning? Stefan?
No, she had lived in Fell’s Church long before Stefan came.
Slowly, almost dreamily, she spoke into her mobile. “In the first place: who am I? I’m ElenaGilbert, age eighteen.” Even more slowly, she said, “I…don’t think it’s vain to say that
I’m beautiful. If I didn’t know I was, I’d have to have never looked in a mirror or heard acompliment. It’s not something I should be proud of—it’s just something that was passed downfrom Mom and Dad.
“What do I look like? I have blond hair that falls in sort of waves past my shoulders and blueeyes that some people have said are like lapis lazuli: dark blue with splashes of gold.” Shegave a half-choked laugh. “Maybe that’s why vampires like me.”
Then her lips tightened and, staring into the utter blackness around her, she spoke seriously.
“A lot of boys have called me the most angelic girl in the world. And I played around withthem. I just used them—for popularity, for amusement, for whatever. I’m being honest, allright? I considered them to be toys or trophies.” She paused. “But there was something else.Something that I knew all my life was coming—but I didn’t know what. I felt as if I weresearching for something that I could never find with boys. None of my scheming or playingaround with them ever touched my…deepest heart…until one very special boy came along.” She
special boy.stopped and swallowed and said it again. “One very
“His name was Stefan.
“And he turned out not to be what he looked like, a normal—but gorgeous—high school seniorwith rumpled dark hair and eyes as green as emeralds.
“Stefan Salvatore turned out to be a vampire.
“A real vampire.”
Elena had to pause to take a few choked breaths before she could get the next words out.
“And so did his gorgeous older brother, Damon.”
She bit her lips, and it seemed a long time later that she added, “Would I have loved Stefanif I’d known he was a vampire from the beginning? Yes! Yes! Yes! I’d have fallen in love with
him no matter what! But it changed things—and it changed me.” Elena’s finger traced apattern on her nightgown by touch alone. “You see, vampires show love by exchanging blood. Theproblem was…that I was sharing blood with Damon, too. Not really by choice, but because he wasafter me constantly, day and night.”
is that he wants to make me a vampire and his Princess ofShe let out a sigh. “What Damon says
the Night. What that translates into is: he wants me all to himself. But I wouldn’t trustDamon on anything unless he gave his word. That’s one quirk he has, he never breaks hisword.”
Elena could feel an odd smile curling her lips, but she was speaking calmly now, fluently, themobile almost forgotten.
“A girl involved with two vampires…well, there’s bound to be trouble, isn’t there? So maybeI deserved what I got.
“Not just ‘died’ like when your heart stops and they resuscitate you and you come backtalking about almost going into the Light. I went into the Light.
“And when I came back—what a surprise! I was a vampire.
“Damon was…kind to me, I suppose, when I first woke up as a vampire. Maybe that’s the reasonI still have…feelings for him. He didn’t take advantage of me when he could have easily.
“But I only had time to do a few things in my vampire life. I had time to remember Stefan andlove him more than ever—since I knew, then, how difficult everything was for him. I got tolisten to my own memorial service. Ha! Everybody should get a chance to do that. I learned toalways, always wear lapis lazuli so I wouldn’t become a vampire Crispy Critter. I got to saygood-bye to my little four-year-old sister, Margaret, and visit Bonnie and Meredith….”
Tears were still sliding almost unnoticed down Elena’s face. But she spoke quietly.
“And then—I died again.
“I died the way a vampire dies, when they don’t have lapis lazuli in the sunlight. I didn’tcrumble into dust; I was only seventeen. But the sun poisoned me anyway. Going wasalmost…peaceful. That was when I made Stefan promise to take care of Damon, always. And Ithink Damon swore to take care of Stefan, in his mind. And that was how I died, with Stefanholding me and Damon beside me as I simply drifted away, like going to sleep.
“After that, I had dreams I don’t remember, and then suddenly, one day everyone was surprisedbecause I was talking to them through Bonnie, who is very psychic, poor thing. I guess I hadlanded the job of being Fell’s Church’s guardian spirit. There was a danger to the town. Theyhad to fight it and somehow, when they were sure that they had lost, I got dumped back to theworld of the living to help. And—well, when the war was won I was left with these weird powersI don’t understand. But there was Stefan, too! We were together again!”
Elena wrapped her arms around herself tightly and held on as if she were holding Stefan to her,imagining his warm arms around her. She shut her eyes until her breathing slowed.
“About my powers, let’s see. There’s telepathy, which I can do if the other person istelepathic—which all vampires are, but to different degrees unless they’re actually sharing
blood with you at the time. And then there are my Wings.
“It’s true—I have Wings! And the Wings have powers you wouldn’t believe—the only problembeing that I don’t have the faintest idea how to use them. There’s one that I can feel
, trying to get out of me, trying to shape my lips to name it, tryingsometimes, like right now
to move my body into the right stance. It’s and sounds like somethingWings of Protectionthat
we could really use on this trip. But I can’t even remember how I made the old Wingswork—much less figure out how to use this new one. I say the words until I feel like anidiot—but nothing happens at all.
“So I’m a human again—as human as Bonnie. And, oh, God, if I could only see her and Meredith
right now! But all the time I tell myself that I’m getting closer to Stefan every minute. Thatis, if you take into account Damon’s running us up and down and everywhere to throw offanybody trying to track us down.
“Why would anyone want to track us down? Well, you see, when I came back from the afterlifethere was a very big explosion of Power that everyone in the world who can see Power saw.
“Now, how do I explain Power? It’s something that everybody has, but that humans—exceptgenuine psychics like Bonnie—don’t even recognize. Vampires definitely have Power, and theyuse it to Influence humans to like them, or to think that things are different fromreality—oh, like the way Stefan Influenced the high school staff to think his records were allin order when he ‘transferred’ to Robert E. Lee High School. Or they use Power to blast othervampires or creatures of darkness—or humans.
“But I was talking about the burst of Power when I dropped down from the heavens. It was so
big that it attracted two horrible creatures from the other side of the world. And then theydecided to come see what had made the burst, and if there was any way they could use it forthemselves.
“I’m not joking, either, about them being from the other side of the world. They werekitsune, evil fox spirits from Japan. They’re something like our Western werewolves—but muchmore powerful. So powerful that they used malach, which are really plants but look like insects
that can be no bigger than a pinhead or big enough to swallow your arm. And the malach attachthemselves to your nerves and feather out along your entire nervous system and finally theytake you over from inside.”
Now Elena was shuddering, and her voice was hushed.
“That’s what happened to Damon. A tiny one got into him and it took him over from inside sothat he was only a puppet of Shinichi’s. I forgot to say, the kitsune are called Shinichi andMisao. Misao is the girl. They both have black hair with red all around the tips, but Misao’sis long. And they’re supposed to be brother and sister—but they sure don’t act like it.
“And once Damon was fully possessed, that’s when Shinichi made Damon’s body…do terriblethings. He made him torture Matt and me, and even now I know that sometimes Matt still wants tokill Damon for it. But if he’d seen what I saw—a whole thin, wet, white second body that Ihad to pull out with my fingernails from Damon’s spine—with Damon finally passing out fromthe pain—then Matt would understand better. I can’t blame Damon for what Shinichi made him
do. I can’t. Damon was…you can’t imagine how different. He was crushed. He cried. He was…
“Anyway, I don’t expect to ever see him like that again. But if I ever get my Wings’ powersback, Shinichi is in big trouble.
“I think that that was our mistake last time, you see. We finally were able to fight Shinichiand Misao—and we didn’t kill them. We were too moral or too gentle or something.
“It was a bad mistake.
“Because Damon wasn’t the only one who got possessed by Shinichi’s malach. There were girls,young girls, fourteen and fifteen and younger. And some boys. Acting…crazy. Hurting themselvesand their families. We didn’t know how badly until after we’d already made a bargain withShinichi.
“Maybe we were too immoral, making a bargain with the devil. But they had kidnapped
Stefan—and Damon, who was already possessed by then, had helped them. Once Damon wasunpossessed, all he wanted was for Shinichi and Misao to tell us where Stefan was, and then forthem to leave Fell’s Church forever.
“In exchange for that, Damon let Shinichi into his mind.
“If vampires are obsessed with Power, kitsune are obsessed with memories. And Shinichi wantedDamon’s memories for the last few days—the time that Damon was possessed and torturingus…and the time when my Wings made Damon realize that he had done it. I don’t think Damonhimself wanted those memories, either of what he’d done or of how he’d changed when he had toface that he’d done it. So he let Shinichi take them, in exchange for Shinichi puttingStefan’s location into his mind.
“The problem is that we were trusting Shinichi’s word that he would leave then—whenShinichi’s word meant nothing at all.
“Plus, ever since then he’s been using the telepathic channel that he opened between his mindand Damon’s to take more and more of Damon’s memories without Damon even knowing.
“It happened just last night, when we were pulled over by a policeman who wanted to know whatthree teenagers in an expensive car were doing that late at night. Damon Influenced him to goaway. But just a few hours later Damon had forgotten the policeman completely.
“It frightens Damon. And anything that frightens Damon—not that he would ever admitit—scares me to death.
“And, you might ask, what were three teenagers doing out in the middle of nowhere, in UnionCounty, Tennessee, according to the last road sign I saw? We’re heading toward some Gate tothe Dark Dimension…where Shinichi and Misao left Stefan in the prison called the Shi no Shi.Shinichi only put the knowledge into Damon’s mind, and I can’t get Damon to say much aboutwhat kind of place it is. But Stefan is there and I’ll get to him somehow, even if it killsme.
“Even if I have to learn how to kill.
“I’m not the sweet little girl from Virginia I used to be.”
Elena stopped and blew out her breath. But then, cuddling herself, she went on.
“And why is Matt along with us? Well, because of Caroline Forbes, my friend sincekindergarten. Last year…when Stefan came to Fell’s Church, she and I both wanted him. ButStefan didn’t want Caroline. And after that she turned into my worst enemy.
“Caroline was also the lucky winner of Shinichi’s first visit to any girl in Fell’s Church.But more to the point: she was Tyler Smallwood’s girlfriend quite a while before she was hisvictim. I wonder how long they were together and where Tyler is now. All I know is that, in theend, Caroline hung on to Shinichi because she ‘needed a husband.’ That was how she put itherself. So I assume—well, what Damon assumes. That she’s going to…have puppies. A werewolflitter, you know? Since Tyler is a werewolf.
“Damon says that having a werewolf baby turns you into a werewolf even faster than if you’rebitten, and that at some point in the pregnancy you gain the power to be all wolf or all human,but before that point you’re just a mixed-up mess.
“The sad thing is that Shinichi scarcely gave Caroline a second glance when she blurted it allout.
“But before that Caroline had been desperate enough to accuse Matt of—of assaulting her—on adate that went wrong. She had to have known something about what Shinichi was doing because sheclaimed her ‘date’ with Matt was at a time when one of the arm-swallowing mallach wasattacking him, making marks on his arm that looked like a girl’s fingernail scratches.
him come with us.“That sent the police after Matt, all right. So basically I just made
Caroline’s father is one of the most important people in Fell’s Church— he’s friendsand
with the district attorney in Ridgemont and the leader of one of those men’s clubs where they
have secret handshakes and other stuff that makes you, you know, ‘prominent in thecommunity.’
“If I hadn’t convinced Matt to run instead of facing Caroline’s charges, the Forbeses would
him. And I feel the anger like a fire inside me—not just anger and hurt for Matt,have lynched
but anger and the feeling that Caroline has let all girls everywhere down. Because most girlsaren’t pathological liars, and wouldn’t say something like that about a boy falsely. She’sshamed all girls by doing what she did.”
Elena paused, looking at her hands, and then added, “Sometimes when I get angry at Caroline,cups shake or pencils roll right off the table. Damon says all this is caused by my aura, mylife force, and that ever since I came back from the afterlife it’s been different. First ofall, it makes anyone who drinks my blood incredibly strong.
“Stefan was strong enough that the fox demons could never have forced him into their trap ifDamon hadn’t tricked him in the beginning. They could only deal with him when he was weakenedand surrounded by iron. Iron is bad news for any eldritch creature, plus vampires need to feedat least once a day or they get weak, and I’ll bet—no, I’m sure that they used that against
“That’s why I can’t stand to think about what shape Stefan might be in right this minute.But I can’t let myself get too afraid or angry or I’ll lose control of my aura. Damon showedme how to keep my aura mostly inside, like a normal human girl. It’s still pale gold andpretty, but not a beacon for creatures like vampires.
“Because there’s one other thing my blood—maybe even just my aura—can do. It can…oh, well,I can say anything I want to here, right? Nowadays, my aura can make vampires want me…the wayhuman guys do. Not just to bite, get it? But to kiss and all the rest. And so, naturally, theycome after me if they sense it. It’s as if the world is full of honeybees and I’m the onlyflower.
“So I have to practice keeping my aura hidden. If it’s just barely showing, then I can getaway with seeming like a normal human, not somebody who’s died and come back. But it’s hardto always remember to hide it—and it hurts a lot pulling it in suddenly if I’ve forgotten!
“And then I feel—this is absolutely private, all right? I’m putting a curse on you, Damon,if you replay this. But it’s then that I feel like I want Stefan to bite me. It eases up thepressure, and that’s good. Being bitten by a vampire only hurts if you fight it, or if thevampire wants it to hurt. Otherwise, it can just feel good—and then you touch the mind of thevampire who’s done it, and…oh, I just miss Stefan so much!”
Elena was shaking now. As hard as she tried to quiet her imagination, she kept thinking aboutthe things that Stefan’s jailers might be doing to him. Grimly, she gripped her mobile again,letting tears fall on it.
“I can’t let myself think of what they might do to him because then I really start to go
crazy. I become this useless shaking insane person who just wants to scream and scream andnever stop. I have to fight every second not to think about it. Because only a cool, calm Elena
with a Plan A and B and C is going to help him. When I have him safe in my arms, I can letmyself shake and cry—and scream, too.”
Elena stopped, half laughing, her head bent against the passenger’s seatback, her voice huskywith overuse.
“I’m tired now. But I have a Plan A, at least. I need to get more information from Damonabout the place we’re going, the Dark Dimension, and anything he knows about the two cluesMisao gave me about the key that will unlock Stefan’s cell.
“I guess…I guess I haven’t mentioned that at all. The key, the fox key, that we need to getStefan out of his cell, is broken into two pieces that are hidden in two different places. Andwhen Misao was taunting me about how little I knew about those places, she gave me flat-outclues about where they were. She never dreamed I’d actually go into the Dark Dimension; she
was just showing off. But I still remember the clues, and they went like this: The first half
is ‘in the silver nightingale’s instrument.’ And the second half is ‘buried inBloddeuwedd’s ballroom.’
“I need to see if Damon has any ideas about these. Because it sounds as if once we get to theDark Dimension we’re going to have to infiltrate some people’s houses and other places. Tosearch a ballroom, it’s best to somehow get invited to the ball, right? That sounds like‘easier said than done,’ but whatever it takes, I’ll do. It’s simple as that.”
Elena lifted her head in determination and went still, then said in a whisper, “Would youbelieve it? I looked up just now and I can see the palest streaks of dawn in the sky: lightgreen and creamy orange and the faintest aqua…. I’ve talked all through the darkness. It’sso peaceful now. Just now the sun peeked up o—
“What the hell was that? Something just went BANG on the top of the Jag. Really, reallyloud.”
Elena clicked off the recorder on her mobile. She was scared, but a noise like that—and nowscrabbling sounds on the roof…
She had to get out of the car as fast as possible.