Home > Unmasked (The Vampire Diaries: The Salvation #3)(15)

Unmasked (The Vampire Diaries: The Salvation #3)(15)
Author: L.J. Smith, Aubrey Clark

Damon frowned and took a step back away from her. He hesitated for a split second, then opened his mouth to speak.

“Elena?” Startled, Elena turned to see Bonnie and Meredith approaching from the other end of the graveyard. “Elena?” Bonnie called again.

A light breeze broke the stillness of the air, lifting Elena’s hair. The sun came out from behind the dark clouds, and a mockingbird sang an insistent trill from a nearby tree. A cool finger brushed across the nape of Elena’s neck. She gasped and whipped back around, but Damon was gone. The green grass over the graves behind her was as smooth and empty as if he had never been there.

“Elena,” Bonnie said as they reached Elena, “sometimes I worry about you. I really do.”

“Was somebody here?” Meredith said, confusion on her face. “I thought …” Had Damon Influenced them to forget him? Elena wondered. Or had he simply moved so quickly they weren’t sure what they had seen?

“It’s just me,” Elena said slowly, her eyes still searching the graveyard. There were no dark figures among the trees. No black bird rose toward the sky. “I didn’t expect you guys to follow me.”

“You can tell us to go away,” Meredith suggested, glancing at the gray stone above Elena’s parents’ graves.

Elena shook her head. “It’s okay,” she said. “I wanted to hang out with you guys anyway.” She sat down in the sun-warmed grass beside the headstone, pulling the others down next to her. The three girls sat quietly for a while, watching the soft white clouds blow across the sky.

Bonnie ran her fingers through Elena’s ponytail, taking the ribbon out and twining it into little braids. The gentle pulls on her hair felt good, and Elena relaxed, leaning back against her friend’s leg.

“So,” Bonnie started, her hands not pausing in their braiding, “are you going to tell us why you’ve been acting so funny today?”

Elena opened her mouth, a denial springing to her lips, and caught Meredith’s knowing gaze.

“I know I said you seemed distracted this morning,” Meredith told her, “but it’s more than that.”

“You’ve been getting the strangest look on your face when you look at people, even us,” Bonnie said thoughtfully, tucking a stray piece of hair into one of Elena’s braids. “Like we’re strangers.”

Elena turned at that, her hair slipping through Bonnie’s fingers, and looked at her friend. Bonnie stared back at her, brown eyes wide and a little hurt.

“It’s not like that.” Elena said. But it did feel, a little bit, like they were different people from the ones she knew. Bonnie and Meredith had been through so much with her—they’d even traveled to a different dimension together—but not yet, not this Bonnie and Meredith.

If Elena managed to change what happened now, if she could keep Damon from killing Mr. Tanner and setting the future she already knew in motion, would her friendship with Bonnie and Meredith change, too? She ached with sorrow at the idea.

“If something’s wrong, we want to help,” Meredith said softly.

Warmth ran through Elena, soothing away that sorrowful ache, and she reached for her friends’ hands. “I’m fine,” she said, gripping Bonnie’s square, small hand and Meredith’s long cool one. “Only … everything’s changing, isn’t it? It’s our senior year, our last year together.”

“Nothing’s going to change,” Bonnie said uncomfortably. “Nothing important. Just school and stuff.”

“Elena’s right,” Meredith said, turning her hand to thread her fingers through Elena’s. “Next year at this time, who knows where we’ll all be?”

“You’ve both been such good friends to me,” Elena said in a rush. “When my parents died … I couldn’t have gotten through that bad time without you. I don’t want to lose you guys, not ever.”

Bonnie sniffed and pulled away from Elena to wipe at her eyes. “Don’t make me cry,” she said, half laughing. “My mascara will run, and then I’ll look like a raccoon.”

“Let’s swear an oath.” Elena said determinedly. “An oath that we’ll always be true friends.”

They’d sworn a blood oath in this graveyard the first time she’d lived this. Bonnie and Meredith had sworn that they would do anything Elena asked in relation to Stefan. And Elena had sworn not to rest until Stefan belonged to her. Not even if it killed her.

And, well, it had killed her in the end, hadn’t it? It had killed both of them. An oath like that—sworn in blood in a graveyard—had true Power.

“Wait a minute,” Meredith said, as Elena had known she would. She let go of Elena’s hand and unfastened a pin from her blouse, then jabbed it quickly into her thumb. “Bonnie, give me your hand.”

“Why?” Bonnie asked, frowning suspiciously at the pin.

“Because I want to marry you,” Meredith said sarcastically, and Elena smiled a little. “Why do you think?”

“But—but—Oh, all right. Ow!”

“Now you, Elena.” Meredith hesitated and then jabbed at Elena’s finger, their eyes meeting for a moment. She held out her own thumb, a plump drop of blood swelling on its pad, and Bonnie and Elena pressed their thumbs against hers. Bonnie’s eyes were still shining with tears and Meredith looked pale and earnest. Affection for them both swelled inside Elena. These were her sisters.

“I swear that I’ll always be there for both of you,” Meredith said steadily. “I’ll be on your side and do everything I can for you, no matter what happens.”

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