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Between the Shadow and the Soul

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Klaus was hungry. On a normal day, he would search for a challenge, someone who wouldn’t know they were prey until he was feasting on their life’s blood, but tonight he wanted easy prey. A quick drink from a supple neck before he continued perusing the artefacts on offer at the museum. It was not as busy as he’d hoped, making it only a trifle harder to sequester some poor victim away from the crowd without being noticed, but he’d manage it.

A flash of midnight caught his eye and he watched as a girl, no older than her mid-teens, slipped over the rope that forbade entrance to the work-in-progress Classical World exhibit and through the ornate double doors. Strange, he thought, because the door should have been locked. Intrigued, he made his way over to the hempen barrier, determined to follow the little nymph into the exhibit, as though he were the Apollo to her Daphne.

‘Excuse me, sir, but that area is off limits.’

He’d just gotten one foot over the rope when the security guard caught him, immediately he was angry, the little nymph he was following had managed to sneak in. Yet, he, a vampire of a thousand years, had been caught by some minimum wage nobody. The embarrassment. He imagined the nymph would laugh at his failure. Faking an innocent smile, he turned to the guard.

‘My apologies,’ he said smoothly, looking the guard in the eye. ‘You are very good at your job,’ the guard looked chuffed at the compliment and Klaus gave an inward eye-roll. ‘But how about you take a break, yeah?’

‘A break,’ the guard murmured. ‘Sounds great. Thanks, mate.’

‘Anytime,’ Klaus grinned, watching as the guard disappeared and gave a small laugh. Humans were so painfully dull, so easy to manipulate, it almost wasn’t worth the compulsion. He stepped over the rope and slipped into the room.

Anticipation filled him as he looked around, dust sheets protected the artefacts and the paintings, the lighting was low-key and muted, and shadows played tricks on the unsuspecting mind. It looked like a chase scene out of some trashy horror film, Klaus appreciated the apt setting, he always was a sucker for poetic symbolism. And this room ticked every cliché on the list.

The girl stood before a display case of broken vases depicting scenes from the Greek mythos, a white dust sheet in her hand and a curious expression on her face. A fan of mythology then, he assumed and wondered if she’d find the poetic symbolism of his role as monster to her role of damsel as apt as he did. Only there would be no Greek hero to save her. A faint hum of music told him she was oblivious to the room around her, to his presence, and he couldn’t decide if he should be thanking modern technology for making the humans so blissfully unaware to the dangers that their ancestors knew so well, or cursing it for how easy it made everything.

He stepped through the room to the muted sounds of the piano piece she listened to. Clair de Lune, if he had his classical piano right, Debussy’s piece enchanted him now as it had done when he first heard it from the man himself. It seemed almost a shame to end the girl when she had such good tastes, music nowadays was only an echo of its former greatness. Though  he still enjoyed it.

‘Do you believe in gods, vampire?’

The question startled him so much that he actually looked around him for another speaker, until he realised it came from her, and he found himself opening his mouth to answer before the question fully registered, the last word echoed around the room like a soft accusation. She knew what he was. Well, he thought with a growing smirk, the girl was proving to be a curious little nymph. Was this why Apollo was so enamoured with Daphne? The girl still had her back to him, the long midnight tresses that had caught his eye before looped down her back in messy waves, ending just before a pert rear. Her dress was modest in the unusually high summer heat of England, a mint green in colour with a flowy knee length skirt, and speaking of an innocence that part of him couldn’t wait to taint. She knew what he was, yet didn’t run screaming, in fact, her heartrate hadn’t picked up at all and still thrummed at the average mortal pace. Fear had yet to consume her, if she even felt an inkling of the emotion at all, and she was casually relaxed. Either she didn’t comprehend the situation properly, and had merely met some friendly vampires in her short life, or she wasn’t exactly a normal human.

He preferred to think it was the latter, Klaus was nothing if not paranoid and always imagined the worst-case scenario, which begged the question of what she was. The only thing he could think of was witch. He’d always been enthralled by witches, the only constant in his long life was the throng of witches he dragged along with him, their power calling to him on an almost primal level. For every human and vampire he bedded, there were at least three witches between them, he enjoyed the thrill of bending a servant of nature to his will. To have them defy the laws that defined their magic for him.

Yet, he could usually sense the magic surrounding witches and this girl gave off no such power. Unless she was powerful enough to conceal her aura, he’d known only one witch to be able to do such a thing – his mother. The fact that this petite nymph might be able to rival the very witch who had cursed him made him both fearful and thrilled. The prospect was exhilarating.

‘Perhaps,’ he murmured in answer to her question. ‘When I was younger at least, the gods dictated the way of life. But that was a crueller time.’

She pulled out her earphones as he drew nearer, switching the music player off and stuffing it into the woven bag at her hip. He was right to compare her to a nymph, she was a beauty, her skin porcelain smooth, with the cutest of button noses, and full blood red lips – as though she were the vampire who feasted on blood and he the wiling mortal feast – that were tugged into a mischievous smile. But it was her eyes that brought the nymph-like quality to life. A poisonous green, the likes of which he’d never seen and far surpassed that of his once lover, Aurora, and holding a passion for life that he was instantly jealous of. They were so full of expression and light that it almost burned him to look at, she regarded him with an amused curiosity.

‘Do you believe in gods, little witch?’ He asked adding the little endearment because he was certain now, her power was there for all to see within her enchanting eyes.

‘I do not,’ she answered and Klaus took the time to fully examine her speech. She was British, an accent he favoured the most, and softly spoken like the debonair ladies of court he dined on years ago. ‘But they are fascinating, are they not? Cruel and arrogant creatures beholden to none but themselves.’

‘How do you know what I am?’ he asked, keeping his tone as quiet as hers, though he hadn’t a clue why. Perhaps it was the atmosphere of the room, or the way she spoke as if revealing all her secrets without actually revealing anything.

An amused smile graced those bloody lips. ‘I knew what you were the moment I saw you admiring Cézanne. You have the aura of someone old, who has seen the artists whose work people now admire at their easels.’

‘Well,’ he grinned. ‘I did teach Botticelli a thing or two.’

‘That so?’ she grinned back at him.

‘Terrible at shading and depth,’ he responded easily. ‘I taught him everything he knew.’

‘And he gets all the credit, for shame,’ there was laughter in her words, as though she didn’t quite believe him.

‘Picasso was a drama queen, terribly overrated in my opinion.’

She laughed then, a light sound that echoed around the room, and made him smile. It was an honest laugh, she really did find him amusing, and it made him feel proud to elicit such a reaction. Her laughter faded away into a piercing look that had him looking away. ‘Did you follow me in here to kill me?’ she asked it so bluntly, it was like she was used to attempts being made on her life, and it made him feel guilty.

It angered him that such a question should fill him with guilt. He was a vampire, a monster of the night and the very definition of a predator. His name was whispered throughout the world in fear. He killed and killed and killed and did not care. Yet, this little nymph with the honest laughter and emotion filled eyes, had rendered him guilty for ever contemplating killing her.

‘At first,’ he answered, frowning and wondering just when it was that his desire to drink her dry had faded.

‘And now?’

Now, he wanted to hear her laugh more. To explore the honesty she exuded and see the range of emotions that those toxic orbs could produce. ‘You intrigue me, little witch,’ he answered, ‘I don’t think I will kill you.’

‘Well that’s good,’ her eyes crinkled with her amusement. ‘It didn’t go so well for the last guy who tried to kill me.’

The thoughts of someone trying to kill this girl angered him so much, he had to physically stop himself from shaking in his rage. The girl was light, good, the very opposite of himself.

‘My name is Klaus,’ he told her. ‘I figure you should know, seeing as I’m not going to kill you.’

She laughed again, that honest laugh that made him proud. ‘It’s a pleasure to not be killed by you, Klaus,’ she held her hand out to shake. ‘My name is Savannah.’

Instead of shaking her hand, he grabbed it, brushing his thumb across her knuckles and pressing a kiss to the back of it. ‘The pleasure is all mine, little witch.’

He couldn’t believe it when he walked into the classroom and saw her, the little witch he’d spent a summer traipsing through Europe with, and almost called out to her only to remember he wasn’t exactly in his own body. Sure, Katerina had mentioned an Ana, but he never connected the name to his Savannah, why would he? This small American town was as far away from the magical world she had claimed to belong to.

She looked older, no longer in that in-between state of childhood and womanhood, and all the wiser for it. Less naïve, but still as innocent, he wondered what had happened in the two years that he hadn’t seen the girl. Her hair was the same, her face was still nymph-like, her modest taste in clothing similar, and her eyes were still the same poison that began his interest in that museum. But there was a look about her, one he couldn’t quite place.

He tried to recall what Katerina had told him about Savannah as he walked to his desk. A recent addition to Team Doppelgänger, a cousin to the Gilbert family, and an enemy he didn’t want to make. She’d stolen the moonstone, Katerina had been particularly peeved about that, he’d sent Maddox to find the thing. It angered him that the little witch would work against him, that she would dare to trample on the memories they shared, but then another thought occurred to him. If he didn’t realise the witch Katerina had spoken of was her, she might not realise that the vampire that threatened them was him. He’d never told her of the curse.

Maybe there was a way to tell her without telling the others. Bring her to his side and have her sow the seeds of despair from the inside. He smiled slowly.

‘Good morning, class,’ he began, his gaze trailing from his witch to his doppelgänger. ‘What are we learning today?’

‘With the decade dance tonight, we’ve been learning about the sixties all week.’ A girl told him and he frowned. The sixties. One of his least favourite decades. He preferred the twenties.

‘Right. The sixties,’ he tried to think of what happened in the sixties, using his walk to the board to come up with something. Damn. He barely paid attention to the decade, but he could hardly tell them it was boring as hell. Or could he? ‘I wish there was something good I could say about the sixties, but, actually, they kind of sucked.’ He heard a familiar laugh and turned to glance at his witch out the corner of his eye, she held her hand over her mouth to muffle the quiet snort of amusement, he almost winked at her. He couldn’t wait to be back in his body. ‘Except for the Beatles of course, they made it bearable. Uh, what else was there? The Cuban Missile thing… We walked on the moon,’ the only impressive feat of the sixties, in his opinion. ‘There was Watergate.’

‘Watergate was the seventies, Ric,’ his doppelgänger even sounded like Katerina and Tatia, he hid his cruel smirk by writing on the board. ‘Uh, I mean, Mr. Saltzman.’

‘Right,’ he didn’t care for her little slip-up, let the class think they were close. Hell, let them think she was screwing the teacher. If she was anything like her predecessors her attentions would be just as loose. ‘It kind of gets all mushed up after a while, thank you, Elena.’

It was safe to say Klaus would never make a good history teacher, not that he had any desire to be one. Far too boring and school kids these days were an annoying bunch. He’d sooner slaughter his whole class than teach them anything. Lunch time was the perfect opportunity to begin his game of cat and mouse, and he just couldn’t resist a bit of psychological warfare. He stood by the door of the cafeteria, watching as his witch ate and talked with the Bennett witch and the doppelgänger, and waited for the moment they would realise he was there.

He didn’t have to wait long, Dana was freshly compelled, and giddiness rose within him. Was this what a child felt on Christmas morning?

‘Hey, Elena, there you are,’ Dana bounced over, ever the over-ambitious cheerleader, ‘this is going to sound freaky, but this totally hot guy just asked me to ask you if you’re going to the dance tonight.’

Savannah looked amused, and waggled her eyebrows at Elena who just glared back. The Bennett witch, however, was less amused. ‘Tell him she has a boyfriend.’

Klaus was very aware of this fact, had listened to Katerina prattle on about the Salvatore brothers for far too long last night, and was tempted to just rip their hearts out in revenge for the hours he would never get back.

‘You could at least meet him,’ Dana challenged, sounding a little offended, and Klaus had to give her props. She was a good little actress. ‘He’ll be at the dance tonight. Look for him. His name is Klaus.’

The amusement vanished from his little witch’s eyes, instantly she was sharp and alert, her fingers twitching towards her left arm where her wand was holstered. The precious holly wand she’d shown him with great reverence.

‘I’m sorry,’ Elena frowned. ‘What did you say?’

‘His name’s Klaus,’ Dana grinned. ‘I know stupid name, but I swear he’s hot.’

‘Where is he? Is he here?’ Bonnie asked urgently, and he had to laugh at the question, it was like she was expecting him to be wearing a neon sign with his name printed boldly across it.

‘I don’t know,’ Dana shrugged before turning to Savannah. ‘Oh, he had a message for you too, Ana. He told me to ask if you believed in gods, weird, right? And that he wanted you both to save a dance for him, super cute, I know.’

The slight stiffening of his witch’s spine and widening of her eyes told Klaus that she knew who he was now. He couldn’t help but be satisfied when he saw her mouth his name and look down at her tray with a troubled look on her face.

That’s right, be a good little witch and come back to me. He thought eagerly.

The subsequent text message from Damon was a given, and he couldn’t wait for school to end so he could find out their plans to stop him. Wearing Alaric’s body was one his better ideas, even if he did say so himself.

He arrived late to the Salvatore Boarding House, apparently, a teacher’s work wasn’t done when the final bell rang, who knew? He had to stay behind to answer some questions a kid had on World War II, in the end, Klaus had compelled him to go watch porn, or read a dirty magazine, like a normal teenage boy.

‘Sorry I’m late,’ he declared jovially, eyeing the doppelgänger he’d soon sacrifice, and shifting to his favourite witch who sat curled up on one of the large armchairs. It bugged him how comfortable she was in a house that wasn’t hers – or his.

‘Hey, I need you to put me down as a chaperone tonight. Klaus made his first move.’ Damon said and the anger in his tone thrilled Klaus. There was nothing like threatening a loved one to get the anger really flowing. He nodded in response to Damon’s request.

‘Okay,’ Elena said, looking nervous and unsure. ‘So, we find him and then what? What’s our plan of attack?’

‘Me,’ Bonnie said, ‘I’m the plan. He has no idea how much power I can channel. If you can find him, I can kill him.’

Her confidence was insulting. ‘That’s not going to be that easy,’ Klaus responded, trying his best to keep the anger out of his voice. ‘I mean, he’s the biggest, baddest vampire around.’

‘I know him,’ Savannah said. Bonnie had proven her powers, throwing Damon across the room with just a thought, and gave Klaus cause to worry, when she spoke her words piercing through the silence of the room. ‘I know Klaus. I wasn’t sure at first, but after what Dana said, I know.’

‘The things about gods?’ Elena asked.

‘It was the beginning of my summer holiday,’ she said softly. ‘My relatives hated me, so I spent as much time as I could out of the house. I met Klaus in a museum. I’d snuck into a closed of exhibit about the Classical World, and he followed me. He was going to kill me, I knew it the moment I sensed his presence, and I wasn’t afraid. I just asked him if he believed in gods. We talked, he didn’t kill me, and I spent the summer travelling through Europe with him. He’s my… I don’t know.’

It was the best summer he’d had in a long while, though it was slightly embarrassing to be seen as the girl’s father or brother on multiple occasions, especially when she spent the majority of their nights in his bed.

‘Great,’ Damon sneered sarcastically, ‘we have Klaus’ whore with us. That’s just great.’

‘I’m not a whore!’ she exclaimed, instantly offended at the accusation. He didn’t blame her, his own desire to defend his witch rising, he’d taken her virginity. Klaus was the only person she had slept with. At least, that was the case two years ago. Had she been intimate with another? He had to bite the inside of his cheek to still the angry snarl that threatened to break free.

‘But you slept with him?’ Damon accused, folding his arms across his chest and a deep look of dissatisfaction on his face.

‘Yes,’ she nodded, only to look at her lap when everyone gave her judgemental stares. ‘You have no idea what happened so don’t judge me. This was two years ago. Before I knew about Elena and before any of you knew about Klaus. I won’t regret the time I spent with him.’

He regretted nothing either. In fact, he still recalled their time together quite fondly. She would pop into his head frequently with no regard for what he was doing at the time, and his thoughts would inevitably lead to a vivid recollection of her legs wrapped around his waist.

‘He’s trying to kill me,’ Elena said quietly. ‘And you’re all but declaring your love for him.’

Honestly, he wouldn’t mind if she did have a love confession on the tip of her tongue. It would be the icing of a really perfect cake. The strongest force in the team against him betraying her friends and family for the sake of the enemy to whom she loves. Oh, it would be a story worthy of Shakespeare.

‘I don’t have a lot of family, Elena,’ she responded, and he waited anxiously for her to declare for him. He would welcome her back with open arms, loyalty was always rewarded, and remind her once again of the intimacy they shared.  ‘Half of those I have hate me, so I’m going to protect the half that welcomed me into their home. I will protect you, Elena.’

Klaus had to bite his cheek again to contain the anger that flowed through him, Savannah was choosing her family over him. It was an admirable goal, to protect Elena from him, he often went to extremes to protect his own family. But that didn’t stop his rage at the foolish witch. She was his. Had she not learnt that lesson in Europe? No matter, she would soon learn his was the only side she could choose.

Elena gave her cousin a grateful smile, before realisation dawned on her face. ‘You know what Klaus looks like,’ she stated almost happily.

‘Yes,’ she nodded. ‘But Klaus knows I’m here. He’ll do his best to remain undetected until he wants to be seen. It’s then that you have to worry.’

She knew him so well.

He stepped through the threshold to Alaric’s apartment with a heavy mind, one witch was bad enough, two was a nightmare. One witch juiced up from channelling lord only knows who and the other with a power he didn’t fully understand was downright migraine inducing. Katerina was still sat in the chair, stabbing herself, and he was confused for a moment, until he remembered he compelled her to stab herself in the leg during his absence. Well, that was amusing, his lips quirked up.

‘You’re right.’ He told her. ‘The witch is all juiced up and aiming to kill.’

‘That’s terrible,’ Katerina told him with a heavy dose of sarcasm, he shot her a grin, before entering the bedroom and rifling through the drawers.

‘We’re going to have to kill her, Maddox,’ he said, glancing at the warlock though the open doorway, before resuming his hunt for clothing. ‘Do you think this guy has anything vintage?’ he asked, doubting the answer, before a slight bump in the bottom of the drawer drew his attention. He lifted the panel and assessed the small arsenal of vampire killing weapons. Well, colour him impressed. ‘Crossbows, wooden bullets and automatics? Who is this guy again?’

‘Local vampire hunter,’ Katerina answered.

He looked down at his plaid shirt and grimaced. ‘That’ll explain the clothing.’ Vampire hunting clearly wasn’t a lucrative profession. He replaced the panel and closed the drawer, stepping back into the living room and accepting the glass of bourbon Maddox held out for him.

‘All I could find.’ Maddox told him, not that Klaus minded, he liked bourbon.

‘There is a high school dance,’ he told the warlock, ‘and I’m going to need you to kill the witch bitch.’

‘If she has that much power she can sense me coming from a mile away. I won’t be able to get near her, you’ll have to do it.’

‘In this body?’ he motioned to the teacher’s body, looking incredulous. ‘I’m a haggard history teacher. She can easily hurt me. Well, not me, Klaus me, but you get what I mean.’

‘No witch could handle channelling that much power. It will kill her. It would kill me. You just have to make her use it.’

‘You mean provoke her to death,’ that was as amusing as it was appealing.

‘It won’t take long,’ Maddox assured, ‘Just keep attacking her until it kills her. Alaric’s body will last longer than hers.’

‘How? He’s human,’ Klaus rolled his eyes. If only he had his little witch on his side, she’d be able to take Bonnie no problem. The lack of her presence by his side angered him once again and he scowled.

‘I can do a spell to protect you,’ Maddox assured him and it quelled some of his anger. At least he had some loyalty in the warlock.

‘What about the other witch?’ Katerina asked, becoming smug when Klaus turned angered eyes on her. ‘Savannah.’

She’d refrained from telling him the whole truth, he’d compelled her to tell him all he needed to know, and she’d left out the most important part. God, he wanted to kill her, but he wanted her to suffer more. Instead he settled for wrapping his hand around her neck. ‘Dearest Katerina,’ he cooed. ‘Savannah is mine.’

She was his the moment he heard that free laughter of hers, even if she didn’t know it – even if he didn’t fully know it then. He disappeared back in the bedroom to string together some semblance of an outfit from the sixties. It took him longer than expected, so he arrived a little later than he wanted, but it mattered not, he had the whole night ahead of him.

He saw Dana as he danced through the crowd and grinned, his night began with her. Teenagers, so reluctant to actually learn but so eager to take the easy way out. He didn’t even have to compel them much. An offer of extra credit was enough to have them eating out of his palm. Klaus felt more than saw the Scooby Gang arrive, Savannah’s magic wasn’t as hidden, and it was ready for battle. Shame she wouldn’t get to fight, not really, he had a special plan for her.

She chose earth colours tonight, looking less vibrant than her classmates who all seemed to think the sixties were full of psychedelic hippies. A rustic coloured bohemian dress caressed her thighs, the back of it extending below her knees to brush against the brown boots she wore, it cinched at the waist showing her curves, and had long, ruffled sleeves. The V-neck was pulled together by a leather string to hide the cleavage that would otherwise be showing and light ruffles ran along the seam. There were beads and feathers in her messily styled hair, and a white flower crown circled her head, as though she were a queen amongst peasants.

Beautiful, he thought with a fond smile, before remembering that for the moment she was his enemy. The distasteful expression on his face was replaced when Dana dutifully gave his shout-out, Elena’s stunned expression was enough to make him happy again. Oh, he was going to enjoy tonight. He wiped the happiness from his smile when he saw Damon approaching.

‘Special dedication, huh?’ Klaus said. ‘This guy’s a little twisted.’

‘I’m not impressed,’ Damon deadpanned, looking around the room and Klaus was disappointed. Looks like he’d have to try harder next time, perhaps ripping Damon’s heart out of his chest and feeding it to Elena would have the desired effect?

‘No?’ he queried, raising an eyebrow.

‘Let me know if you see anything out of whack,’ Damon told him before slipping back into the crowd. Klaus watched him leave with a scowl.

Now, before Dana’s date and his friends began their part – he had to compel them to beat up the littlest Gilbert – he needed to sort out his witch. He slipped through the crowd, his gaze zeroing in on the girl, she looked as uncomfortable as she always did when dancing was involved. She held a plastic cup in her hand and was turning down a dance invitation when he stepped beside her.

‘I need to talk to you,’ he said, motioning her towards the exit, he looked around them to see if anyone was following, when he was certain their exit remained undetected, he hurried her along with a hand pressed against her lower back.

‘What is it?’ she asked when he led her to Alaric’s classroom, shutting the door behind him. ‘Is it Klaus?’

‘I feel like dancing,’ he told her, grinning at her flummoxed expression.

‘We just left the dance behind,’ she stated slowly as though he were intoxicated or high.

‘Not the right kind of music for this dance,’ he told her before taking her hands and moving to the first few steps of the Viennese Waltz, she followed automatically, before stopping short suddenly and stepping away from him.

‘That dance…’ she trailed off, looking at him with wide eyes.

‘Côte d'Azur,’ he purred with a feral smile. ‘Saint Tropez, your sixteenth birthday. We waltzed beneath the moon in the gardens of my villa.’ The memory of her happiness on that night had long ago been put to canvas. He lifted his fingers and caressed her hair before drawing them along her jaw, the tips just ghosting the flesh. ‘The night we first made love.’

‘Klaus,’ she breathed his name and he delighted in the sound as he had done that night.

‘Hello, love,’ he tucked her hair behind her ear, ‘you’ve been a naughty little witch. Conspiring against me, is this how you treat all your lovers?’

‘Planning to kill my cousin, is that how you treat all your lovers?’ She returned, ever the quick one, and lunged for the door. He saw the move though, and had her pinned against the wall before her fingers brushed the handle.

A poke to his lower jaw told him she had her wand pointed right at him, he smirked. ‘Careful, little witch, you’ll just be hurting your defenceless teacher if you use that,’ he told her slyly, his eyes flashing victoriously when she lowered the wand. ‘Now that we’ve sorted that out. Let’s talk about a certain moonstone, yeah?’

‘I won’t let you kill her,’ she whispered, ‘please, Klaus, don’t do this.’

‘I have to, love,’ he told her. ‘I’ve waited a thousand years to break the curse and the blood of the doppelgänger is necessary. Elena will die.’

‘I will help you find another way,’ she pleaded.

He shook his head. ‘The moonstone, little witch.’

‘I won’t tell you where it is,’ she answered stubbornly.

‘Then shall we see if I can guess?’ he asked, amused at her attempt to thwart him, and pretended to think really hard about the location of the moonstone. ‘You’ll have kept it close, I’ve no doubt about that. So just where in this sleepy town would it be? Nothing too public, wouldn’t want a child to pick it up and think it a pretty stone, no. A location only few would know then.’

‘You already have it,’ she whispered in growing horror.

‘The tomb was a nice place to put it,’ he said. ‘And hidden behind so much magic. But that was your mistake. You see, I have a few witches with me, one of which is rather apt at sensing magic. He sensed your magic and destroyed your spells. It took him such a long time, I was impressed, as was he.’

‘If you already have it, what do you want with me?’

‘Oh, little witch, I want a great deal from you,’ he breathed before laughing at her confused look. ‘But what I don’t want is you getting in my way.’

‘Are you going to kill me?’ she asked, parroting the very same question she’d asked in the museum.

‘No, love,’ he shook his head. ‘I won’t ever kill you.’

He reached into his pocket, pulled out a syringe, and injected it into the base of her neck before she could fully register his movements. She blinked slowly, her body growing lax.

‘Klaus?’ she slurred his name, panicked and scared.

He wrapped his arms around her, lightly petting her hair. ‘I’ve got you, love. I’ve got you.’ He picked her up bridal style when she fully lost consciousness. If she’d just chosen him, all of this could have been avoided. He carried her out to Alaric’s car, laying her gently in the boot, and attaching a pair of magically-binding shackles to her wrists. He didn’t want to bind her magic, the very thoughts turned his stomach, as he knew all too well the loss of something that was a part of you. But she left him with no other choice.

‘Sleep tight, little witch,’ he murmured fondly, pressing a kiss to her temple, before turning back to the school. Time was ticking forwards and he had a witch to kill.

The Salvatore’s were distracted with saving Jeremy and fighting off some armed school kids, leaving Elena and Bonnie ripe for the taking. It was almost too easy to lure them further away from the dance, their trust in the teacher absolute, and he wondered how long it would take them to realise he was not leading them to Jeremy as he said he was, rather just leading them down random corridors.

‘Wait,’ Elena stopped and he almost cheered. Finally. ‘Something’s not right.’

Definitely not. Took her long enough to realise. He rolled his eyes.

‘Where’s Jeremy?’ Bonnie asked and Klaus laughed. These people were so damn predictable.

‘I just had to get away from that dance,’ he grinned at them. ‘The sixties. Ugh. Not my decade at all.’ He laughed mockingly at their stupefied expressions. ‘I mean, whose call was that anyway? I much prefer the twenties. The style, the parties, the jazz.’

‘Alaric,’ Elena said slowly, her brow furrowed in an almost adorable fashion. ‘Are you on vervain?’

He tilted his head to the side, watching her with a predatory hunger. ‘Now, why would go and ask a thing like that, Elena?’

‘He’s being compelled,’ Elena stated, so sure of herself and he sighed.

‘Nope. Try again.’ He was getting bored now.

‘What’s going on?’ Elena demanded.

‘Come now,’ he teased. ‘Savannah got it right the first time. But then, no one quite compares to my delectable little witch.’

‘Klaus,’ Elena snapped, her tone both angry and fearful. It was an inspiring combination that had him smiling broadly. ‘What have you done to Ana?’

‘Surprise!’ he goaded gleefully before mock pouting. ‘Why would you think I’ve done something to Savannah? She’s my little witch and I look after that which is mine. How cruel do you think I am?’

‘Oh, no,’ she was no doubt imagining the worst-case scenario and he wondered what it looked like. He’d pay good money for that particular movie. ‘It’s not possible.’

‘Oh, relax, Elena, you’re not on my hit list tonight,’ he rolled his eyes and waved her away as though she were insignificant. He’d come for her soon enough. The Bennett witch on the other hand, he leered over at her. ‘But you are.’

He expected the attack, but that didn’t mean it didn’t sting, being thrown into a wall wasn’t fun even with Maddox’s protection spell. He was unhurt but Alaric’s body might have a few bruises at the end of this little tat. ‘Did I mention that I knew a witch?’ he asked as he rose. Would they think Savannah was helping him? Let them, it would only work out better for him should they turn on her. ‘You’re going to have to hit me a lot harder than that.’ He rushed at the witch again, only for her to throw him into a display case, he fell to the ground, laughing. Glass shattered on the ground around him, and he felt a few pieces digging into the flesh of the teacher, damn, this was turning out greater than he thought it would. Still, it wasn’t enough.

‘By all means,’ he declared. ‘Fire away!’ he got up slowly, a smirk highlighting his face, and took a step towards the witch. ‘If you kill this body, I will just get a new one. Maybe Jeremy.’

He revelled in the panic that little name drop caused.

‘Run!’ Bonnie shouted, pushing Elena backwards. ‘Go! Run!’

Klaus watched them leave, a knowing smirk on his face, and didn’t make a move to follow them. Instead he turned for the cafeteria, knowing the witch would seek him out, and pulled a knife out of his pocket. He sat down on a chair, relaxing into it and putting his feet up on the table, the knife twirling between his fingers. It was a wicked looking thing, sharp and deadly, he had to admire the teacher’s dedication. It would seem when Alaric wanted a vampire dead, he’d take no chances. Klaus could admire that kind of work ethic. Perhaps he wouldn’t kill the teacher when he was done using him.

He looked up when Bonnie walked in, she looked stunning with the murderous look on her face, and Klaus regretted the fact that he hadn’t met her sooner. She was a pretty little thing. He waggled the knife at her, a threat he didn’t really need, and one she took no notice of. ‘What took you so long?’ He goaded. ‘Shall we do this the easy way, or the hard way?’

He hoped for the hard way. Sure enough, she delivered. With just a thought from the witch, his wrist was broken with a loud crack, and the knife dropped to the floor. It hurt. ‘Right,’ he growled, snapping his wrist back in place, ‘the hard way. Got it.’ His legs slipped from the table, a grin on his face, and he stood slowly. She broke his shoulder before he could do anything. ‘You’d kill your favourite history teacher?’ he questioned in mock surprise.

‘It’s what Alaric would want,’ Bonnie told him, and he had to admit he was impressed. ‘And he’d want you to suffer first.’

Now that was probably the truth. He admired the murderous look in her eyes, and would have been afraid, had blood not started to pour from her nostrils. Reminded once again that she was using borrowed power, he sneered at her own short-coming and loathed the fact that her power was false. ‘Look at you,’ he jeered. ‘Is that all you’ve got?’

‘Let’s find out,’ she responded, unleashing more power at him.

Bonnie was more vindictive than he had first thought her to be, though he supposed when pushed to save those you love, you’d willingly become the monster. He was a prime example of that. She broke his leg, his foot, his arm, she broke anything her powers touched, but she wasn’t in complete control. Her power whipped around the room, exploding the electrical outlets and sending little sparks of heated metal down upon them both.

He’d forgotten how much it hurt to have bones broken, the feeling was so human and mortal, he hated it. But he had to get her to use more power. He was only dimly aware of the doppelgänger and her Salvatore arriving and Bonnie shutting them out, and he was reminded of the weakness of love once again. He crawled forwards, a snarl on his lips, but she held him back as soon as her focus returned to him.

Had been in his own body, he’d have ripped out her heart the second she allowed Elena to distract her.

Klaus could hear the duo outside banging on the door, shouting Bonnie’s name, and it delighted him to know how distraught they would be at her death. The witch turned to her friends, smiling at them as though she knew her time was up, and Klaus, empowered with the thoughts of ending a Bennett witch, stood. She faced him and for a moment he thought he’d miscalculated and she had more to give, but then her body bent backwards and she crumpled to the floor, dead.

He didn’t stick around for the aftermath. The Bennett witch was dead, his witch was safely unconscious and out of harm’s way, he’d done what he set out to achieve that night.

The next step was getting his body back, and perhaps causing more mischief in the meanwhile.

Chapter Text

‘Have you ever been abroad?’ Klaus asked her.

He was leaning against one of the metal poles of the swing set in the park, around them children were playing, their joyful screams grating on his sensitive hearing, yet he put up with it. If only for the delight on Savannah’s face when she swung to the highest point, it was the closest thing to flying as she could get, she had told him when he followed her to the park.

‘No, I haven’t,’ she responded, slowing down her pace. ‘Unless you count Scotland.’

‘I don’t,’ he answered sourly.

‘They’re watching you, you know,’ she said motioning to a group of mothers who sat on the nearest bench. He knew. He could hear their gossiping. They wondered who he was, it was a neighbourhood park, and Klaus did not belong in the neighbourhood, and why he was with the strange, freakish girl from number four. ‘They do that all the time with anyone even remotely handsome,’ she rolled her eyes.

‘Oh,’ he rose a mocking eyebrow. ‘You think I’m handsome?’

She laughed at him, but her blushing cheeks gave away her embarrassment, she stopped swinging altogether and just looked at him. ‘Why do you keep coming back? It’s been three days and you’ve been waiting every time I step out of the door.’

‘Who can say?’ he shrugged.

He could say exactly why. It was the nightmares he’d heard her having when he couldn’t bring himself to leave her on the night he’d walked her back from the museum. It was the way her aunt sneered at her that morning as she ordered breakfast to be cooked before the girl weeded the garden. It was the way her uncle leered at her petite body before snidely calling her some derogatory name. It was the fact that this girl clearly suffered abuse at the hands of those who were supposed to care for her, yet, loved them all the same and still managed to hold onto the light that he’d let go of long ago.

‘Uh-oh,’ she said, drawing him from his musings. ‘I think someone is going to get hit on.’ Her tone was teasing and light.

He scowled when he saw one of the mothers approaching them, she was the one who had just been bragging about bagging herself a much younger guy, and he refused to suffer through her attempts at flirtation. Grabbing the hand of the little witch, he forced her off the swing, before taking her seat and pulling her onto his lap. ‘Hush,’ he soothed when she made a noise of protest, and when that didn’t do the trick, his fingers found her sides and he began tickling her.

The mother stopped dead at the sight they made.

They looked like lovers, he knew because Savannah was laughing so freely and he had a stupid smile on his face. His tickling subsided when she grew too breathless and he couldn’t help the adoring kiss he pressed to her temple. She really was too much.

‘Freakish whore,’ the mother spat in her direction before storming off.

Savannah stiffened in his arms and looked utterly wounded by the remark, he shifted, a murderous look on his face. He wanted to go after the woman, make her apologise, then tear her head off in front of her kid. Instead, Savannah’s arms wrapped around him and she rested her head against his chest.

‘Leave it,’ she told him. ‘She’s my next-door neighbour. I hear stuff like that all the time.’

It angered him that she was used to such name calling. She reminded him of the human version of himself, only she was stronger, because she didn’t let it bring her down. Absently, he reached up and threaded his fingers through her hair. He wished he could have met this sweet little witch when he was human, she’d have been the light he needed through his own abuse at the hands of his father. She would have saved his soul. ‘Come away with me,’ he found himself murmuring in her ear.

She laughed again, sounding both delighted and incredulous. ‘And where would we go?’

‘Anywhere. Everywhere.’ He grinned into her hair. ‘Just for the summer. I’d have you back before school starts.’

‘My uncle would never agree to that,’ she told him. ‘No matter how much he dislikes me.’

‘Leave your uncle to me,’ he said. ‘Escape the eternal boredom of summer suburbia with me, little witch? Let me show you the world.’

She bit her lip as she contemplated his offer, and he was tempted to kiss away the indents her teeth left behind. But she was too young. Too innocent. And he did not wish to corrupt her so soon. Lifting her head from his chest, she gave him a dazzling smile.

‘Okay,’ she nodded. ‘Show me the world.’

He grinned at her and, riding the high of the unexplainable happiness in his chest, he tickled her again and delighted in the laughter it wrought.

She looked so peaceful sleeping, he brushed the hair from her face, and just watched her. He’d done this before, sat by her side all night, playing with her hair and calming her when she startled. Savannah had suffered from nightmares, and it had taken her a couple of weeks to reveal to him why she called out names in her sleep and begged for someone to stop. He had thought she’d been assaulted, so he was patient with her, and he half expected it to be her uncle, the obese man had only looked upon her with hatred and hidden lust. He’d compelled her family to let him take her to Europe, restraining from outright killing them only at Savannah’s behest.

She’d seen so much death in her short life and was part of an even greater destiny. It was with fear that she told him of the Dark Lord, of the graveyard in which he returned and the classmate who had died. Then she’d told him of the prophecy, that her godfather – the only family to show her love and kindness – had been used to lure her into a trap. He’d died, this Sirius, fighting to protect her. It was why she was so willing to go with him, she wanted to flee her grief, and he was an expert at running away. So he’d shown her Europe and made it the best summer she’d ever had.

He wondered how it ended with the Dark Lord, she obviously won, but what had she had to lose to get that victory?

 ‘You care for her,’ Katerina’s voice ruined the peaceful moment, he said nothing to her, but let the hair he was caressing fall from his fingers. ‘You once cared for me and look how that turned out.’

He laughed cruelly. ‘No, Katerina,’ he told her. ‘You are mistaken. I never cared for you, that was Elijah, I only ever sought to use you. You were but a means to an end.’

Katerina looked unaffected by his words, but he knew better, she was just like him. He’d made her that way. And he knew his words hurt her, that she would seek to retaliate, so he stepped closer to her and caught her eye. ‘You will not touch Savannah; do I make myself clear?’ He could have gotten away without the compulsion, Katerina was terrified of him, but it never hurt to be doubly sure.

‘Crystal,’ Katerina sneered. ‘I don’t get what’s so special about her.’

‘Careful, Katerina,’ he goaded. ‘Your jealousy is showing.’

In her human years, Katerina had been youthful and innocent, yet, even then she had wanted to pit Klaus and his brother against each other. It would have worked, had Klaus felt any romantic attachment to her. She was certainly beautiful, but he’d been duped by that face before, Tatia had succeeded where her descendant had not. He doubted Katerina had ever gotten over the fact that she hadn’t been able to play the two brothers and he had an inkling that was the reason she chose the bestow her affections upon the Salvatore brothers. Pitting brother against brother seemed to run in the family.

‘Jealous? Of her?’ Katerina scoffed.

‘The full moon is almost upon us,’ he declared as he left the bedroom, walking over to the kitchen counter, he examined the moonstone that sat upon it. ‘I have my moonstone, I’ve killed the witch, and the doppelgänger is waiting in the wings. Oh, I am so ready to break this curse.’

‘And why would you do that here?’ Katerina sounded surprised. ‘There’s so many people that would stop you.’

‘Because I have to,’ he responded idly, putting the moonstone back on the counter. ‘It’s the birthplace of the doppelgänger.’

‘I didn’t realise that was a requirement,’ Katerina said, a little put out at the new information. She liked to think she knew everything, it was better to have people eating out the palm of her hand that way. Klaus sneered at her.

‘Well, how could you?’ he asked rhetorically, walking over to her in slow, confident steps. ‘You betrayed me and fled England before I could give you the details, Katerina.’ The illusion of intimacy was present when he ran his fingers along her jawline, a pleased sigh coming from him at the memory that followed her leaving him. ‘But I did find your birthplace and I slaughtered your family. So, I guess we’re cool.’

Cool. Such a modern word. Was he becoming hip? Down with the kids? He sniggered and stepped away from Katerina.

‘I wonder if she knows how monstrous you are,’ Katerina responded, cutting her gaze across to the open doorway of the bedroom. Klaus stiffened, his jaw tightening, and anger surfacing once again. ‘She will know soon enough, I suppose. Then she will hate you for it, just as I do.’

He was tempted to kill the vampire bitch once and for all, rip her heart out of her chest, and squeeze it in his fist until it became a pulpy mess of flesh and blood. But that would be too quick, and Klaus needed her to suffer, just as she made him suffer when she ran from him. So, he ignored her remark and gave her a mocking smile. ‘I do hope Elena isn’t as stupid as you.’

‘She won’t run,’ Katerina assured him. ‘She will die before she lets anyone she loves gets hurt.’

‘And that is exactly what I’m counting on,’ he said more to himself than the vampire. He picked up his jacket and walked towards the door. There was more chaos to be caused. He glanced at Katerina. ‘You can’t leave until I tell you to.’

It was time to send a message.

He knew it was only a matter time before Stefan showed up at the Gilbert house, Alaric’s lady love was acting distant, nervous. He wondered just how much she knew, how much her family had told her, or hadn’t told her. Well, he was about to broaden her world regardless. He turned to the kitchen, ignoring Stefan after his cheery greeting, and began chopping the vegetables Jenna had been cutting when he arrived. His movements were precise and quick, he’d chosen the biggest knife in the block, and he flexed his hand around the handle.

There was nothing quite like the feel of a blade, whether it be a knife or a sword, it was intimate and some level of skill was required to really use it. Any idiot could shoot a bullet out of a gun, but there was real art involved in blade work. He said as much, his voice contemplative with just the hint of amusement. Stefan and Jenna looked unimpressed. Tough crowd.

‘I’m still waiting for someone to tell me what the hell is going on,’ Jenna said, folding her arms across her chest. She was pretty enough, a little bland for his tastes, but he could certainly see why the history teacher was attracted to her.

‘Well, would you like to tell her, Stefan, or should I?’ he questioned, looking over at the vampire.

‘Tell me what?’

‘Do you believe in vampires, Jenna?’ she gave him an incredulous look. ‘No?’ he laughed. ‘Well, who does, right? But, believe it or not, they do have a place in our history. And as a history teacher, I find them fascinating.’

‘Why are we talking about this?’ She was getting angry and huffy, well that just wouldn’t do, Klaus wanted her afraid.

‘Well, you’ve been angry with me for keeping secrets, and this is one of my secrets. I’m obsessed with vampires. There. I said it.’ He gave a dramatic sigh and stopped cutting to place the vegetables into the pot cooking on the stove.

‘Are you joking?’ Jenna asked, rolling her eyes, and looking flummoxed.

He was acting out of character, but there wasn’t really a need for him to stay in character any longer. ‘Not at all,’ he told the aunt. ‘How about you, Stefan? Are you a fan of vampires?’

Stefan’s jaw was tight with anger and frustration. ‘In literature. Bram Stoker. It’s dense, but I appreciate it.’

Klaus hummed in response. ‘Did you know that vampires are the oldest creatures of the night? Except for werewolves, of course.’

‘Werewolves,’ Jenna out right laughed and shook her head. ‘Werewolves. Now I know your joking.’

‘You know,’ Klaus mused, ignoring the human. ‘I’ve read that there’s an Aztec curse that keeps werewolves slaves to the moon and vampires bound by the sun. Isn’t that right, Stefan? You know, they say these creatures would do anything to have this curse broken, and that they wouldn’t care who they had to kill to do it.’

Jenna’s alarmed look gave him immense pleasure. Now they were getting somewhere. They moved to the dining table, laying out the food as they went, and Klaus made sure to keep the topic to vampires as they ate, waiting in anticipation for the moment Jenna cracked. It wouldn’t be long now. He could see the anger flaring in her nostrils and the tightness of her jaw.

‘Oh, I know, this all sounds so crazy…’ he smiled over at Jenna, the very epitome of polite gentleman. ‘But vampires are real. Would you care for some more wine?’

He stood to fetch the bottle from the kitchen.

‘Get out,’ Jenna said faintly.

‘Excuse me?’ he asked innocently.

‘I don’t know what it is you’re trying to do or why you’re saying these things, but…’ she gave up. The poor thing looked so confused and frustrated, he almost pitied her. If only she knew what was going on, that she would soon be short of a niece, the grief would kill her. Well, now, wasn’t that an interesting thought.

‘Jenna,’ he protested weakly.

‘I said get out!’

‘You heard her,’ Stefan said, rising from his chair and standing protectively before Jenna.

Klaus contemplated Stefan with the calmness of a seasoned warrior, a man who found him as unthreatening as a kitten. ‘I’m afraid,’ he said lowly. ‘I don’t want to.’

‘Fine!’ Jenna threw her hands up in the air and stood from her seat. ‘I’ll go!’

Klaus grabbed the knife from the counter and held it in front of Jenna. ‘You’re not going anywhere,’ he threatened.

Next thing he knew, Stefan had him pressed against the wall and the knife was at his neck. Stefan looked so angry, it was almost like looking into the ripper he once knew, and Klaus laughed in his face.

‘Stefan!’ Jenna exclaimed, shocked at his behaviour.

‘Jenna,’ Stefan said quickly. ‘Get out of here, now!’

‘You can’t kill me, Stefan,’ Klaus taunted, laughing all the while.

‘Watch me!’ Stefan shouted as Jenna fretted in the background.

‘I may not have a witch protecting me today, but if you kill this body, what’s to stop me from choosing Jenna as my next one?’ He asked slyly, watching as the anger melted into outrage. Stefan’s hold on him tightened, the knife digging in just a little more, and Klaus wondered if Stefan would take the final plunge and kill the teacher.

‘Jenna, go.’ Stefan ordered.

‘But you’re… you…’ Jenna stammered unable to process what she was seeing.

Stefan’s face changed as he allowed his inner vampire to surface, the thick black veins around his eyes pulsing and his teeth lengthening. ‘I said go!’ he roared at Jenna, causing her to flee out of the house.

‘Kill me,’ Klaus taunted. ‘Just remind Elena how easy it will be to get my revenge if she tries to stop me from breaking this curse.’

Stefan didn’t kill him. Klaus got a punch in the face and a few kicks to the stomach for his efforts to goad Stefan. It hurt like a bitch, but at least he’d got his point across and he’d managed to cause a rift in the Gilbert household.

He could hear the music long before he entered the building of Alaric’s home and he frowned. There was no doubt in his mind that Savannah was no longer sleeping, not with that racket, and he wondered just what Katerina had been telling her. The witch was trapped in the apartment thanks to the combined efforts of Greta and Maddox, at the mercy of Katerina’s lies. When he walked into the apartment, Katerina was sat motionless on the couch, Savannah next her, both looking the very picture of innocence. If wasn’t for the blaring music, and the flushed cheeks and rapid heartbeat of his witch, he’d say they’d done nothing but sit there during his absence. He spied the bottle of bourbon on the table and frowned.

‘You mind turning that down?’ He asked.

‘Why so grumpy?’ Katerina asked as she turned down the music.

‘Well, this body has outlived its usefulness,’ he snapped.

‘Don’t speak about Alaric like that,’ Savannah snapped right back. ‘He’s good. And kind. And he doesn’t deserve what you’ve done to him.’

He always let his anger get the best of him, and before he fully realised what he had done, he had the witch pressed against the wall, his hand around her throat. The pressure was light but the threat was there, yet, she only glared at him with defiance. ‘Savannah, love, you are really pushing the limits of my leniency towards you.’

‘I hate you,’ she whispered but there was no real bite to her words.

‘Liar,’ he whispered right back, he was tempted to kiss her protests away, to fuck that defiance out of her. It was definitely time to get his body back.

Maddox chose that moment to enter the apartment, and Klaus commended him for his apt timing, he stepped away from Savannah and towards the warlock. ‘Maddox,’ he greeted jovially. ‘What took you so long?’

‘You’ve got a lot of luggage,’ Maddox responded, looking over at Savannah with thinly veiled curiosity. Klaus twitched at the interest he displayed, restraining the urge to tear out the warlock’s eyeballs, and loathing the fact that his witch drew so much attention.

His luggage arrived and with it came Greta.

‘Greta!’ he grinned. ‘Finally.’

‘Hello, love,’ she smiled, looking him up and down. ‘Nice body. You ready to get out of it?’

‘Oh, definitely,’ he gave her a flirtatious smile. Greta was a darling, truly she was, he’d coaxed her to his side by using her need for freedom and in return she gave him all the magical assistance he required, and a bed warmer. She loved him, of that he was certain, and he took advantage of her unrequited feelings more often than not.

He let Maddox and Greta do their own thing to prepare for the body-switch spell and sidled up to his favourite witch, she stood leaning against the wall, looking at her shackles and occasionally trying to pull her hand through.

‘These won’t hold me forever,’ she told him. ‘They’re meant for a nature witch. I’m not a nature witch. I can still do magic if I really try.’

The fact that she hadn’t really tried warmed his frozen heart. ‘I know,’ he told her, ‘but they will keep you out of the way whilst I break this curse.’

‘Elena’s my cousin,’ she said softly, heartbroken and sad.

‘I know,’ he repeated, brushing the hair from her face, and brushing his thumb along her cheek. ‘And I wish there was another way, I truly don’t want to hurt you, but I’ve waited a thousand years for this opportunity. I will not wait another thousand years just to spare your feelings. You’ll get over it, love.’

She looked away from him, crossed her arms over her chest, and refused to speak no matter what he said. He left her to her silence when Greta told him they were ready. Candles were lit, Greta and Maddox were knelt before him, he was more than ready to shed Alaric. He bowed his head when the duo started chanting, closing his eyes, and waiting eagerly.

He was aware the moment he was back in his own body, he felt relaxed and at ease, more natural. He flexed his muscles and stepped out of the box when Maddox opened it. ‘Now that is more like it,’ he grinned watching Maddox and Greta bow their heads in reverence. Oh, there was nothing like having the loyalty of those truly devoted to him.

Speaking of loyalty, he looked up when he heard footsteps approaching, ready to greet his witch. She got to him before he spoke, his head flew to the side, the echo of her slap echoing around the room. He should have expected it, he really should have, Savannah was nothing if not fiery. She wouldn’t physically hurt the teacher, it was him she was angry at, so she waited, stored her magic like she said she had to and put a little of it into the slap she gave him. It stung and he was sure he had her handprint across his cheek. He gave her an amused smile only to startle when her face suddenly contorted in agony and a pained cry came from her lips.

He had Greta by the throat and lifted into the air before she could blink. ‘Release her,’ he demanded, watching as Savannah fell to her knees, grasping her head. ‘Now! Greta!’

‘She hit you!’ Greta protested, choking from the lack of air.

Klaus tightened his grip, Greta looked truly afraid at the murderous look in his eyes, and she released the spell. He dropped her and was kneeling beside Savannah instantly, she trembled and gasped in the aftershock of pain, and instead of pushing him away when he drew his arms around her she relaxed into his hold and buried her face in his chest.

‘You’re alright,’ he told her, running his fingers through her hair and pressing a kiss to her temple. He looked up and caught Greta watching them with a hateful jealousy and he narrowed his eyes at her. He’d have to watch her closely, it wouldn’t do for her to take her jealousy out on Savannah. He’d kill her before that happened.

Savannah slowly wound her arms around him, her fingers clutching at the material of his shirt, and he shifted them so he was sat on the floor with her in his lap. ‘They love her,’ she whispered to him. ‘Stefan and Damon love her. Stefan will follow whatever Elena says but Damon will do something stupid.’

He hummed in response, failing to hide his smile in the crown of her head, and ran a comforting hand up and down her back. He already knew that, in fact, he planned to pay a visit to the older Salvatore brother to remind him just how important the ritual was.

‘Klaus?’ she pulled her head away from his chest to look at him.

‘Yes, sweetheart?’

Her bottom lip trembled and her eyes were watery. ‘Please. Don’t make her suffer.’

He pulled her head back against his chest. ‘I won’t,’ he promised.

Savannah was back to the silent treatment by the time he was ready to leave the following morning, Greta and Maddox had gone ahead of him to secure his wolf and vampire, and she was laid on Alaric’s bed. He paused by the doorway, wanting to say something, anything really, to get her to be alright with him once again. But he was about to kill her cousin, he could let her be angry with him for a little while. It was the least he could do really.

He made for the Grill, the centrepiece of the town’s goings on, and prepared himself to face his foes in his own flesh. He spotted Damon and the teacher at the bar, nursing a stiff drink and he smiled maliciously. They looked so weary and beaten, it filled him with joy. He all but skipped over to them. ‘Gentlemen,’ he said slyly, sliding in next to Damon, ‘why so glum?’

They both looked at him but it was Damon who responded first.

He made a disgruntled sound in the back of his throat. ‘Klaus, I presume.’

‘In the flesh,’ he grinned at his own little joke before looking to Alaric. ‘Thanks for the loaner, mate.’

‘Any reason you stopped by to say hi?’ Damon asked with gritted teeth, standing up and shielding Alaric from view. Was he treading on some bromance thing here? Cute, Klaus thought with an amused snigger.

‘I’m told you and your bother fancy my doppelgänger.’ Though perhaps he’d gotten the information wrong, and Damon’s fancies lay elsewhere. Or was he just in the closet and using Elena? Oh, well, it mattered not. ‘Just thought I’d remind you to not do anything you’ll regret.’

Damon gave him a look that was half-way between a grimace and a smile, a noncommittal noise came from him. ‘Thanks for the advice. I don’t suppose I could talk you into a postponement, by any chance, huh?’

Klaus gave him an incredulous look. ‘You are kidding?’ Damon looked far too serious so he looked over to Alaric. ‘He is kidding, right?’

‘No,’ Alaric shook his head. ‘Not really.’

‘I mean,’ Damon began. ‘Come one, what’s a month in the whole grand scheme of things?’

As far as sales pitches went, Damon’s was pathetically lacking. Klaus glared at him. ‘Let me be clear. I have my vampire. I have my werewolf. I have everything I need. The ritual will happen tonight. So, if you want to live to see tomorrow, don’t screw up.’

He gave them a final sneer before leaving the Grill. He checked everything was going according to plan with Greta and Maddox, Caroline and Tyler were safely stored away in the tomb. His backup werewolf was trapped, his backup vampire would soon be secured. Everything was running smoothly. He couldn’t ask for a better day.

He found the perfect spot to do the ritual, a small quarry in the woods with enough room for a small altar, and space enough to contain his sacrifices. He texted Greta the location and returned to Alaric’s apartment.

Katerina was making coffee when he entered, but there was a shared glance between her and Savannah that had him doubting himself. He frowned.

‘Everything okay?’ Katerina asked, Savannah had pointedly looked away from him.

‘What have you been doing?’ he asked tight-lipped and suspicious.

‘Making coffee,’ she held up her cup. ‘Do you want some?’

There was something in her tone, a hidden smugness, that he loathed. He was grabbing her throat and compelling her in the space of a second. ‘Tell me what you’ve been doing.’

‘Making coffee,’ she responded, her voice the monotone that came with compulsion.

He released her to glance over at Savannah, she was watching them with a wary eye, but she turned away the moment she noticed him watching. He turned back to Katerina. ‘Wait,’ he told her as she made to move away from him, and holding out his hand. ‘Take off your bracelet.’ He had Savannah’s attention now, he could feel her eyes boring into him, curious and apprehensive. Katerina placed the bracelet in his waiting palm. ‘Now, I want you…’ he paused contemplating his next words. ‘To walk over to the window and stand in the sunlight.’

‘But I’ll burn,’ she whispered with a flicker of fear.

‘You don’t have a choice,’ he told her.

She did as he ordered her to, walking over to the window with assured steps, and stepped into the sunlight. Immediately her flesh began to burn and she screamed. Hearing her suffering brought a smile to his face.

‘Stop it!’ Savannah yelled, shooting to her feet and looking worried and frightened. The look bothered him. He didn’t want her afraid of him and Katerina’s words about Savannah thinking him a monster came to mind. He grew angry that the thoughts of her thinking him a monster bothered him. But he couldn’t allow her to think she could betray him without consequences, even though she didn’t do much, she did side with his enemies and would have been a real thorn in his side if he’d given her the chance. He had to show her.

‘That’s enough,’ he told Katerina, though his gaze was on his witch, ‘guess I was wrong,’ he muttered looking back at Katerina. ‘All right, then. I need you to do something for me.’

He revealed his plan with conspiratorial smile.

‘No,’ Savannah said as soon as he’d finished explaining. ‘No! Please, Klaus,’ she begged him. ‘Don’t do this. She’s my aunt! You can’t! You’ve already taken Elena, don’t take Jenna from me too.’

He handed Katerina his phone, watched her dial the number and press the phone to her ear. Savannah lunged for Katerina but Klaus grabbed her before she could get close enough, he pulled her back and sat on the couch with her in his lap. His arm tight around her waist, holding her still though she squirmed, he would not give an inch.

‘Hush, love,’ he murmured into her ear, placing his free hand around her mouth to muffle her shouts. ‘You didn’t think I’d let your actions against me go unpunished. You know me better than that, Savannah.’

Her tears slipped over his hand as they both listened to Katerina falsely pretend to be Elena. She played the part as if she were born for it. Klaus supposed she was in a way. The moment she was done, she tossed the phone on the counter and levelled him with a glare that would have had him cowering had he been any less of a man. Then she looked at Savannah with such a look of pity it actually had him wondering if he was doing more harm than good.

He took his hand away, her sobbing was louder now, and moved away from her. He had an aunt to go collect. Yet, he didn’t leave. Instead he watched as Savannah merely curled up into a ball on the couch and cried even harder. She began apologising over and over again. He was reminded of the sixteen-year-old who had clung to him after a particularly nasty dream, apologising for deaths she had no blame in. His resolve crumbled.

Cursing himself, he was quick to snap Katerina’s neck, he didn’t fully trust her, and kneel before Savannah.

‘Look at me, little witch,’ he said softly, but she just burrowed her face further into the cushion, he sighed. Gently moving her hair out of the way, he moved closer to her ear, whispering. ‘Shall we do a deal, little witch? One where Aunt Jenna might survive, yeah?’

She looked at him then, tearful green orbs so full of heartache and hope, even crying she looked a vision. His fingers threaded through her hair, pulling it away from her face, he ran his thumb down her forehead where a lightning scar had once been. He wondered what had happened to it. He gave her an encouraging smile and brushed away her tears.

‘I need to use Jenna to make a point, not just to you but to the others too, but I don’t see why she has to die,’ he told her, his voice low and calm. ‘So, why don’t I use Jenna until my point is made, and then let her go? Use another in her place.’

‘You want me to choose between Jenna and another innocent person?’ She asked.

‘A vampire has to die tonight, love,’ he responded. ‘It’s either Jenna or someone else.’

It wasn’t really a decision between Jenna or another innocent life. It was a question of whether she could live with the heartache of losing Jenna, or if she could suffer the guilt of causing another family heartache. It was a lose-lose choice, but Klaus had no other options. She looked lost for a moment before she came to her decision.

‘Jenna,’ she whispered. ‘Sacrifice Jenna.’

He knew she would choose Jenna, it was why he offered the choice in the first place. She was too good to let another die, far to noble and self-sacrificing to ever let another experience the losses she had. The Gilbert family was broken anyway, why not add more grief to an already tragic household. He nodded once and left her there on the couch crying. His own guilt was gone, Savannah had chosen this path herself and couldn’t hold it against him.

He collected Jenna, forced his blood into her and snapped her neck, before leaving her with Greta at the ritual site. He paid his backup wolf a visit, long enough to secure a video feed to her holding cell that broadcasted straight to his phone. Then he took his doppelgänger away from Stefan. And was back at the apartment a little after sunset. Katerina was awake when he arrived and Savannah sat listlessly on the couch, her tears dried out, but the redness around her eyes and the puffiness of her cheeks told him it hadn’t been long since she stopped.

‘Where’s Maddox?’ he questioned out loud. ‘He should be back by now.’

‘I don’t know,’ Katerina told him, her gaze shooting between him and Savannah. He just knew Katerina had told his witch about how monstrous he was, and how he slaughtered her family and pretty much anyone who double crossed him. He rolled his eyes.

He sat at the table drawing his laptop closer to him, before plugging his phone into the dock behind it. Savannah walked up to him and he paused, not knowing what to expect from her, but relaxed when she merely sat in his lap and wrapped her arms around him. She got clingy when she was sad and blaming herself, it happened whenever she had a dream about Sirius, and he didn’t mind. He used one hand to open his laptop and bring up the live feed of the werewolf, the other rubbed up and down Savannah’s back.

‘Who’s that?’ Savannah asked, gazing at the laptop out of the corner of her eyes.

‘Backup wolf,’ he answered, before looking down at her. ‘You still angry with me?’

Her hand gripped his shirt tighter and he felt her nod against him, before she shook her head, and finally settled for a shrug.

‘You’re confused,’ he stated with a sigh. ‘It’s okay, sweetheart, you can be angry if you want to be. Just don’t hate me, yeah?’

She nodded against his chest and he was content to let the matter drop. The door banged open, causing Savannah to startle, and the sound drew the attention of both Klaus and Katerina.

‘Don’t you two look cosy,’ Damon sneered from behind Klaus. ‘Catching up on old times?’

Klaus smirked. ‘I wasn’t aware you’d been invited in.’

‘I’ve come here to tell you that you have to postpone the ritual.’ Damon told him causing Klaus to sigh.

‘Didn’t we already have this conversation?’ Klaus asked, looking bored.

‘Yeah,’ Damon nodded. ‘But that was before I rescued your werewolf and vampire and killed your witch.’

So that was what happened to Maddox. He shifted on the chair, standing slowly, his arms falling back to his side as he moved in front of his witch. ‘Excuse me?’

‘And you can kill me for it,’ Damon told him smugly. ‘I don’t care. It was all me.’

Oh, he wanted to, but he didn’t want to give his witch anymore reasons to think him a monster, and Damon was dead already. He’d spied the werewolf bite the moment he faced Damon. ‘Katerina,’ he called. ‘Give us a moment will you, love?’

For a moment, he thought she would disobey and prove his suspicions correct, but she turned and left the room.

‘I’ve heard about you. The crazy, impulsive vampire in love with his brother’s girl. I knew one of you would try to stop me. It was just a fifty/fifty guess on who.’ He moved the laptop screen so Damon could see. ‘The nice thing about werewolves is they tend to travel in packs. Need a closer look?’

He closed the laptop lid and pulled his phone from the dock before tossing it at Damon. ‘Jules,’ Damon said, defeat shining in his eyes, and Klaus sneered at him. What did he honestly expect? Klaus had a thousand years on him.

‘When you spend a thousand years trying to break a curse, you learn a thing or two. First rule, always have a backup. Backup werewolf. Backup witch.’

‘Backup vampire,’ Damon whispered, looking like he’d swallowed a whole lemon.

‘I’ve got that covered too,’ Klaus assured him before snapping Damon’s neck. He was getting happy again, he’d soon break his curse, he couldn’t wait. Pulling Savannah to him, he pressed a kiss to her forehead. ‘Next time you see me, love, I’ll be a hybrid. Finally, I will be whole.’

‘Good luck,’ she whispered to him, her heart wasn’t in it, but Klaus supposed when it meant two of her family members dying, he shouldn’t expect her to be overly enthusiastic.

His walk to the quarry was purposefully slow, he’d had to curb the temptation to run more than once, as he wanted to make a dramatic entrance and there was nothing like the thrill of making his sacrifices wait. Klaus entered the quarry just in time to hear Greta compliment him and declare her loyalty to him. It warmed the heart, it really did, he grinned and winked at her.

‘Glad to know I still have a dance partner,’ that was a lie, he’d never dance with Greta. It would give her false hope. He turned to the three sacrifices. ‘Hello, my lovelies,’ he greeted them. ‘Are we ready to begin?’

Greta smiled at him, nodding.

He pulled the moonstone out of his pocket and gave it a contemplative look. ‘I spent five hundred years looking for this. I hate to part with it.’ But it was for a good cause, he reasoned, handing it over to Greta.

‘The moon has passed its apex,’ she told him, looking up at the sky. ‘Remember everything you need to do?’

‘I remember,’ as if he could forget.

Greta dropped the moonstone into a stone bowl filled with flames. As soon as the magical stone hit the bottom, sparks erupted from the bowl, destroying the moonstone and granting him the gateway to break his curse. Greta began to chant in Latin as Klaus made his way over to Jules. The werewolf was speaking to Elena, telling her how everything she did was for Tyler, Klaus rolled his eyes at the display. How pathetic. He interrupted it.

‘Shall we?’ he asked rhetorically.

The fire circle that bound her dispersed. She didn’t waste a moment of her apparent freedom. Her eyes turned yellow and she lunged at Klaus. He predicted the move and quickly pinned her to the ground, she maybe a wolf, but he was a thousand years old. Plunging his hand into her chest, he pulled out her heart, anticipation filled him and left him breathless. This was happening. He walked back over to Greta, holding the heart over the bowl and squeezing the blood into it, the flames grew higher, almost licking at the blood as it dripped from his hand eager for more.

‘Does that mean it’s working?’ he asked.

‘It’s working,’ Greta told him.

Again, Jenna and Elena were talking, this time the moment more touching and emotional. He walked slowly over to them, the least he could do was allow them to say goodbye, he wasn’t completely heartless. When they quietened, he stepped closer to the ring of fire containing Jenna.

‘Hello, Jenna,’ he said watching as she stood and feeling only a touch remorseful about killing her. But there was nothing he could do now. Savannah had made the choice.

‘Let her go,’ Elena begged. ‘I understand that I have to die, but she doesn’t.’

‘Careful,’ he told her when she walked to close to the edge and almost got burned.

‘Elena, don’t,’ Jenna said, looking resigned to her fate, and Klaus gave her brownie points for not begging for her life.

‘No!’ Elena shouted, ‘we can’t leave Jeremy without a family.’ She turned to Klaus, pleaded and begged. ‘I followed your rules; I did everything that you asked. I didn’t run. Please.’

It was almost enough to make him laugh. He opened his mouth to retort, to tell Elena that her begging wasn’t going to change anything, when he sensed Stefan’s presence. ‘Well, well,’ he began instead, looking up to the top of the quarry. ‘I don’t recall you being on the guest list.’

‘I’m here to talk,’ Stefan told him.

Klaus contemplated ignoring Stefan and getting on with the ritual, but they had once been friends, so he nodded and, with a parting look at Jenna, he flashed up to the top of the quarry. ‘What can I do for you, Mr. Salvatore?’

‘You don’t need to kill Jenna. I’ll take her place.’

That was sweet. Really. It almost brought a tear to his eye. Instead, he grinned. ‘Oh, I don’t know. I rather appreciate the symmetry of three women – three goddesses – sacrificed at nature’s altar.’ He liked the artistry of it all. Perhaps he’d paint it when they were done.

‘Don’t play games with me. You’ll get what you want either way.’

‘You’re quite the hero, aren’t you?’ Klaus laughed. ‘I’ve heard that about you.’ The ripper he knew was quite the opposite. Strange how life works.

‘Just make the trade. Me for Jenna.’

‘Shall we let Elena decide?’ he asked eagerly. Give the doppelgänger the same choice he gave to his witch only a few hours ago. He gave Stefan a wolfish grin and flashed back down to Elena and Jenna. ‘Quite the predicament. You know, it’s funny, all this talk about preserving family, and here’s Stefan, granting your wish.’

How noble of him.

‘Stefan,’ Elena whimpered sadly.

‘It’s okay,’ Stefan reassured her with a sad smile.

‘Well,’ Klaus interrupted, pointing a stake between Stefan and Jenna, ‘who’s it going to be, Elena?’

‘No,’ Elena shook her head and Klaus shrugged.

‘Don’t worry,’ he grinned. ‘There isn’t a choice, really.’

Savannah had made the choice already and he had plans for Stefan, so he flashed around Stefan and staked him in the back. Low enough to miss his heart, but high enough so that getting it out would be problematic and nearly impossible. Stefan cried out in pain, crumbling to the floor, causing Elena to scream in horror, instinctively Stefan tried to grab the stake. Klaus broke it before he could though, leaving just enough inside of Stefan to immobilise him. Just to be on the safe side though, he snapped Stefan’s neck, not willing to leave anything to chance.

‘Whenever you’re ready, Greta,’ he called out to the witch who immediately began chanting in Latin again. The ring around Jenna disappeared and he revelled in the frightened look she gave him.

‘Jenna, no,’ Elena cried out, once again trying to reach her aunt, but the fire stopped her.

‘It’s alright, Elena. I know what I have to do,’ she sounded so confident all of a sudden, Klaus didn’t expect her to go from fearful sacrificial lamb to fighting warrior in the span of a few seconds. He was stunned when Jenna leapt forwards to sink her new grown fangs into Greta. The witch screamed and Klaus was by her side in an instant, staking Jenna in the back and pulling her off Greta.

The malicious side of him took joy in watching Jenna die, he flipped her over, looking her in the eyes as he drove the stake into her heart to the sweet music of Elena’s cries. Jenna grew cold, grey and decayed within moments. He released his hold on the stake and stood, helping Greta to her feet and prompting her to continue the ritual. Greta poured Jenna’s blood into the bowl and Klaus looked over at Elena.

‘It’s time,’ he told her as he approached, ignoring the now awake Stefan’s attempts to get the piece of stake out of his back. The circle of fire around Elena dimmed and he extended his hand towards her, she ignored it and walked up to the altar on her own. He laughed at her stubbornness, following behind her, she turned her back to him. He turned her around and grabbed her chin so she could meet his eyes.’

‘Thank you, Elena,’ he tells her sincerely.

‘Go to hell,’ she responded passionately.

He was sure he would, one day, but for now he simply sank his fangs into her neck and greedily supped on her blood. He can feel the magic in her blood, the magic of the curse breaking, and he pulled her to him, draining her more deeply. He felt her heartbeat slowing, her body grew limp in his arms, still, he continued feasting on her blood. When her heart no longer beat, he let her go. His breathing was ragged when he stepped down from the altar, a pleased moan leaving him.

‘I can feel it,’ he said, licking the blood from his lips. ‘It’s happening.’

He looked up at the moon, it was full and bright in the sky, and the magic within reached a crescendo until suddenly, it broke. His curse gone. He could feel the duality within him, he was both wolf and vampire. His bones began to crack with the effort of his first transformation. Gleeful, he called out in triumph. He’d done it. He’d bested his mother once and for all.

His joy was short lived.

Klaus was suddenly thrown through the air and all he could feel was pain and a voice chanting a spell. A voice of someone he’d thought he’d killed. They played him, he realised, and they had played him well. The Bennett witch was still alive and still channelling the power of a hundred witches. Dammit. He was so close.

His body contorted in unnatural angles, his bones cracking and healing only to crack again. He’d never felt anything like it. And then he’s thrown against the rocks and Bonnie’s magic subsides. For a moment he thinks he’s free, that the witch had used too much power and had bit the dust. But then Elijah is there and Klaus feels a world of hurt that Bonnie’s magic could never cause.

‘Elijah?’ he whispered.

‘Hello, brother,’ Elijah greets him before plunging his hand into his chest. ‘In the name of our family, Niklaus…’

Klaus gasps in pain as Elijah twists his heart. ‘I didn’t bury them at sea!’ he said quickly giving Elijah pause.

‘What?’

‘Their bodies are safe. If you kill me, you’ll never find them.’

Death was so close. Closer than it had ever been. Klaus didn’t want to die, he still had so many things to do. He wanted to see the world with Savannah at his side, show her the bounty the earth had to offer, he wanted to hear her story, her laughter. That sweet, honest, laughter that had endeared him so. He didn’t want to die by his brother’s hand.

‘Elijah,’ he gasped. ‘I can take you to them. I give you my word… brother.’

Klaus knew precisely when Elijah decided to spare him and he breathed a sigh of relief when his brother whisked them both to safety. Always and forever, his brother had promised him so long ago. Always and forever.

Chapter Text

Savannah looked stunning in the early morning light that filtered in through the open bay doors. She wore no make-up, something he’d queried the other day because, in his experience, women liked to cover their faces in the stuff. She’d given him a blank look and promptly replied that she didn’t even know how to apply it. And there was a redness to her cheeks, a hint of the sun’s kiss, that breathed a natural life into her. Atop her head was a messy bun to keep the hair off the back of her neck, yet a few flyaway pieces kept her constantly tucking it behind her ear. Reclining on the sofa on her front with a book in her hand and her bare legs up in the air, wearing a pair of shorts and his favourite Henley, she created an image of a blissful summer haze.

She looked so much older than her short fifteen years in that early morning light, yet, it was only yesterday that she was excitedly ordering the largest sundae in the ice-cream parlour by the port. She’d coveted it with a childish possessiveness when he’d jokingly tried to steal one of the wafers. He was reminded constantly that she was in that awkward transitional stage where she’d acquired all the necessary features of womanhood, the full breasts, the curve of her hips, the pert rear, and the legs that he could easily picture around his waist in the throes of passion, but she hadn’t yet caught up mentally. She clung to the aura of childish simplicity and was almost sinfully naïve to the flirtatious glances sent her way.

He wanted her just as much as he wanted her to hold on to that innocence. It created a startling conflict within him.

But that morning he was at peace.

He was committing the vision before him to canvas, capturing her beauty in acrylic, yet, he hadn’t actually put a drop of paint onto the outline of her figure. All around the pencil-drawing of her was coloured. From the hint of blue in the sky outside the bay windows, to the pile of books sat on the old chair in the corner of the room. He couldn’t bring himself to begin to highlight the depths of her skin tone, to bring her life on canvas as the sun had brought her life with its colourful display upon her flesh. Part of him was afraid to do it. As though committing the memory to an art form would make it just that. A memory he’d only remember when pursing through his collection of paintings and he didn’t want that. He didn’t want this girl to be like the others. A forgotten piece of his long history.

‘Hey, Klaus,’ she began suddenly. ‘We’re in France, right?’

‘Took you this long to notice, aye?’ He rolled his eyes and added a hint of white to the blue on his palate.

He heard her shifting on the couch and he was about to tell her not to, that he had yet to capture the right amount of shading on her body, but he stopped himself. She did not know he was painting her, and he did not want to fill her head with some romantic notions he’d never be able to live up to. He glanced at her instead.

She was sprawled on her side, her elbow on the armrest and her head resting in her open palm, her right leg was propped up and her other arm was casually slung across it. There was a purely mischievous look in her otherworldly eyes. She caught his gaze and grinned at him. ‘Paint me like one of your French girls,’ she said.

His brush stilled as he felt a thrill of lust shoot through him. The very thoughts of her posed naked on the couch for his view had him growing hard. He would never be able to concentrate long enough to paint her, not when her supple flesh would be a constant temptation. The image in his mind was enough to make even the saintliest of priest’s sin. His gaze turned heated as he perused her form and there was a brief flicker of recognition in her eyes, a resonance that told him she knew he desired her, and it was reflected back at him.

Klaus wanted nothing more than to toss his paintbrush aside and make love to her right there, on the couch on a lazy Sunday morning in the French Riviera. He almost did throw his brush down, but then she laughed and turned back over to resume her reading.

The woman gone and the child returned.

He clenched his jaw and hated the transitional stage from girlhood to womanhood. The painting before him received the brunt of his frustration, his brush capturing the girl before him as the innocent tease she was.

It was exhilarating. The wildness that filled him, the primal instincts that urged him to sink his teeth into more and more victims, and the feel of the earth beneath his paws. Blood dripped from his maw, dirt clung to sharp claws, and yellow eyes pierced the night. The scents of the world were more intense, the bitter twang of the town, the smell of pollution had him turning away and bounding through the forests instead. The scent of pine needles far more inspiring than exhaust fumes.

He killed more than he cared to remember, dined on blood and flesh until he was full to bursting. The wolf was aware of his follower, a vampire that, under normal circumstances, would have met a grisly end. As it was, this particular vampire smelt of family. And the vampire side of him remembered his family. His pack. And he did not interfere in his great hunt. So the wolf ignored him.

He was about to sink his fangs into another unsuspecting victim when the wind changed and he caught the scent of something far more tempting. His belly was full, there was no more need to hunt, and now another primal urge struck him. This scent was fruity, like summer berries, and mixed together with a hidden spice of power. It conjured images of a dark-haired girl with powerful green eyes and a defiant smile on a pretty face.

His body trembled and a long tongue lolled out to lick the blood from his maw. His instincts shifted from the need to kill to the almost overwhelming urge to mate. The wolf wanted the girl. He wanted her trembling beneath him, submitting to the pleasure he would give her during their rutting, and he wanted her to know just who was the alpha. He caught the scent again, and he was off, bolting towards town and to that alluring mate of his.

It was only when he neared the town that vampire within him fought for control. He growled and clung to the wolf form he held, almost feral in his need to have the girl, but the vampire was strong. The wolf hated the vampire. The vampire had been in control for so long, now that the wolf had it, he didn’t want to relinquish it. Not when he knew the vampire would ignore those primal instincts the wolf relied upon. But the wolf was too young, too feral, and vampire won.

The wolf clung to the image of the girl he would mate as it was slowly pushed back into the cage of the vampire form once again, and it huffed and howled at the loss. He would have the girl, the precious little magical girl, even if the vampire disagreed. The girl, though not a werewolf, was the perfect choice for the wolf. It would have no other.

Klaus grinned as he caught sight of the sun. Naked as the day he was born, he’d never felt so free, and he remembered his time as a wolf so clearly. Each kill he made. The feel of the earth beneath him, the scent of his little witch overwhelming him. It would seem the wolf was just as enamoured as the vampire, only less restrained, younger and wilder. It was thrilling.

‘You’ve been busy,’ Elijah called out from the treeline before tossing him some clothes.

‘It was amazing,’ Klaus grinned as he stood and dressed, he felt invincible, whole. ‘How long has it been?’

‘Almost two days. The full moon came and went and you remained a wolf.’

‘I can change at will then,’ he mused. ‘That’s good to know. I remember every single kill.’

And the lust. Even now it lingered behind and he was eager to see his little witch again, he’d left her alone for far too long, it was time to reclaim her and move on with his plans.

‘Yes,’ Elijah said with just the barest hint of distaste. ‘I’ve been cleaning up your mess along the way.’

‘Just like old times, brother,’ he laughed.

‘You’ve had your fun,’ Elijah said, growing serious and stern. ‘I believe we have a bargain.’

He feigned forgetfulness. ‘Oh, yes, that’s right. Now, what was it again? Wait. I remember.’ He chuckled and grinned at the annoyance on his brother’s face. ‘You wish to be reunited with our family.’

‘You gave me your word, Niklaus,’ Elijah said tersely, not willing to play Klaus’ games. Shame, Klaus was feeling rather giddy.

‘What kind of brother would break his bond?’ Klaus teased. ‘Even if you did try to kill me.’

‘I could have,’ Elijah pointed out. ‘But I didn’t.’

‘And now no one can,’ Klaus boasted as Elijah helped him into his jacket. ‘Not even you,’ there was only a brief touch of anger to his tone. ‘Relax, Elijah, all is forgiven.’

‘Where are they?’

‘You need to lighten up,’ he rolled his eyes. ‘I will bring you to them soon enough.’

Though not in the way Elijah was no doubt thinking. Oh well, it couldn’t be helped. Elijah should know the deal by now. No one got away with plotting against him, not even his brother.

He noticed the shackles on the coffee table the moment he walked through the door and smirked. Savannah had managed to remove her bindings, clever girl, and with Greta now dead, the barrier around the apartment had fallen. It took him a moment for the realisation to sink in, of what the lack of barrier would mean and he was quick to look around the room for his witch, but she was nowhere to be seen. His heart clenched at the thought of her abandoning him.

No. She couldn’t leave him. He wouldn’t let her. He’d track her down and bind her to him if he had to. But first, he had to deal with his brother and Stefan. No matter how much he wanted to find her first, to punish her for ever contemplating leaving him, he’d been too lenient with the Jenna situation but this time he wouldn’t be.

Klaus had expected Stefan to come to him the moment he found out Damon had been bitten by a werewolf. He was going to have fun with Stefan, once the vampire shed his boring outer layer that was. Perhaps they could recreate the bond they had back in the twenties. It took him mere seconds to deal with the bargain he had struck with Elijah, daggering him through the heart, and fulfilling his end of the deal. Elijah would be returned to his coffin, together with the rest of his siblings, and Klaus would remove the dagger once he was certain there could be no retribution. That it was safe for his family to be reunited.

‘Now,’ he said, looking from Elijah’s prone form to Stefan. He flashed over to him and had him pressed against the wall and stake in his chest before the younger vampire could blink. ‘What am I going to do with you?’ he asked, holding Stefan up. It might have been an overkill, but Klaus was angry, and he needed to vent it somehow. Stefan was just a convenient outlet. ‘Do you feel that? It’s scraping against your heart. The slightest little movement and you’re dead.’

‘He’s just trying to help his brother.’ Katerina protested, giving Stefan anxious looks. Was this true love? A sneer found its way to the surface.

‘Katerina, love,’ he snarled. ‘Do shut up, lest I grow tired of you.’

‘The witches said you had a cure,’ Stefan rasped out, gasping for a breath he didn’t truly need, pulling Klaus’ attention away from Katerina. ‘Make me a deal. Just give me the cure, and I’ll do whatever you want.’

A slow smile crept onto his face, he just loved it when people offered him anything, it was so fun to see them jump through hoops to attain his help. He yanked the stake out of Stefan’s chest as painfully as he could, watching in satisfaction as Stefan fell to the floor. He walked over to the counter and tossed the stake onto it, before pouring himself a glass of blood. ‘Trouble is,’ he said, unable to keep the amusement out of his tone. ‘I don’t know if you’d be any good to me the way you are now. You are just shy of useless.’

He walked back over to Stefan, taking a sip from his glass, before crouching down. ‘I heard about this one vampire, crazy bloke, always on and off the wagon for decades. When he was off, he was magnificent. Nineteen-seventeen, he went into Monterrey and wiped out an entire migrant village…’ he paused to let his words sink in. ‘A true ripper. Sound familiar?’

Stefan looked a little afraid, of himself or of Klaus was hard to tell, either way, the expression brought a smirk to Klaus’ face. ‘I haven’t been that way in a very long time.’

‘Well, that’s the vampire I can make a deal with,’ Klaus shrugged nonchalantly. ‘That is the kind of talent I can use when I leave this town.’ He straightened up, taking another sip from his glass, watching as Stefan helplessly got to his feet. Perhaps a demonstration was in order, to prove he really did have the cure. ‘Katerina,’ he ordered, holding his hand out to her. ‘Come here.’

She took it with great hesitance. She didn’t trust him, oh well, he wouldn’t lose sleep over the fact. He gripped her hand tightly, yanking her forwards and within seconds, his eyes flashed yellow and he was sinking his fangs into her. Katerina screamed looking horrified at the bite mark before giving him a disbelieving look. He contemplated leaving her to die, it would be painful and she would deserve it, but he wanted the ripper by his side only a little more than he wanted to see Katerina dead. Klaus bit into his own wrist and pressed the bloody appendage to Katerina’s mouth, forcing her to drink his blood, and they all watched as the bite mark healed. He looked at Stefan, feeling more powerful than he’d ever been, and gave him an arrogant smirk.

‘You want your cure?’ he asks rhetorically, ‘there it is.’

‘Your blood is the cure,’ Stefan said, dumbstruck and in slight awe.

‘Got to love Mother Nature,’ Klaus told him, placing a hand on his shoulder. ‘Now. Let’s talk, you and I.’

He sat down at the counter, pulling a knife from one of the drawers as he did so, and contemplated it silently until the creaking of the bedroom door opening drew his attention away from the sharp edge. He looked over to the doorway and there stood his little witch. Savannah looked bedraggled and wore one of the plaid shirts that belonged to the teacher.

‘What’s going on?’ she asked sleepily, rubbing her eyes and yawning.

She hadn’t left him. If only he’d listened for her heartbeat before getting angry, he’d have realised she was in the bedroom, sleeping by the looks of things. He laughed at his own idiocy, his witch was smarter than that. ‘You look ridiculous, sweetheart,’ he told her.

‘Oh,’ she perked up, smiling at him and stepping further into the room. ‘You’re back. I was getting worried.’

Her confession had completely melted his anger away in favour of a gentler emotion. One he refused to call anything but adoration. He adored her. Klaus shifted in his seat, opening his arm wide for her to step into. ‘Come here, sweetheart, I’m about to make a deal with Stefan.’

She’d moved over to him before he’d finished speaking. He pulled her onto his lap only to scowl when the scent of history teacher encroached over her scent. ‘I prefer your shirts,’ she mumbled to him, resting her head on his shoulder and blinking owlishly at Stefan.

Secretly, Klaus preferred it too. The way his scent would mingle with her own, as though they’d spent the entire day fucking, would leave him with a heady sense of lustful pride.

‘Ana,’ Stefan whispered, ‘Damon said you were here, trapped. Has he hurt you?’

‘Klaus has never hurt me,’ she told him, frowning at the insinuation, and sounding a little offended. He found it endearing that she would say it so firmly.

‘Elena…’ he paused, looking at Klaus with an intense loathing. ‘Elena asked me to tell you that she loved you. And that she’s sorry it turned out the way it did.’

‘I’m sorry too,’ she whispered and she sounded so guilty and sad that Stefan could only give her a piteous look. ‘For everything.’

She was guilt-ridden about what happened to Jenna still. She would get over it. Klaus would make sure of it, but he wasn’t so callous to say it out loud, not when she was so upset over it. He placed a comforting hand on her knee instead. Stefan smiled sadly at her and she returned it shyly.

‘It’ll be okay,’ Stefan assured her and Klaus frowned at his attempt to comfort his witch. A spark of jealousy igniting within him. Stefan was handsome, kind and noble, a more fitting companion for one as light as Savannah, and Klaus felt horribly forgotten as they continued speaking.

‘I know,’ she responded. ‘What are you doing here?’

‘Saving Damon,’ Stefan told her with a grim look, his gaze focusing on Klaus again.

‘Speaking of,’ Klaus said, regaining control of the conversation, and gave Stefan a grin.  He took the knife again, wrapped his hand around the blade and squeezed it tight, watching in mild fascination as his blood poured from the wound. Savannah made a disgusted sound as he grabbed a vial to contain his blood, he laughed in response and kissed her temple. ‘Don’t be squeamish, love, this is business. Right, Stefan?’ he meets Stefan’s gaze. ‘You want to save your brother? How about a decade-long bender? I have big plans for you when we leave this town.’

‘I’m not like that anymore,’ Stefan protested with gritted teeth.

‘Shame,’ Klaus gave an exaggerated sigh. ‘You would have made one hell of a wingman.’ He leaned over, slowly pouring the blood down the sink.

‘Wait,’ Stefan said at the same time Savannah leant forward and pulled the vial of blood out of his hands. She gave him a disapproving frown, he responded with a boyish smile of innocence.

‘Now that’s more like it,’ he told Stefan. ‘I want you to join me for a drink.’

He reached over to one of the blood bags on the counter and slid it down to Stefan, before he picked up his earlier glass of blood. He watched Stefan frown at the blood as he drank from his glass.

‘Stefan doesn’t drink human blood,’ Savannah told him.

‘He does now,’ Klaus said gleefully as Stefan took a sip of the blood. That wouldn’t do. ‘Finish it.’ He ordered. ‘All of it. You do everything I say, and I save your brother. That’s the deal.’

He watched almost greedily as Stefan drained the bag, it was like a transformation came over him and Stefan shook with the force of the blood. Klaus couldn’t understand how Stefan could survive on Thumper and Bambi, he’d tried animal blood once out of curiosity and found it lacking in everything that mattered, and how he could live as a weaker version of himself was beyond the hybrid. It was downright degrading. This was as much a punishment as it was a way for Klaus to get back in touch with his friend from the twenties.

So, when the bag was thoroughly drained, Klaus slid another over to him.

‘What does blood taste like?’ Savannah asked suddenly, watching Stefan with a morbid curiosity. ‘Because I’ve tasted my blood and it just tastes iron-y.’

‘Depends on the source, sweetheart,’ Klaus told her.

‘Oh, so, different blood types taste different?’ her attention was on him again, those green orbs alight with the same thirst for knowledge he’d seen two years ago.

‘Yes,’ he nodded. ‘It’s like red wine, you have different flavours, and some vampires prefer one vintage over the other. But there are other factors that make blood taste better or worse, not just blood type. A person’s life-style for one. And if they are more than human.’

‘You mean magical blood?’ she looked thoughtful.

‘A witch’s blood tastes exquisite,’ he told her, his gaze drawn to her neck, where he could see the vein beneath the skin flowing with her blood. ‘But your blood…’ he trailed off for a moment. ‘A nature witch’s blood contains only a fraction of the power nature grants them to wield, their power is, for the lack of a better word, borrowed. But your magic comes from you. Your blood would be pure power.’

She bit her lower lip and watched him with careful eyes. ‘Do you want to bite me?’

He refused to admit his mouth watered at the prospect of her blood. He’d always wondered just what it would taste like but he’d never done it, too afraid that once he got a taste he would never stop. It would be divine. The sweetest of ambrosias and far better than the blood in his glass. He was half tempted to yank her head back and sink his fangs into her, but there had been a slight flicker of fear in her eyes when she’d asked the question, it was enough to stop the impulse. ‘Yes,’ he responded honestly. ‘But I wouldn’t. Not unless you wanted me to.’

Her answering smile told him he’d answered her correctly. ‘What does your blood taste like?’

Klaus grinned at her, grabbed the hand that still held the vial of his blood and pushed it up to her lips. ‘Why don’t you take a sip and find out?’

He had no idea the effect his blood would have on her, she wasn’t a normal human, she wasn’t even a normal witch and he couldn’t predict what would happen. Would it illicit a brief high like it did in normal humans? Or would it cause a mild addiction like it did with nature witches? Would he taste iron-y to her? He watched her contemplate his offer with an almost bated breath.

Klaus was the proverbial snake offering the apple to Eve. The desire for her to take the blood was strong, he wanted a piece of his life essence within her, if only for a brief moment and he was tempted to force her to drink it. He didn’t. It had to be her decision.

‘Or,’ he whispered lowly into her ear, his hand resting on her upper thigh and his thumb moving slow circles on her flesh. ‘Would you prefer to drink straight from the source? Shall we drink together?’ his nose brushed along the shell of her ear and he delighted in the sharp intake of breath from her.

Blood sharing was an intimate thing, something Klaus had never done with just anybody, and he’d always found the prospect of sharing blood with Savannah to be arousing. She did too, if her trembling was anything to go by and he smiled. Brushing his nose across her cheek, he breathed in her fruity scent, unaware of his eyes flashing yellow as he did so. His lips hovered over her own, every exhale brushing across them like a caress, they parted in response, trembling and so very ripe for the taking.

‘Is that what you want, little witch?’ he asked huskily.

A sound of disgust brought them both out of the little world they had created, and Klaus cursed himself for the slip. They were not alone, he reminded himself that it was so easy to get lost in her, but he did not pull away from the witch. The growing flush of embarrassment only serving to make her more alluring.

‘If you’re going to fuck her,’ Katerina spat venomously. ‘At least do it in the other room.’

And the spell was well and truly broken. Savannah shoved herself away from him so hard she fell onto the ground and the glass vial of blood she held shattered beneath her hand. There was a brief moment of silence, where Savannah could only look at him with wide, panic filled eyes. He heard the smash and just knew pieces of glass had now embedded themselves in her skin. He looked at her. Stefan looked at her. Katerina looked at her.

Slowly, she lifted her hand and Klaus was proved right. Her blood permeated the air with the sweetest, most addictive smell he had ever scented. It was like he was a drug addict and she was his fix. His eyes shifted to a bright yellow, black veins appeared around his eyes and his teeth lengthened into fangs. Had he been anyone but himself, had he not cared for her as he did, he would have lunged for her and she’d be no more than his next meal. It was the wolf in him that stopped him, that alerted him to the two much younger vampires in the room, and the danger they presented.

Because if he struggled to contain himself, they didn’t stand a chance against her, and he thought that this could have been one of the reasons her people sequestered themselves away. Stefan and Katerina both lunged at the same time, their eyes red with hunger and the black veins thicker than usual. Klaus shot forwards, grabbed Savannah by the waist and whisked her into the bathroom in the blink of an eye.

‘Ward the door,’ he ordered briskly, shutting it behind them and sliding the lock into place. ‘Savannah!’ he shouted when she did no more than sit on the counter where he’d placed her and look at her hand in shock. She jerked at the shout and quickly put up a protective ward around the room.

‘I’m sorry,’ she told him as he breathed a sigh of relief at the feel of her magic sliding around the room. ‘I didn’t mean to.’

‘I know, sweetheart,’ he said. ‘Still, for future reference, do try to be more careful. Can’t have my favourite witch dying on me.’

‘I won’t die,’ she stated as he took her bleeding hand to examine the wound. ‘You’ll save me before I die.’

Her confidence in him made him breathless, it was unexpected but he was rather happy about it. Her trust in him so very comforting.

His left hand tightened around her wrist, whilst he plucked pieces of glass out with his right. He tossed the glass into the sink before running the tap and putting her hand under it. They both watched the watery redness swirl down the drain. ‘You don’t understand,’ he told her. ‘Your blood… for a moment there I thought I would kill you. It smells amazing, Savannah, I wanted to taste it and I don’t think I would have stopped.’

‘But you didn’t,’ she whispered gently, pulling her hand away from the water, the wound still bled. She pressed the index finger of her left hand to the cut, running it along the wound and gathering blood on her finger. She held it up to him. An offering.

‘Savannah,’ he pleaded, frowning at her, yet he couldn’t pull away. Couldn’t stop her.

‘I trust you,’ she told him honestly, and he couldn’t remember the last time he heard those words. The pad of her index finger pressed against his lower lip, brushing along it slowly and smearing her blood.

He took a shaky breath and swept his tongue along the same path her finger had just taken. The blood was delicious, utterly decadent, and he groaned at the taste of it. He wanted more but grabbed the towel off the rack and pressed it into her bleeding palm instead. ‘That,’ he said, his voice low and dark. ‘Was entirely too dangerous, sweetheart.’

She gave him a brilliant smile. ‘So, how’d I taste?’

He gave her an incredulous look to which she burst out laughing. His little witch did not take death as seriously as she should. Especially when her blood practically sang to him. ‘What am I going to do with you, little witch?’ He didn’t give her a chance to reply.

His lips slanted over hers in a possessive kiss that stole her breath. Gods, he’d missed the feeling of her pressed against him. Pulling her closer, he all but devoured her lips in an effort to reclaim what was his. Her taste erupted on his tongue as it entered her mouth, he growled at the familiarity of it, his hands shifting to cup her arse to lift her against him more firmly. The moan she let out was hesitant, her lips moving against his less surely than his own, but her legs wrapped around his waist with ease. Her hips rolled into his growing erection firmly and the scent of her arousal saturated the room.

‘I missed this,’ he revealed when he finally tore his mouth from hers, he stepped away from the counter to press her against the wall. Trapping her against it, he ground himself against the dampening material of her panties. ‘Having you by my side. Being inside of you. Hearing you say my name so lustfully.’

Savannah’s fingers threaded through his hair, he gave a contented sound, before she used her grip on the strands to tug his lips back to hers. She kissed him with less hesitation now. Klaus smirked into it, before sucking her bottom lip into his mouth to nibble on it. She moaned so wantonly and pressed herself against him sinfully, Klaus had to forcefully remind himself that there were two vampires in the other room, and that he had a business deal to cement.

He pulled away from her reluctantly, though he kept close enough to still feel her body brushing against his with every breath she took. ‘As much as I would love to devour your delectable body once again,’ he groaned at the illicit images his memory brought up of her writhing flesh against his own, ‘we must wait until I’ve dealt with Stefan and Katerina.’

Her startled look was endearing and he couldn’t help but grin at her. It bolstered his ego to know he had made her forget them. That he had such power over her. He kissed her sweetly before stepping back and giving her a cocky smirk. He would take his time getting to know her body again, he would make her remember his touch as intimately as he remembered hers. A quickie in the bathroom was not part of that plan, no matter how tempting it was.

There were four empty blood bags on the floor when Klaus stepped out of the bathroom, Stefan was drinking another, growling and snarling over his food. He looked up when Klaus approached.

‘Well,’ Klaus said, impressed. ‘You’re very cooperative. It’s almost as if you’re enjoying it. I have a feeling Savannah ignited your bloodlust tonight, delicate little thing that she is.’

‘What’s with your obsession with her?’ Stefan growled out. ‘Why didn’t you just kill her like you tried to do to Bonnie?’

‘My relationship with Savannah is none of your business,’ Klaus snapped, tossing another blood bag on the floor beside Stefan. ‘Now, drink up.’

‘You want her,’ Stefan goaded. ‘She’s too good for you.’

Didn’t he know it. But that wouldn’t stop Klaus from keeping her. He nodded to the blood bag. ‘Drink,’ he ordered.

‘No,’ Stefan shook his head. ‘Not until you give me the cure.’

‘Not until we make a deal,’ he countered swiftly. ‘It’s your choice, Stefan. You can either remain here living your life in Mystic Falls, or you can embrace what you truly are, leave town with me, and save your brother’s life.’

He crouched beside Stefan, picked up the blood bag and offered it to him. He knew he would take it, he was always going to, because that’s the trouble with the good guys, they anything to save those they loved. Love was such a weakness. Stefan snatched the bag and drank the blood vigorously, giving Klaus a malicious glare.

‘That’s the spirit,’ he declared jovially, before filling another vial with his blood, and motioned the ever-so quiet Katerina over to him. ‘Sweetheart,’ he began, compelling her and handing her the vial of blood. ‘Take this over to Damon and come right back.’

‘You want me to leave?’ she asked almost eagerly and he sniggered internally. She was so easy to read yet she thought she was so clever.

‘No!’ Stefan shouted.

‘Yes,’ Klaus said, ‘and if I were you, I’d hurry.’ She was out the door before he finished speaking.

‘She’ll never take it to him,’ Stefan said, utterly devastated.

Klaus sat in the chair by the counter and cocked his head to side, indifferent to the entire situation, he only regarded Stefan coolly. Whether or not Katerina delivered his blood to Damon was not his problem. If she did, well, bully for her. If not, then Damon deserved to die for trying to pull one over on him.

It was time to leave.

Elijah lay in his coffin, aside from the dagger in his heart and the look of death, he looked almost at peace. The warehouse he had stored his family in was on the edge of town, it was where he had brought Elijah, to be reunited with their family. He ordered two of his men to put Elijah with the others and closed the lid of the coffin. He’d wake his family, all of them, when he had a hybrid army to put between them and him. He looked up as Stefan’s phone vibrated.

‘Did Katerina make it in time?’ he asked.

‘You won’t be seeing her again, you know.’ Stefan said by way of answer.

‘Because she’s on vervain?’ he laughed at Stefan’s shocked look. ‘I’ve been around a long time, Stefan. I rarely get played for a fool. Besides, she won’t get far. You’ll help me see to that.’

‘What is it you really want from me?’ he asked, moving closer to him, before nodding towards the witch who stood a little further away. ‘From her?’

‘All will be explained in time. Once we leave this tragic little town.’ He walked over to Savannah.

‘Then are we done here?’ Stefan asks tersely. ‘Can we go?’

‘Not quite,’ they both looked at him questioningly, ‘You see, Stefan, I have a gift for you.’ He motioned behind him. ‘Come here, sweetheart. Don’t be afraid.’ The gentle tone soothed the girl out of her hiding spot, just some human he found walking the streets, and happened to be a perfect test for his new deal. He told Stefan as much, before he sank his fangs into the girl’s neck. ‘I could have compelled her,’ he said, holding onto the now terrified girl. ‘But a real ripper enjoys the hunt.’

He let the girl go. Predictably, she ran away screaming. Stefan caught up to her at the end of the aisle, his fangs sank into her flesh and he fed as though he were starved.

‘You are cruel to make him do this,’ she spoke quietly, looking at the floor. ‘It’s not necessary.’

He sighed and moved closer to her, wrapped his arms around her waist, and rested his chin on her head. ‘I am cruel. I am capable of monstrous deeds and I kill without a second thought. It’s how I’ve always been, it’s what I’ve had to be to protect myself and those I care about.’ That was a lie, he wasn’t cruel when he was human, he was loving and kind. But that felt like eons ago. ‘But you need never fear me, I will never hurt you.’

‘Just those I love,’ she answered tartly.

‘Only when you betray me, little witch,’ he responded. ‘So let’s not do that, yeah?’

‘I won’t betray you,’ she told him honestly.

‘Good girl,’ he murmured pressing a kiss to the crown of her head, he let her go only to step in front of her, he held his hand out to her. ‘Come then, little witch, let’s go see a little of America.’

She placed her hand in his without hesitation and he gripped it tightly, leading her down the aisle to the awaiting vehicle outside. He had a feeling this trip was going to be a little different from their last one.