Chapter 8: Lucia

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Chapter 8: Lucia

All the coffee did was make me twitchy. I hoped Bruce wouldn't pick up on that, especially since I knew he'd be keeping an eye out for any lingering symptoms worth reporting to Ephraim. So I did the one thing I was sure would distract him: I cooked breakfast.

By the time he slunk into the kitchen around 10:30 a.m., still trying to rub the sleep out of his eyes, the table was with set with a pair of plates piled high with eggs, bacon, French toast and grilled tomatoes. I greeted him with a broad, cheery grin, wide arms and a bellowing proclamation that "breakfast has been served."

"I wasn't expecting this," Bruce said, bemused, as he slid into the chair across from mine.

"I woke up early today and I realized I’ve been being a real you-know-what lately, so I figured I owed you."

Okay, that might be laying it on a little thick. But what the hell, I was on a roll. 

"Well, it looks delicious."

I beamed at the compliment, just as I would have a week ago, before all the crazy started. I'd never had much interest in cooking, but it appealed to Bruce even less. Meaning, if I left it all to him we'd be subsisting on sandwiches, hamburgers and microwave pizza. He'd only started taking a stab at breakfast after I began teasing him about being intimidated by the appliances. Bruce wasn't the type of guy who was intimidated by anything, except maybe my father.

"So: ski trip. Is that still a nay?" Bruce asked.

It took me a moment to figure out what he was on about. Oh yeah, being social. He thought it was time I made plans with Anna and Jenny again, and he was hoping my brighter mood would make me more receptive to the idea.

Truth was, I'd barely thought of the two of them since the bond kicked back in. I used to pride myself on being a good friend, yet since I’d returned I seemed to be aiming for “worst friend ever.” Avoiding them was easier than hanging out, and it almost made me happier. These days, I was pretty much the opposite of a people person. I hadn’t even texted Mikey back when he'd replied to my late-night message, earlier this morning. I'd been so engrossed in my note-making I'd simply hit mute on my phone and kept right on writing.

Humanity was quickly losing what little draw it had. Even at this distance, Keel and the supernatural world beckoned me. The bond was a perpetual tether and the more time I spent with him, in him, the more I acclimatized to his Nosferatu nature. Not that I was ever going to get used his wanton meal-time cruelty, but even that didn't pack the same visceral punch it used to. Not now that I'd come to crave the hot, richness of human blood as much as he did.

If eating with Keel were just about the blood, I could live with that.

"Mills?" Bruce had lowered his fork and was giving me the hairy eyeball. He was still waiting for my reply.

I shovelled another piece of bacon into my mouth and kept chewing. I had no answer for him, or at least not one that would make him happy.

"Secluding yourself from your family and friends isn't going to make this any easier," he said, for what had to be the millionth time. "If you do that, you're going to regret it down the line when those people stop calling."

"Maybe," I said, dismissively. What good were friends you could never be your true self around? I didn't pose that question to Bruce, because he'd only say the same thing he always said when I used that argument: that I needed to stop fixating on the supernatural stuff. Easy for him: he was bonded but otherwise perfectly human.

"There's no maybe. You will regret it. I did."

"But you still keep in touch with Mike." Bruce and his brother remained close despite everything, even my exploding part of Mike’s motel.

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