Chapter 10: Which Will You Be Having?

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Chapter 10: Which Will You Be Having?

Keel was at his desk in his royal quarters when I joined him.

We were hungry, but despite the considerable physical discomfort, Keel was in complete control of his appetite, even though we smelled multiple humans extremely close by. He was busy poring over an old book; it was written in vamphyrric, so it wasn’t until he came to a page with pictures that I was able to glean its subject: Garstatt.

Another coincidence? Or was the bond passing things subconsciously between us now, too? I hoped I was overreacting. Maybe we were simply figuring things out at the same pace.

But why wasn’t he eating?

As I sat there, trapped in Keel’s body, under attack by its relentless, piercing hunger pangs, Ephraim’s revelation really hit home: this was my life, my whole life. I’d been resisting crawling back into a human mould, but now that I’d never be able to – not even if I wanted that someday – I regretted not trying harder. It was different when you didn’t have a choice.

Keel and I were linked until death. Separate or apart, the bond would always be there – tugging, manipulating. Maybe Ephraim hadn’t wanted to tell me all of it because it was just so damned depressing.

It was impossible to imagine a lifetime of resisting Keel when I wasn’t even resisting him now. Yet even if I could arm myself against the bond, that wasn’t an option, not currently.

I needed to save him and his rule, in order to save us. That meant figuring out how to get him stable enough to govern properly, instead of obsessing over me. While the ins-and-outs of vampire kingship, and the Nosferatu world outside of the Michigan compound, largely remained a mystery, that much was a given.

Keel slammed the book shut, startling me. Beneath it was a pad of lined paper, turned to a blank page. He reached across the desk, retrieved a pen from the black metal holder and wrote GOOD, YOU’RE HERE.

Time stopped, or at least that’s what it felt like. I was too stunned to react in any way, yet I was positive that my heart had skipped a beat or three back in my own body.

AN EXPERIMENT? he wrote next.

I stared at the blocky, black letters through his eyes, not knowing how to reply. Or whether I should. Temptation beckoned. Those two words just sounded so much like the old Keel.

Apparently, I didn’t need to, because he was already spelling out something else: CHOOSE.

He placed the pen beneath that final instruction, as if to underline it, and stood up.

Choose? Choose what? I thought. Then he turned around.

Four humans, from the dungeon below, were cuffed and standing in a line roughly ten feet in front of us. My doppelganger was among them, but I didn’t recognize the others. There was a guy who couldn’t have been more than a few years older than Keel and I – he looked like he'd probably been cute before the Nosferatu had gotten their fangs into him; a middle-aged woman who gave off a huge “mom” vibe; and another guy whose baldness and sallow cheeks made him look much older than he probably was. Is he sick? I supposed it didn’t matter, Nosferatu were immune to human ailments, just like sorcerers were. All four prisoners watched us with dull, disinterested eyes.

Keel wanted me to choose one of them… to eat.

It was obvious from the way his – our – hunger spiked in anticipation. Not much longer now.

Last night I’d been trying to contact him and now he was forcing communication with me. I should have known I was playing with fire.

Keel closed the distance between us and the humans. How was I supposed to do this? The very idea of choosing someone for Keel to hurt – and I knew he would hurt them – was repellent. Suddenly, I was furious at myself, both for being so quick to give him a pass during the ordinary, mundane parts of his day, and because on some level I'd actually been looking forward to tonight.

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