Chapter 11: My Captor, My Friend, My...

It took me a long time to fall back asleep after Keel crept out of my cell.

Our encounter had energized me. I felt more awake and clear-headed than I had in weeks, but also much more conflicted. As I replayed our conversation over and over again in my head, I searched for anything I might have missed – for any information that might prove valuable.

Part of me was deathly afraid I'd wake up and discover it had all been a dream. But why would that be so bad? I asked myself. It wasn't as if Keel had ridden down here on a white stallion, like some fairy-tale knight, bringing with him the promise of rescue and salvation. He wanted the same thing the rest of them wanted – my blood – but apparently with a chaser of companionship.

That part intrigued me.

It was something new, a change in the monotonous, hellish routine – an oasis in the desert.

But he fed from you! Every aspect of my curiosity was tainted by that.

But maybe there are all kinds of vampires, just like there are all kinds of people.

He drank from you! And he hasn't even bothered to ask you your name!

It always came back to that. No matter how hard I tried or which way I came at it, I couldn't untangle my feelings. I had no idea what to do next, if there even was a next. Keel himself had said coming down here was a bad idea, so why was I torturing myself with "what ifs" when I'd likely never see him again – at least until the king was done with me, and Keel had become a full-fledged bloodsucker.

Would he keep me imprisoned too? A slave to his appetites.

I reached up and probed the wound he'd worked open with his knife. It throbbed when I touched it, but it wasn't bleeding. It'd scab over soon.

Maybe the king would still notice; he always seemed to know right away whenever anyone spilled my blood. What then? Would I give Keel up? Confess what he'd done?

Maybe I should do that anyway.

No.

But could I even trust my judgement anymore? Just because Keel was less sadistic than his dear old dad didn't mean he was a good guy or should be forgiven for his vampiric trespasses. Still, if he got busted, I'd go right back to being completely and utterly alone. I was beginning to understand the power of hope, especially when it was the only thing left. Sometimes a spark was everything.

When sleep finally came, I was haunted by Keel's emerald eyes and the shiny blade of his knife, his humanity and his monstrosity ever at war within him, with the vampire always destined to win. In my dream, he was carving the lines of battle into my flesh, and blood blossomed from each of them.

I awoke to the sound of Boras and the king arguing outside my cell door.

"You drink from her every day. Are you sure this is a good idea?" Boras was asking. "You could kill her."

Dread fluttered in my chest. Yesterday, I might have lain there accepting my fate, but not today. Sometime during the night I gave up caring if Keel was a good thing or a bad thing. He was something. And after a long bout of nothing, that was enough.

"It must be done," the king snapped. "I will not fail."

A second later, the door burst open. I managed to stumble blearily to my feet as the two of them entered my cell.

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