Chapter 14: A Game of Knives

"What do I have to do to convince you to come?" Keel's impatience was turning into a childish kind of desperation. I half expected him to start begging, pleading and stomping his feet. He'd been trying – unsuccessfully – to convince me to accompany him to his room for the last ten minutes. I had no idea why he didn't just force me to go with him. Was this his next game? His next test? Seeing if he could make me walk into his trap?

So far, I hadn't budged, and he hadn't attempted to drag me, but he pummelled me with wave after wave of promises and impassioned pleas, all while refusing to tell me what he planned on showing me once we got there. The whole display was un-Keel-like. He was never this animated.

Or maybe that's just what I told myself when I started caving.

One of us had to. Either that, or declare our little field trip over. We couldn't very well stand around in the creepy Nosferatu museum forever. If it wasn't for the clean clothes I was wearing, I might have been the one to do it, but I wasn't ready to give them up yet – and apparently that meant making concessions. Sadly, there wasn't anything I could ask Keel for that would even the odds between us, but there was one thing that might lessen his advantage slightly.

"Give me your knife," I demanded.

Keel's eyes widened in surprise. "Really?"

"Yes, really. You want me to trust you, so prove you trust me first."

"You know I could disarm you in two seconds, even if you had my knife?" He was right, of course. His preternatural speed and strength outmatched me no matter what I was wielding.

"But I'm betting you won't." This time, I stole his line.

Keel grinned at me, looking happier than I'd ever seen him. It gave him a sheen of humanity I'd previously only glimpsed in fits and starts. He wore it well, and I had to resist the urge to smile back at him. I knew better. He was a creature of many guises.

Keel removed his knife from his pocket and snapped it open. He tossed it into the air so it twirled end over end over end in a high, arching loop. When it came back down, he caught the bladed side in his hand. It didn't even nick him. Then he offered it to me, handle extended. "I wish you were like this all the time," he said, laying on the charm. I rolled my eyes at him. "Sheer nerve looks good on you."

"Don't make me use this," I threatened, snatching the knife out of his hand and waving it in front of his face.

"You won't," he said, oozing confidence. "Now can we go?"

Unable to argue – or delay – any further, I followed him out of the museum, happy to leave all the dead things, and the unanswered questions they left me with, far behind. Keel guided me back to the service elevator, which I assumed would take us back down into the bowels of the compound, but instead he produced a key that unlocked a tiny metal flap beneath the elevator's bank of buttons. Inside it was another button – a solitary, unnumbered black one, which he pressed. The door we'd just walked through slid closed with a clunk and a door directly behind us opened. Like the panel, I hadn't noticed it was there. Keel flipped the flap closed and exited through the rear. I followed him, tentatively, only stepping fully inside when the elevator doors almost squashed me.

"Welcome to my room," he said, spreading his arms.

Keel's bedroom dwarfed my cell in every possible way. It held, among other things, a large four-poster bed, a set of built-in cupboards, which spanned the far wall, a dresser, an armoire, a sturdy-looking cherry-wood desk and two matching bookshelves, both of which were crammed full and heaving. The area to the right of the elevator was home to a well-stocked weapons rack and a stretch of cushioned, blue vinyl flooring that, judging from slits and tears in it, was used for sparring practice. Keel's bedroom didn't scream monster – unlike the weaponry in the throne room, these maces and swords were pristine – but it didn't exactly say teenage boy either.

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