Chapter 23: Hit and Run


Worry.

It filled up every moment that wasn't consumed by sleep. Then it crept into that too, in a frenzy of violent night terrors: blood, fangs, death. Mine, Keel's, everyone's. Corpses in the streets. Ripped apart. Rotting. Visions of night becoming the new day. Monsters everywhere. Vampires, sorcerers, things I didn't recognize – impossible, profane, indescribable things that made me shriek myself awake every single time they entered my nightmares.

I'd never had dreams like that before: so vivid, so real, so gut-wrenching I preferred to stay awake, hounded by uncertainty, than give myself over to the madness of them. Insanity awaited every time I shut my eyes. And I couldn't lose myself to that, not now that I was so close to freedom.

So I worried.

About my escape. About going home. About calling my father.

What was I going to say to the man who was responsible for all this? I didn't even know his real name.

Most of all I worried about Keel. Despite what he'd said, he'd given me everything I wanted: answers, magic, freedom, my father. And it still wasn't enough. Not anymore. Not after he'd kissed me back.

But it was all so hopeless.

Soon everything I loved about him would be gone. Only the dark side would remain. With the ghastly visage and reek to prove it.

Unless our last little slip up had foiled things. Then what would happen? Could that kill him, too? As much as I loathed to admit it, I'd rather have Keel evil than dead – not that I wanted to see that Keel, or experience him.

I worried my blood had doomed him.

But still, I couldn't regret that kiss. It'd been perfect. Incredible. Unforgettable.

Until the monster got in the way. But that was a running theme for us.

Keel will be okay, and so will you, I reassured myself. I couldn't keep obsessing over this stuff. I needed to be paying attention – to the arrival of meals, to the sounds of movement in the main prison, to the changing of the guards – because that was the only way of marking the passage of time now. And if I lost track of it, and embarked on my jailbreak too soon or too late, it could mean the difference between success and failure.

And there could be no failure.

But, in the meantime, there was worry.

And nightmares.

And no Keel.

***

I'd been so deep in the throes of another night terror that when I first felt the piercing agony of a pair of fangs sinking deep into the back of my neck, I'd just assumed it was part of the dream. But when I opened my mouth to scream, I couldn't: there was a very real hand clasped over it, forcing me up into a sitting position, for easier access.

It was the day before Keel's transition, which meant I should have been temporarily forgotten by the Nosferatu, who were deep in preparations for the big ceremony. So who was feeding on me? It didn't have the stench of the full-blooded. Another half-vampire? I wondered.

Focus, I told myself. Stop struggling; block out the pain and use your senses. Figure this out. Easier said than done when somebody was gnawing on you, but what choice did I have? It was either that or unleash a barrage of magic at him. And what if it was Keel? Then what?

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