“What happened to your last Keeper?” He stared at her seriously.
Lenci paused. She set down her fork slowly and looked over at him. “Did Braithe tell you?”
“You don’t see what happens?”
“Well, she said to ask you.”
Lenci nodded. “That’s umm…” She pushed her plate away, put her elbows on the table, and ran her hands through her long hair, pulling it back.
“You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to.”
“You deserve to know. If you’re going to take on his role, you should know what you’re getting into. My last Keeper was named Fredrick. He was my friend.”
“What happened to him?”
“He fell for the demon. I don’t know how long it had been going on. But last month I found him. Fredrick had gotten too close. Braithe killed him and took the heart she’d won.”
“Phew,” Beck let out a long breath. “That’s… that’s… uh…”
“Yeah. Not great. That’s why you can’t ever go in that room on a transformation night. That is, if you decide to stay. I would understand if you don’t.” She looked down at the table.
“Are you kidding? After last night?” He took a bite of sausage. “I’m never leaving you alone again. That thing can never get out. We need to get you ten Keepers! You can never be left alone. Ever.”
Lenci laughed. “She really scared you, huh?”
“Terrified. It wasn’t anything she did or said, although those were disturbing. There’s just something wrong with her, a feeling.”
“That’s a Keeper’s intuition. You’ll get it any time there’s a demon around. Some people, like you, are born with the ability.”
“I have a demon sense? Awesome.”
“It is. Use it. It’ll keep you safe.” She pulled her plate back to her and resumed calorie loading.
“Didn’t Fredrick have a demon sense?”
Lenci chuckled. “We call it intuition. And yes, he did.”
“How could anyone fall in love with something that causes that sense of disgust, terror? I had to keep myself from running or throwing up.”
“Some people have a stronger intuition than others. From the sound of it, yours is much stronger than most. Fredrick had a weaker intuition than most. He felt fear enough to know she was a demon but he must have grown accustomed to it and moved past it.”
“Why take that creature if he could have someone else, anyone else? He was here with you, why would he tolerate her?”
“Mm – another thing to talk about. That’s not allowed.” She took a bite of yogurt.
“What’s not allowed?”
“Edifices and Keepers.” She waved her spoon at him. “We’re not allowed to date. It’s too risky. But consider yourself lucky. Keepers can date as long as it’s not their Edifice. Or the demon, of course. Fredrick.” She shook her head sadly.
“It’s alright.” She wiped a tear from her cheek. It was a risk everyone involved in this took. She almost knew the day would come. Fredrick was her third Keeper. Braithe was the most deadly of all the demons. Keepers were meant to be a lifelong partner to their Edifice and yet she couldn’t hang onto one.
“You said Keepers can date and to count myself lucky. What does that mean?”
“It means that, as an Edifice, I can’t date. No Edifice is allowed to date. And we’re especially not allowed to have sex.”
Beck choked on his milk. “I’m sorry. What?” He leaned forward.
“I’m not allowed to have sex. Not under any circumstance. Ever.” She leaned in, looked over to him with her most sultry eyes, and wrapped her lips around a strawberry. “So don’t think about it. Ever.”
He swallowed hard and she noticed he was trying not to look down her shirt as she leaned forward. He cleared his throat and looked her in the eyes. “You mean you’ve never…”
“Felt the touch of a man?” She sucked on a straw. “No. I’m completely untouched. Completely innocent.” She batted her lashes at him and noticed him shift in his chair. She laughed. “Sorry. I couldn’t help it.”
“You were messing with me?” He let out a nervous chuckle.
“A little bit.”
“So… you’re not a virgin?”
“I’ll never tell,” she teased. “But for real, no sex for me. It isn’t allowed. Or alcohol for obvious loss of control issues.”
Suddenly all the lights started flashing red and the house made a loud beeping noise.