“Whatever. Surely it’s not a surprise I needed blood.”

“I need blood, too, but I’ve never bitten anyone. How was I to know you handled it any differently?”

I paused. “Wait, what? You’ve never bitten anyone? How is that possible?”

Maisie crossed her arms. “Believe it or not, there are plenty of ways to satisfy your need for blood without harming anyone.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Yeah, but where’s the fun in that?”

The look she sent me was similar to the ones Giguhl often saw from me. “This isn’t a joke, Sabina. I need you to promise me you won’t feed from another human while you’re under the council’s protection.”

“Well, technically, I didn’t feed from a human tonight. He shot me before I could get a good mouthful.” She pinned me with another look. I sighed. “If you think I’m giving up blood while I’m here, you’re crazy.”

She crossed her arms. “I’m not asking you to give up blood. I’m asking you to not attack people. And if the morality of the issue doesn’t sway you, then consider this: The last thing anyone needs right now is a feud to break out among the dark races in the city because you couldn’t control your bloodlust.”

I sighed again. There was nothing I hated more than politics. But I certainly didn’t want to cause trouble for Maisie or the council. “Fine, I’ll keep my fangs in check. But you’re going to have to clue me in on another way to get blood.”

She sent me a relieved smile. “That’s not a problem. When I was young, Ameritat anticipated that I’d have issues needing blood. So she opened a blood bank in the city.”

My eyes widened. “You have an entire blood bank at your disposal?”

“Well, technically its main purpose is to give back to the community. But yes, it also lets me meet my need for blood without harming anyone.”

“Not to argue or anything, but isn’t that kind of hypocritical? After all, those humans donate blood to help heal other humans, not to make sure you have fast food.”

“Not at all. Blood has a limited shelf life. Refrigerated blood can only last forty-two days before it has to be destroyed. I have a deal with the bank that I get the blood a few days before the expiration date. Plus, sometimes donated blood doesn’t pass safety screenings. Since I’m immune to human illness, that fresher blood comes to me, too.”

“Let me get this straight,” I said with a grimace. “You only drink old or diseased blood? That’s disgusting.”

“It’s not so bad. Sure, the anticoagulant they add gives it an odd aftertaste, but you get used to that.”

I put a finger in my mouth and made a gagging noise.

She shrugged. “You got a better option?”

“Synthetic blood?” I hated the stuff myself. Besides being weaker than human blood, the flavor was about as appealing as drinking piss. But I figured the human-friendly product might appeal to someone of Maisie’s obvious moral standards.

She shuddered. “Are you kidding? That stuff tastes like shit. Might as well drink water as weak as it is.”

A shocked laughed escaped my lips.

Maisie cocked her head. “What?”

“You surprise me, is all. I figured you’d be all self-righteous about it.”

“Sabina, I might not like killing humans, but that doesn’t mean I’m a saint. My body craves blood just like yours. But I believe in the mage stance that humans are to be respected, so I do what I have to do to refrain from harming them. Bagged blood is a decent compromise between violence and self-denial.”

I smiled at my sister. As much as I resented her security and the obvious love all mages had for her, I couldn’t help but like her. She was practical and, dare I say it, kind of cool. “Okay, fine. I’ll drink the bagged stuff while I’m here.”

She nodded, but her expression became pensive.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

She waved and let out a short laugh. “It’s just the way you said it made it sound like you’re just visiting. I’d kind of hoped you’d embrace mage life and stay for a while.”

I shifted on my seat, uncomfortable with the turn of conversation. “Maisie, look, I’ve only been here a few hours. Let’s just see how it goes, okay?”

She waved her hand and laughed. “Of course. You’re totally right. I’m just excited to have you here after all these years. I don’t know about you, but I have a sudden urge to sing ‘We Are Family.’ ”

Here’s the thing. Maisie had known about my existence for years. I’d found out about her only a little over week ago. So, while she’d had plenty of time to get used to the idea of having a twin, I didn’t have that luxury. Besides, given my experience with family so far, I was a tad reluctant to jump right into performing a Sister Sledge duet.

I forced a smile. “How about we skip the singing and bond over a pint of blood instead?”

“Sounds perfect.” She walked to a small fridge set in a wet bar along the wall. “Name your poison.”

I rose from the chair with a groan. “Anything’s fine.”

Her head popped up. “Hmm, you know, I’ve got a couple pints of AB neg I’ve been saving for a special occasion that’ll be perfect.”

I perked up. AB negative, due to its rareness, was like the Cadillac of bloods. Given the vomiting, bullet wound, and fight I’d endured that night, Maisie’s idea was akin to offering a fat girl cake. “Hell, yeah.”

She heated up two bags and poured them into pint glasses. The scent wafted to me, making my fangs throb and my mouth water. Finally, she handed me one and raised her own glass. “To family.”

I clinked my glass against hers. Not having had the best track record with family—given my own grandmother tried to kill me a week earlier—I amended my response to something I felt more comfortable with.

“To new beginnings.”

I’d just taken the first sip when she spoke. “So, you and Adam, huh?”

I spewed blood like an arterial wound. Maisie pounded me on the back when I started choking.

“Oh, I’m sorry!”

I wiped blood from my chin with the tissue she offered. “Thanks,” I said, my voice hoarse. “Went down the wrong pipe.”

She sent me a knowing look. “Should I take it from your response that Adam is off-limits as a bonding topic?”

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