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A Wind of Change(A Shade of Vampire,Book 17)(3) by Bella Forrest

“Amaya, Michael and I do most of the managing. But since everyone around here is an adult—although some can certainly act like children—keeping things in order isn’t too taxing. We’ve been living here long enough to work out systems. Everyone knows their role in helping out and keeping everything running smoothly.”

This was the opening I was looking for all along.

“Speaking of helping,” I said, “I feel indebted. Is there something I can do to play my part?”

“Yes,” he said. “You won’t be useful in hunting any humans right now, being newly turned—but there are certainly other things you can help with.”

I tried to hide my frustration. “I feel more confident in my ability to control myself around humans. But you’re right, it’s perhaps still too early.”

I should have laughed at the understatement. I still had zero confidence around humans. It was a wonder that I had managed to keep myself from attacking any humans when I had gone down to the basement. The fact that they were locked in secure rooms had helped. Still, even then I’d been scared that I would break inside and steal one. It was a good thing that my venture downstairs had only been quick.

“So if you’re ready to start helping, come with me,” he said. He began walking away from the pond and the gardens and led me toward one of the rooms on the atrium’s ground level. The door was unlocked and he pushed it open. Stepping inside after him, I found myself in a large dim storage chamber. It smelled of… some kind of animal. Reins and harnesses hung from the ceiling. Jeramiah headed straight for a corner where there was a pile of metal buckets covered with lids. He picked up six by the handle, balancing three in each hand, and gave them to me.

“Above ground we have a stable of camels. Go and fill these buckets with milk.”

I stared at him, wondering if this was some kind of joke.

“Milk? What do you use milk for?”

“The humans,” he said. “I told you we make sure that they get proper nutrition.”

I stared down at the buckets. “Sure,” I replied, although I was anything but.

We exited the room and Jeramiah and I parted. I made my way up to the top level in one of the elevators. I was still thinking about how strange this request was even as I climbed through the trapdoor and stepped out once again into the hot desert. Even though the sun wasn’t shining directly upon me, due to the witches’ spell of night around this area, I could still feel the heat now that I was outside of the cool atmosphere of The Oasis.

They needed milk for the humans. I wondered why the witches didn’t just provide it by magic. I didn’t understand why they bothered with mundane labor like this.

Milking camels. I let the thought sink in. I sure hadn’t thought this would be what Jeramiah would ask of me.

A part of me had been expecting him to ask me to half-turn one of the humans. I was relieved he hadn’t, of course. I would have ended up murdering them. The only reason I’d been able to control myself around Tobias was because he was sick. I doubted I would be able to refrain from devouring a healthy human, especially such a healthy human as the ones they kept down in the basement. Their blood truly tasted divine.

I headed for the stable I had spotted earlier, the buckets clinking at my sides.

Milkman Benjamin.

I imagined my sister would get a kick out of that image.

My sister. The thought that I was a threat to even her now made my gut clench.

I have to figure out why I’ve turned into this monster.

But first, I need to escape this place.

I arrived at the stable, entered it, and walked along the aisles of slobbering camels until I spotted Michael, bending down in one corner over a bucket milking a particularly stout camel. After learning from Jeramiah that he was one of the managers of The Oasis, I was surprised to see him doing such a menial job.

He didn’t even look up as I approached, although he had obviously sensed me.

He had been nothing but frosty with me since the time I had first met him with Jeramiah in Chile. I had no interest in trying to spark up a conversation so I ignored him too. Though it would have been useful to get at least some direction as to how to milk a camel.

Walking further down the aisles, I picked a camel who seemed to have a particularly swollen udder and placed the bucket on the floor. As I motioned to touch her, she jerked backward and began grunting and kicking wildly. One of her heavy feet narrowly missed my right foot.

I stood up and placed both hands firmly on her back, trying to calm her.

“It’s okay, girl.”

Believe me, I’m as uncomfortable about this as you are.

My body expelled animal blood like it was poison anyway. Any fear this creature had of me was unfounded. I approached her head and stroked her long neck. That seemed to calm her down gradually and she stopped struggling. I bent down and started squeezing the milk from her teats. This time she remained still for me—well, still enough for milk to start squirting into the first bucket.

Once she seemed to be growing uncomfortable again, I moved on to the next camel. Then the next. And the next. Until all six buckets were filled up with the frothy white liquid. Wiping my sticky hands against a towel hanging on a hook, I looked around the stable for Michael. I couldn’t see him. He appeared to have finished his work and returned to The Oasis.

I was glad that the buckets came with lids. If they hadn’t, I would’ve spilled a lot of the milk on my journey back. The lids were tight, but balancing six heavy buckets of milk was a challenge even for a vampire. My palms were only so big. Still, going slowly and taking care not to slosh the milk too much, I reached the entrance of The Oasis and descended the staircase.