Black Water

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Chapter 31

Johnny circled back to Ellie’s house after he brought Crystal home. Lisa had cast him a suspicious glance when he just dropped her off, but he wasn’t about to go confessing to Lisa that he had caught her daughter drinking blood, and then compounded matters by bringing her out to drink even more blood.

That had been an experience. Human blood. She had to taste human blood. Not family. Demanding little vampire. She said she just wanted to see if she liked it. Johnny knew she would. He had, even as a child. But she didn’t need it yet. She was too young. He had been too young when he had made the change. Times had been different then, and his family had needed him. He should have lived among them for a few more years. Instead, he went under the lake to wait for them to call him to battle with blood and promises. He didn’t want Crystal to miss out on childhood like he had.

So he had made her promise never, ever to take blood unless she was with him—until she was grown. And he had dropped her off at home and avoided Lisa’s eyes.

Now he stood outside Ellie’s darkened house. He couldn’t leave this unfinished. Ellie was a risk to both him and Crystal. He climbed up to the second story and let himself in to Ellie’s room. He stood over her bed, just watching her sleep. She was so very young. And yet she had willingly offered blood, not only to him, but also to Crystal, her best friend. Johnny closed his eyes. This was probably a mistake, but a promise was a promise. He turned to leave.

The other family members had no such promise from him. At this point, he didn’t care whether they had family blood or not. There was no pact in place as there had been long ago. Now, the only ones Johnny had a deal with were Lisa and her family, Kenny, the uncle, and now Ellie. Oh, and Ellie’s grandmother, Cara, through an earlier promise he had made to Crystal. That was it. If any of them betrayed him, then all bets would be off.

He glided into the parents’ room and put them to sleep more deeply than he had to. They’d wake up in the morning thirsty, a little dizzy, but alive. They ought to be grateful. The taste of family blood was a much-needed tonic for Johnny. He took blood from each of Ellie’s little brothers, too—not as much, but enough to leave his mark on them. They were all his, even if he wasn’t theirs. Ellie he left untouched.

He didn’t trust Uncle Robert. The man obviously knew more than he was telling and more than Kenny or his father did about the sleeping habits of vampires. After the equinox, Johnny intended to sleep until Spring to give Crystal a chance to catch up to him a little more. Now that they realized the only blood exchange that was essential had to occur on the equinoxes, he could rest more often in between. Time, time was what Crystal needed. Time to grow up, time to make her own choice, although Johnny had no doubt what that choice would be. He figured he was lucky Crystal hadn’t asked him to take her under the lake yet.

He swung by the uncle’s house, unperturbed that it was quiet and dark. It was the middle of the night. But when he let himself in, he found that Robert Brown was really gone. He must have gone back to his job in Boston. Johnny prowled around the empty house looking for information on the Scottish family, but the uncle was thorough in covering his tracks, and Johnny eventually left without discovering anything more. He would return, and when he did, there would be a reckoning between Johnny and the uncle.

Speaking of trust. Johnny returned to Lisa’s house and used his key to let himself in the front door. He shoved Kenny’s shoulder once, hard. The sleeping hunter grunted and rolled over, away from Lisa, and Johnny shoved him again. Kenny’s eyes popped open and he sat up quickly in bed, wide awake.

“Come on,” Johnny whispered. “I want to go fishing.”

Kenny lowered the hand he had half-raised to his throat, and willed his beating heart to slow down. “Now?”

“You said this was the best time,” Johnny reminded him.

With a heavy sigh, Kenny threw back the covers and swung his legs over the side of the bed. “Wants to go fishing,” he muttered under his breath. “Sure, fine, let’s go fishing.” He reached over to wake Lisa, but Johnny stopped him.

“Let her sleep,” he said. “You’ll be back before she wakes up.”

Shaking his head, Kenny complied. His initial adrenaline rush had dissipated, and he yawned widely. He guessed coffee was out of the question. “We have to get the fishing rods out of the shed,” he told the vampire. Actually, it was a perfect night for fishing, a couple of hours away from dawn.

They drove down to the little beach, the one closest to the cottage. Lisa’s rowboat was half pulled up on shore. Kenny tilted it to get any water out, then righted it and pushed it into the lake. “Get in,” he said, as he hopped in the boat. Johnny jumped lightly and landed in the center of the small rowboat, barely rocking it. Show off.

Kenny handed him the fishing rods and took up the oars. The lake was covered in fine mist but every so often the moon broke through the clouds to illuminate the entire surface. Underneath the mist, the lake was like a sheet of glass. Kenny rowed slowly and steadily. He hated to disturb the still water any more than he had to. So far the vampire hadn’t said a word.

Kenny picked a spot, set down the oars and let the little boat drift. He took back one of the fishing rods from Johnny and showed him how to cast. There hadn’t been time to get bait, so they just used lures. It wasn’t about catching fish anyway—just fishing.

“I like this.” Johnny’s voice, coming out of the blue, startled Kenny. He had been waiting for the other shoe to drop, and for Johnny to grill him on Crystal’s father, or on his uncle, but so far, nothing.

“Yeah, fishing is kind of relaxing,” Kenny agreed. “I’m glad you dragged me out of bed to go fishing. Next time, though, let’s plan it a little in advance. I have to go to work in the morning.”

“Next time?” Johnny asked. “You want to go fishing with me again?”

“Sure, why not?” Kenny replied.

They settled back in companionable silence, and gradually the sky lightened. Kenny glanced over at Johnny, who seemed to be concentrating on his fishing line. It really had been a peaceful couple of hours. “Hey,” he called softly. “Shouldn’t we wrap it up here? It will be dawn soon. Don’t you need to get your beauty sleep?”

Johnny reeled in his line and set the fishing rod gently in the bottom of the rowboat. He regarded Kenny seriously. “You’re right. It’s time I slept.” He unlaced his shoes, slipped them off, and stood up. “Take care of these for me,” he said, indicating the shoes. He twisted in his seat and flipped over the side of the rowboat, clothes and all, with hardly a splash. His two hands rested on the rim of the rowboat as Kenny stared at him in confusion.

It wasn’t much of a risk. The worst that could happen would be for Kenny to realize now he had a way to trap him. But before he would be able to act on it, Johnny would be long gone. Now that he knew about Lake George, Johnny had another place he could rest, and he didn’t think Kenny or his father would have any success hunting him in Lake George due to its sheer size. Besides, Lisa had told him about another lake, even bigger than Lake George—Lake Champlaine.

But Johnny didn’t think he would have to leave Lockwood’s lake. He locked eyes with Kenny. “Now you know,” he said, just before he went under. Johnny’s lips curved in amusement as he imagined Kenny peering frantically over the side of the boat, waiting in vain for him to reappear. He wondered how long it would take him to figure it out.

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