Kenny sat up gingerly in bed. He felt extremely dizzy. The room was dark, and Lisa lay beside him unmoving, but not sleeping. She was too rigid for that. He fumbled until he found the lamp switch on his side of the bed. The room flooded with yellow light and Kenny winced at its brightness.
He groaned, as a headache to beat all headaches pounded his skull from the inside out. “How did I get up here?” he asked Lisa in a gravelly voice that wasn’t working quite right. Last thing he remembered was the vampire bearing down on him in the living room downstairs. One hand crept up to touch his throat, and he was surprised to find it whole and not torn open like it felt.
“He does that,” Lisa said quietly, her head propped up on one elbow as she gave up trying to pretend to be asleep, and regarded Kenny with tired eyes. “It feels like you’re bleeding but nothing’s there but a rash.”
“You would know,” Kenny said bitterly, turning his back to her and swinging his legs over the side of the bed. He wanted to go home.
“Kenny, please don’t,” Lisa begged. “You’re too weak right now—he made sure you were too weak, do you understand?”
She was right. The more Kenny tried to get up, the more he felt like puking. He flopped back down against the pillows. “How could you do this?” he asked, staring up at the ceiling. “You knew. You knew,” continued Kenny. “You let him drink your blood. And I suppose Crystal’s too. Did you sell your own daughter to him, Lisa? What did he promise you? Eternal life? God!” He wrenched his head away from her, then gritted his teeth as another wave of dizziness and nausea passed over him. “I thought I knew you, Lisa. I don’t know you at all.”
Lisa caught her breath, stunned by the unfairness of it all. “You don’t understand,” she said, miserable. “He’s not what you think.”
Kenny gave a short grunt, still refusing to look at her. “How can you still defend him after what he just did to me? I don’t get it.” He ran his hands through his hair and squeezed his eyes shut. For a long moment the only sound in the room was his own ragged breathing. He didn’t want to look to see what Lisa was doing. If she was crying, he certainly didn’t care. “Why are we here?” he asked roughly. “Where is he now, the vampire?”
“Gone,” Lisa replied. She pulled the covers more tightly around herself. “Crystal’s asleep in her bed. It’s the middle of the night.”
Kenny turned towards her. “Gone? He just attacked me and then left? Why?” Johnny’s words to him just before he attacked rang again in Kenny’s mind. ’Think hard before you cross me, unless you want to lose everything you’ve ever loved.’ Would the vampire kill Lisa or Crystal? He doubted it, if the creature had not killed them already. “Then we have a little time. Help me get up.” He struggled to rise again, this time making it to a sitting position before the nausea hit. He breathed shallowly until his stomach subsided, then tried to stand up.
“Kenny, no, you’re too weak!” Lisa protested, getting off the bed on her side and coming around to help support him. “Where are you going?”
“The phone. I’m going to call my father,” Kenny said grimly.
“You can’t! Kenny, please, just listen! Johnny will kill your father and your mother too if you threaten him. You have to believe me! He’ll kill me, too, if he has to. But he won’t if you listen to him!”
Kenny turned, poised in the doorway. “My father will not bring my mother into this. He’ll come alone to take care of the vampire. Mother will be safe enough at home.”
Lisa hung her head. Kenny swore. “You told him? You told a vampire where my family lives?”
“He’ll kill them, Kenny,” she repeated. “He’s not the monster you think he is, but he will protect himself by any means he knows. He wants something, I don’t know what, but it must be important for him to reveal himself to you. Please don’t do anything until you find out what he wants. Johnny won’t hesitate to kill me, kill you, kill this whole town if he has to.”
Kenny laughed unpleasantly. “And you say he’s not as bad as I think.” But he came back to the bed and sat down carefully on the edge. “Tell me something, Lisa,” he said. “Was this whole thing between us a bad joke? Did you and your vampire laugh at the stupid guy who thought he was protecting you? I told you about our family, even though I wasn’t supposed to, and I thought you believed me. How you must have laughed.”
“No, Kenny, no.” Lisa’s eyes, up until now red-rimmed but dry, brimmed over with tears. “It was never like that. I love you.”
“Then why didn’t you tell me?” Kenny growled angrily, and then jumped when a calm voice interrupted.
“I wouldn’t let her,” replied Johnny, coming in through the open doorway. “Keep your voice down. Crystal’s sleeping.” He gently closed the door behind him.
Johnny approached the bed and despite himself, Kenny flinched. A brief smile touched Johnny’s lips. “She didn’t tell you anything because I threatened to kill her if she did,” he continued, ignoring the widening of Lisa’s eyes as she heard his remark.
Johnny sat down at the foot of the bed. He appeared relaxed, almost sleepy as he leaned back on his elbows, apparently unconcerned about Kenny’s bulk resting a few inches away from his unprotected head. Lisa walked around and took a seat on the opposite side of the bed. Johnny swiveled his head to look at Lisa first, and then Kenny, upside down. His grin was disconcerting, as it revealed needle-sharp eyeteeth.
“What do you want with us?” Kenny muttered, glancing away uneasily. The sharp teeth had unnerved him more than he wanted to admit.
Johnny bounced around on the bed until he faced them both on his knees. “I’m glad you asked!” he said brightly. “Hunter, I need you to tell me everything you know about me.”
Kenny glanced at Lisa sharply before looking back at Johnny. “Hunter? I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said stubbornly.
Johnny’s smile disappeared. “Lisa,” he said in a low voice. “Tell him.”
“He knows about the family,” Lisa said. “He knew who you were four years ago. He told me about you before you did.”
Kenny glared at both Johnny and Lisa. “If he knows,” he said between clenched teeth, “then why does he want me to tell him anything? If he knows, then he knows I will kill him as soon as I get the chance.”
Lisa sucked in a breath. This was her worst nightmare, that the two of them would kill each other.
But Johnny chuckled. “Humor me,” he said, his eyes flickering between black and brown. “Tell me your version of the story while you figure out how you’re going to kill me. But you won’t get a chance, not like last time. Ask Lisa. I’m not that easy to kill.”
Lisa shivered. Both Johnny and Kenny stared at her, waiting for her to speak, but she pulled the quilt and when she couldn’t free it, she crawled back underneath the covers, vampire troubles or no vampire troubles. It was cold, and she was tired, and she had spent too much of the last four years being afraid. “Would you two just talk to each other?” She pushed the high collar of her nightgown to one side and exposed the raw redness of her throat. “Johnny means what he says.”
Kenny swung around, his pale face turning even paler at the sight of Lisa’s ravaged neck. He stretched out his hand to touch her, and she leaned into his touch, grasping at that one sign that he didn’t utterly hate her. He buried his face in her hair. “I didn’t realize,” he murmured. “I should have realized none of this was your choice.”
Lisa’s eyes locked with Johnny’s across the bed, and slowly, deliberately, he winked.
Feeling as if a great weight was lifted from her chest, Lisa rubbed Kenny’s back. “Then you’ll tell him what he wants to know? So he’ll leave us alone?” She looked pointedly at Johnny, who grinned.
Kenny straightened up and faced Johnny. “You called me ‘hunter,’” he said. “I want to know how you know about us. Nobody is supposed to know about us.”
“You want to share information? Fine. I know about you because I killed the hunter who tried to stake out another vampire two hundred years ago. I staked him out instead and burned him the same way he tried to burn old Jack.”
Kenny blanched at Johnny’s nonchalant admission of murder, realizing at last how lucky he was to be alive at all, considering he had done exactly the same thing to Johnny four years ago. Until tonight, he had assumed that he had killed Johnny by staking him out in the sunlight. He still couldn’t figure out how the vampire had survived. The method was proven, passed down from generation to generation among his branch of the family, the hunters, as Johnny called them.
“How do you know about vampires?” Johnny asked suddenly. He leaned forward and Kenny edged back, pulling Lisa with him. “How did you know what I was?”
Kenny sighed. “Let’s stop pretending. We know because you are our blood—our responsibility,” he said quietly. “Our mistake, I suppose. The knowledge has been handed down since before our family came to this country.”
“Mistake?” Johnny asked in an altogether too pleasant voice. “Why do you say that?”
“Why do you think? You’re unnatural—a killer who sleeps by day and attacks helpless people at night. You never should have been born. Our line has been charged with exterminating any mistakes that haven’t already been killed, and making sure nothing like you ever happens again.” Kenny spoke hotly, but his arm snaked around Lisa as he kept his distance from the vampire in front of him.
“So you know I was born,” Johnny mused, “and you know I’m not the only one of my kind.” Johnny was grasping at straws to see how the hunter would react. “So where are the others?”
“You’re the only one I’ve ever heard of in my lifetime,” Kenny replied honestly. “The stories have it that you survived since the seventeenth century. Is that true?”
Johnny smiled, deliberately showing the tips of his long teeth. “I told you I’m hard to kill,” he replied, not answering the question. Maybe the hunter would not be much help after all. Johnny’s memory went back at least a thousand years, but with great gaping holes that he had hoped the hunter could help him fill.
He jumped up from the bed, and landed on his feet by the closed door. “We’ll continue this conversation later,” he said, glancing significantly at the window where a faint brightness tinged the sky. “I have to go, but I’ll be back tonight. Lisa, don’t let him do anything foolish during the day. You know what the consequences will be.”
“Where’s your resting place?” Kenny asked quickly, but Johnny only chuckled.
“No one knows where I lie,” he replied, locking eyes with Lisa. “I must go now, before the sun rises.” He opened the door to leave, pausing briefly on the threshold. “Don’t cross me, hunter.”
Lisa wondered what Johnny’s game was.