Summer nights were too short. Vampires spent more time indoors in the summer, but heat didn’t agree with them anyway.
Jack lived in beautiful house on the lake. It’d be a rather conventional square house if not for the balconies and the turret that connected the house to the garage. As many times as I had been here, it never really stopped being intimidating.
We spent a great deal of the summer in the backyard, either lounging on the stone patio or swimming in the lake or taking out the Jet-Ski’s. Milo and I spent so much time on the water that Mae bought us several swimsuits to keep at the house.
I changed into my suit, keeping the towel wrapped around me when I came out of the bathroom, and Milo had already changed into his swim trunks. He sat at island in the kitchen, munching on some grapes, and helping Mae.
Mae had been the eldest when she turned, at twenty-eight. Her skin was flawless white porcelain, and her caramel waves of hair had been pulled into a loose bun. Wearing only her bathing suit and an apron, her warm eyes danced as Milo talked to her.
As a vampire, she didn’t eat, and since Milo was an excellent cook, he became her sous chef, helping her prepare all the meals she made for our benefit. I would’ve protested all the extra work and expense Mae put into it, but it was obvious that she relished this sorta thing.
“Where’s Ezra?” I asked, walking over to the island and stealing a grape. Mae was making some kind of fruit dip with cream cheese and yogurt, and slicing up apples, pears, and strawberries.
“He’s taking a nap,” Mae informed me in her warm, British accent. “He’s a little jet lagged from the trip.”
Like the other two boys, Ezra was incredibly attractive. His eyes were deep mahogany and infinitely warm. His skin was the same tanned color as Jack and Peter’s, and his sandy hair had soft blond streaks through it. The most powerful thing about Ezra was his voice. It was low and resonated through everything. He had a faded accent that came from being born in England, but he hadn’t lived in Europe in over two-hundred years.
Through the glass French doors off the dining room, I saw Jack rollicking about with his Great Pyrenees, Matilda. The deck lights revealed the taut muscles of his chest and back as he rolled around with her. The stones of the patio should’ve left him battered and bruised, but he’d have nothing to show from it.
“Alice, do you wanna try it?” Mae asked, pulling my gaze away from Jack. She held out an apple slice covered in dip, but I shook my head.
“I’m getting pretty chilly. I think I’m gonna head outside.”
“I’ll be out in a minute,” Milo said through the mouthful of the fruit he’d sampled.
“Okay,” I nodded and headed out the French doors into the night.
Jack ventured off the patio in his pursuit of Matilda, but I saw easily in the light of the full moon. It was much warmer outside than it had been in the house, but I kept the towel wrapped around me. I walked down the patio onto the small lawn that separated the house from the lake.
Matilda caught sight of me and bounded towards me. She’d knock me over, since she was used to vampires who could handle her lunging at them, but Jack overtook her and playfully tackled her. Then he stood up, brushing the grass from his swim trunks, and grinned at me.
“Are you gonna go swimming with the towel too?” Jack teased.
“Maybe.” I pulled the towel more tightly around me, and he laughed.
Matilda sniffed me heartily before concluding that it was only me, and then sauntered off, wagging her tail slowly behind her.
A mischievous glint caught Jack’s eye, and after spending a summer getting thrown in the lake, I knew exactly what it meant. Dropping my towel, I turned and ran towards the dock. He trailed a few steps behind me, even though he could easily sprint past me. The sport was in the chase for him.
I almost made it to the edge of the dock when I felt his strong arms looping around my waist. I squealed and let him twirl me around once before he released me, sending me soaring into the air and landing in the lake with a loud splash.
Jack took a running jump and leaped out, flying over me and splashing way out in the lake. He howled excitedly, as if he hadn’t made that same jump a million times.
“Jack!” Mae leaned out the French doors and shouted out at him. “You’ve got to keep it down so the neighbors don’t call the police again.” It was after midnight on a Wednesday, and the neighbors weren’t big fans of the noise.
“Yeah, Alice,” Jack said.
“Oh, whatever,” I rolled my eyes. “As if I’m even half as loud as you are.”
Jack laughed, taking long strokes out farther into the black water. He swam slow circles around me, but I was content to float on my back, staring up at the full moon and the stars shining.
I had never really had the courage to swim too far from the shore when the water was so dark. I always had these horrible visions of being eaten by some unseen monster coming up from the depths of the lake.
Milo joined us in the lake a bit later. Mae stayed inside to continue chopping fruit. She always went overboard trying to feed us. We were just two people, but she cooked like we were an army. It only made it more obvious when they didn’t eat anything, but Milo had only made a few comments about it.
Surprisingly, he hadn’t really caught on that they weren’t human. Jack had been more discreet about his paranormal abilities, but Milo was a smart kid. I thought that he suspected something but let it go, because they didn’t seem dangerous and they made me happy.
“It’s a really beautiful night out,” Milo said. He floated on his back, admiring the night like I was.
“It’s been a fantastic summer.”
“I can’t believe it’s almost over,” Milo sighed.
“Don’t remind me!” I cringed.
School was only three short weeks away. Milo tried to convince me that it had little effect on my life, but it changed everything. There’d be no more all-nighters with Jack, and soon everything would get cold and snowy, and Milo would make me do homework.
Something grabbed me and pulled me under. I tried to scream but water buried me. I pictured some evil sea creature coming to eat my soul. Clawing my way to the surface, I grabbed onto something strong and soft and pulled myself up.
As soon as I reached for him, Jack pulled me up out of the water and let me cling on to him. Over my own frightened gasps, I heard him laughing softly, and I realized he’d been the one that grabbed my ankle. After a summer of similar antics, I should’ve caught on that Jack thought it was funny scaring the crap out of me.
I should’ve slapped him or told him he was a jerk, but the feel of his arms distracted me. His chest pressed up against mine, and he had to feel the frantic beating of my heart that drove him crazy.
I looked up in his soft blue eyes, and I felt breathless for a whole new reason. His laughter died down, and his smile faltered as his body temperature started to rise, smoldering against my skin.
Ordinarily, he would’ve pushed me away by now, but he let me linger in his arms. I tilted in towards him, hoping he’d let go just long enough for one innocent kiss.
“Hey! Look! A shooting star!” Milo shouted.
It was just enough for Jack to realize what was happening, so he pushed me back and swam away. Jack did everything he could to keep from letting things get out of hand, and sometimes that meant that he’d physically push me away. It was getting harder to shrug off, though.
Although I hadn’t asked about it, his temperature only seemed to rise when things between us got physical. During our one crazy passionate kiss, his skin had felt like it was on fire.
“Did you see it?” Milo asked.
I meant to shoot him an angry glare for disrupting my rare moment with Jack, but then I saw Milo just staring blissfully at the sky. He hadn’t been paying attention to anything but the stars, so he hadn’t known that he’d interrupted.
“Nah, sorry, I missed it,” I said.
“There’ll probably be another one,” Milo assured me, and I probably sounded very heavy with regret. Sure, I do love a good shooting star, but kisses with Jack were even a rarer commodity.
“I hope so.”
I treaded water, and Jack moved on to harassing Matilda. He’d gotten very good at finding ways to ignore me. Poor Matilda stood at the end of the dock, barking her refusal to jump in. Milo tired of his stargazing so he went over to join Jack in cajoling the dog in the water.
Being in the water suddenly didn’t feel like much fun. The adrenaline from the near sea monster death, followed by the near kiss, left my body feeling achy and tired. I knew Jack would do his best to steer clear of me for awhile, and even if I understood the routine, it didn’t feel good.
“I think I’m gonna head back inside and see if Mae needs a hand,” I said to no one in particular, which was just as well. Matilda was far more captivating than I was.
By the time I made it to the shore, I heard the loud splash and their shouts of triumph. Matilda finally jumped in the water. If only my resolution with Jack could be that simple.
Wrapping the towel around me, I stepped in through the French doors. My skin froze instantly, thanks to the arctic draft from the air conditioner. Amy Winehouse blasted out of the stereo, Mae’s one new guilty pleasure. Jack was always trying to get her to listen to new music, and so far the only things that took were Winehouse and Norah Jones.
Mae danced around the kitchen, singing into a spatula, and despite my aggravation over the Jack situation, I couldn’t help but laugh.
“Oh my gosh!” Mae put her hand over her heart and her golden eyes flashed with embarrassment. “You scared me!”
“Couldn’t you hear me come in?” I asked as she turned down the stereo. “Aren’t you guys supposed to have super hearing or something?”
“Well, yes, when we’re paying attention,” Mae smiled sheepishly at me. The fruit snack looked complete and nicely arranged on the island, and she was just cleaning up when I interrupted.
“Do you need a hand?” I offered.
“No, and you need to go put some clothes on first.” She nodded at me, and I had begun to shiver. “Unless you’re not done for the night.”
“Oh, no, I’m definitely done,” I replied grimly. The thrill completely wore off the instant Jack pushed me away.
“I should probably go change too.” She started untying her apron.
“You don’t need to stay in on my account.” I held up my hand to stop her. “You can go out there and swim while I clean up.”
“Nonsense,” Mae laughed, as if she would ever let me clean up after her. She whipped off her apron and set it on the island. “If you and Ezra are in the house, I can’t imagine what kind of fun I’d even have with the boys. They’ll probably throw frogs at each other.”
She wasn’t that far off base. When left to their own devices, Jack and Milo turned into very silly little boys. Once, when it was raining, I split up a mudball fight in the backyard. It’s very similar to a snowball fight, except with mud. That seemed like a genius idea to them both until Milo started getting bruises, because as it turns out, vampires can throw much harder than weakling sixteen-year-olds.
Mae shook her head and headed off down the hall to change. I followed her to the main bathroom across the hall from her bedroom.
In the bathroom, I changed into my ordinary clothes, and I wondered if I was being too stubborn not letting Mae buy me new clothes. After she’d spent decades buying for only boys, it would thrill her to take me on a shopping trip. The suit I set in the tub to dry had cost over a hundred dollars, and she’d bought me three of them. But then again, they already gave me far too much, and I returned so little.
I tried to dry my hair as best I could and clean myself up. Before I had even finished washing my face, I heard a yell. I turned off the faucet, and Mae was shouting Jack’s name, so I rushed out into the kitchen.
Jack was yelling, and he sounded terrified.
Mae stood on the patio when I ran outside. Jack was still several feet away from her, standing closer to the shoreline. When I tried to run past her, Mae grabbed my arm, and her face blanched.
It was too dark for me to really see what was going on, but I could feel pure heartbroken terror. Something terrible had happened, and Jack felt worse about it than he ever had before.
“Ezra!” Jack bellowed, and he stopped walking forward. “Ezra!”
“I’ll go get him,” Mae whispered nervously. Her hand squeezed my arm so tightly it hurt, but I barely noticed. “Alice, you stay right here. Don’t move. I’ll be right back.”
“Hurry!” Jack pleaded, but she was already gone.
Even though I didn’t move any closer, my eyes adjusted to the darkness, and the moonlight splashed on him through the branches of a nearby tree. Something lay limp in his arms, and my breath caught in my throat.
Immediately, I thought that something had happened to Matilda. The boys had gotten too rough, and she’d gotten hurt somehow, and Jack knows how freaked out I get when animals are hurt.
Then Matilda whined by his feet, her white fur soaking wet. I noticed dark patches running through it, dripping off whatever Jack held in his arms. But I still couldn’t see it.
It was perfectly visible, but my mind just couldn’t process. I felt dizzy and disoriented, like I was looking down at the world from an amazing height. I couldn’t make sense of anything.
A wind rustled through the trees, moving the branches, and the moonlight struck him just right. I saw his face, his eyes rolled back into his head, and I saw exactly what Jack held in his arms.
“Milo!” I screamed, and Mae wrapped her arms around me just in time to keep me from running at Jack.