PROLOGUE

"No, Mike is at home right where I left him," Jennifer Kyle spoke into her cell phone. "He came home drunk again and was yelling so I came out here on the boat to get away from him." She stepped to the side of the pontoon boat (the Party Boat as Mike called it) and stared out over the calm water. This was her therapy, a nice evening on her boat in the middle of the lake-the setting sun reflecting and shimmering off the water, the warm summer air turning to a cool breeze, the low slap of waves gently rocking the boat.

"I don't know why you put up with him," her friend, Sandra, said on the other side.

"He's usually not this bad," Jennifer muttered. She knew she was trying to convince herself as much as she was trying to convince Sandra. Her relationship with Mike hadn't exactly been picturesque.

"Whatever. Just keep telling yourself that." Sandra and Jennifer had been best friends since grade school and Sandra knew all about her friend's dating history. She was never great at finding a good boyfriend, but Mike had definitely been the worst of the lot. He insulted her, demeaned her, controlled her, and (though Jennifer never admitted it) beat her. Sandra had tried her best to get Jennifer to see the light, but to no avail. Frankly, she was about fed up with it.

You don't know anything about him, Jennifer thought to herself. She wouldn't say that out loud, though. The last thing she wanted was to lose the only friend she had right now. The only friend that Mike hadn't run off. So, once again, she would bite her tongue and put up with her boyfriend's abuse and her friend's opinion. After all, it was better than being alone...right?

"So when you get done with your boat ride you can stay here if you want," her friend offered. She may have hated Mike, but she still loved Jennifer and wanted the best for her.

"We'll see," Jennifer said. Her eyes floated to the cloudless sky. The sun was only moments away from disappearing and some stars had already started to shine. "I'll probably have to come in soon," she lied. "It's getting pretty dark." She had no intention of docking the boat for another couple of hours. She came out here for peace and quiet and what better way to have that than on an empty lake under a blanket of twinkling stars.

"Well the door's open. I'll probably be in bed so just crash somewhere."

"Alright. I'll see you tomorrow if I don't come over." She watched her reflection in the still water slowly fade away with the light.

"Cool. One way or another I'll see you tomorrow. Bye."

"Bye." Jennifer shut her phone and turned her attention back to the lake. Her boat had floated into a cove while she was talking. Trees closed in around the boat covering her in their shadows and blocking out the stars. "Nice and quiet," she said to herself as she plopped down on a bench and grabbed a beer from the boat's always-stocked cooler. Kind of ironic, she thought, drinking to mask the pain caused by a drunk. She gave a short laugh and lay down. Maybe me and Mike are meant for each other.

What she did next may have cost Jennifer her life. If she hadn't put her headphones on she may have heard the thing crawling out of the water and onto her boat.

THE VAMPIRE OF LAKE SHELBYVILLE