Mike frowned, considering the best way to deal with Crandall’s sudden shift in obsessions. Crandall needed to do this – to train and practice – but even Blood Hunters had limits and sore muscles could slow down anyone, except the vampire.
“That display said three miles,” Mike said, attempting to sound casual. “How long have you been running?”
“You reset it, so I don’t know. What difference–”
“Have you run at all before tonight?”
“No,” Crandall said. His throat bobbed, chasing mouthfuls of water.
“You’re going to be hurting in the morning.”
“I heal fast,” Crandall said. “You keep bugging me to do more.”
Mike shook his head.
“We can talk at home.” Crandall stopped the machine, finished the water, and then threw the empty bottle at Mike. “I assume that’s why you’re here. You’re horny.”
“No?” Crandall stepped gingerly from the machine, his speckled hazel eyes more green than brown in the glaring overhead lights.
“Okay, yes. I mean… No, Crandall, look man, I appreciate you throwing yourself into this training, but you have to respect your limits too.”
Crandall walked past. He moved like he was tired, but he eyed the weight machines in the center of the room. His pace slowed momentarily before he strode through the hallway towards the back office. Mike watched him go, half of his thoughts occupied with convincing him not to blow out his heart in one night’s workout and the rest reminding him that Crandall would need a helluva massage by morning and he knew just the person to do that.
Mike stopped at the front desk to dig through drawers of supplies and other junk. He found two energy bars from some company he’d never heard of tucked in the back of one. The dojo didn’t sell nutritional supplements, but at least once a month a determined salesman, who believed one bite would change their minds, would stop by and leave samples.
Dragon’s rumbling, fatherly voice drifted from the office as Mike approached. He slowed, listening. Dragon spoke of a program he designed for hunters to train quickly but safely. Dragon had a way of getting through to the youth that wanted too much too fast. Mike peeked in, wary but curious. Crandall stared at the corner, leaning back in his chair and sipping from a fresh bottle of water. His feet propped up on the desk, he looked relaxed if not for that vacant, stressed gaze that Mike knew too well.
“Here,” Mike said. He tossed the bars in Crandall’s lap.
Crandall jumped. As he feet left the desk, the chair slammed down to all four legs. “I’d rather pizza,” Crandall snarled, shooting a death glare at Mike. He frowned at the individually-wrapped bars, reading their nutritional data as if he cared what a label said.
“If you’ll trust me to know what’s best, I’ll keep you on a schedule,” Dragon said, ignoring the interruption.
“Should I?” Crandall asked. He wiped sweat from his face with a small white towel and picked up the second energy bar, its label intensely interesting.
“I’ve been doing this since before you were born.”
Crandall narrowed his eyes, studying Dragon. Dragon’s hairline crept back into a Draculan widow’s peak, and over the past decade his stomach started defining him as middle-aged, but the lines around his eyes and a depth of experience in those brown orbs exposed more years than the rest of his body put together.
“Show up to every lesson this time.” Dragon exuded calm. He’d not been bothered by Crandall blowing off his scheduled practices over the past month. He’d seen enough new hunters to know the denial that came with being thrust into a storybook mythos of extreme violence.
Crandall dropped his towel on the floor and tore open one of the nutrition bars. “Okay,” he said. He sniffed the bar, wrinkled his nose, and then took a bite, chewing slowly. After swallowing the first bite, he devoured the snack quickly and then ripped into the second one without comment.
Satisfied, Dragon grabbed his keys and headed out to turn out lights and lock up the facility for the night.
“What about the band?” Mike asked.
“What about it?” he mumbled around a mouthful of chocolate-covered granola.
“You missed practice tonight.”
Crandall coughed, choking on his snack. Mike slapped his back as he bent over, spitting a mangled mush of nutrients and carbs into a wastebasket beside the desk.
“Fucking shit,” Crandall muttered. He wiped his mouth on the back of his hand and threw the rest of the bar in the garbage. “Shit, fuck, damn.” He stood and wiped his hands on his pants. “Why didn’t you call?”
Up Next: Blood