Death's Excellent Vacation

INTRODUCTION

AFTER we’d done as much damage to birthdays (Many Bloody Returns) and to the Christmas holidays (Wolfsbane and Mistletoe) as we could, we started brainstorming about our next anthology’s theme. What hadn’t we covered? We’re sort of saving Arbor Day, and so many paranormals don’t celebrate the Fourth of July.

Toni brought up the summer holidays. Since we’re both moms with kids in school (albeit kids of very different ages), the idea made us gleeful. But we decided to broaden it a bit to include all vacations, because we didn’t want to leave out the possibility of a really good vampire skiing story. Unfortunately, as it happened, none was turned in to us by our stellar list of authors.

But we got some great stories, with settings as varied as a hotel in California, a family reunion in Ireland, the headquarters of a mysterious sect in Paris, and other interesting locales ranging from the exotic to the ridiculous . . . and we love them all.

Now, if you’ll excuse us, we’ve lined up house sitters, and we’ve packed our sunscreen and paperbacks. We’re officially on vacation. We’ll send you a postcard!

Charlaine Harris

Toni L. P. Kelner

Two Blondes

CHARLAINE HARRIS

Charlaine Harris, #1 New York Times bestselling author, has been writing for twenty-seven years. Her body of work includes many novels, a few novellas, and a growing body of short stories in genres such as mystery, science fiction, and romance. Married and the mother of three, Charlaine lives in rural Arkansas with her family, three dogs, and a Canada goose. She pretty much works all the time. The HBO series True Blood is based on Charlaine’s Sookie Stackhouse novels.

“SO why are we going to Tunica?” I asked Pam. “And what are we supposed to do when we get there?”

“We’re going to see the sights and gamble,” Pam said. The headlights of a passing car glinted on Pam’s pale, straight hair. Pam was paler than her hair and approximately a hundred and sixty years old, give or take a decade. She’d become a vampire when Victoria was still a young queen.

“It’s hard to believe you’d want to go to Mississippi. For that matter, it’s hard to believe you’d want to take me along.”

“Are we not friends, Sookie?”

“Yes,” I said, after a little hesitation. Though it didn’t seem polite to say so, I was closer to being a friend of Pam’s than I was of any other vampire. “Somehow, I got the feeling you really didn’t think enough of humans to want to claim one as a friend.”

“You’re not as intolerable as most,” Pam said lightly.

“Thanks for the glowing testimony.”

“Oh, you’re quite welcome.” She grinned, flashing just a bit of fang.

“I hope this is fun, considering I’m using my two days off to make this little trip.” I sounded a little grumpy, with good reason.

“It’s a vacation! A chance to get out of your rut. Don’t you get tired of Bon Temps? Don’t you get tired of hustling drinks at Sam’s bar?”

Truthfully, no. I love my little Louisiana town. I feel as comfortable as a telepath can be among the people I know so well (better than most of them will ever understand). And I love working for Sam at Merlotte’s. I’m a very good waitress and barmaid. My life brings me enough excitement without me having to leave town to get more.

“Something always goes wrong when I go out of town,” I said, trying not to sound whiny.

“Such as?”

“Remember when I went to Dallas? All those people got shot? When I went to Jackson, I got staked.” Which was pretty ironic, since I’m human. “And when I flew