Many Bloody Returns Online - Charlaine Harris

Dracula Night

Charlaine Harris

Charlaine Harris, New York Times bestselling author of the Sookie Stackhouse series, also writes books about Harper Connelly, a lightning-struck corpse locator. Charlaine has won the Anthony, the Sapphire, and two Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice awards. She lives in a small town in Arkansas with her husband, a duck, three dogs, and three children. Her website is simply www.charlaineharris.com, and she tries real hard to keep it up-to-date.

I found the invitation in the mailbox at the end of my driveway. I had to lean out of my car window to open it, because I’d paused on my way to work after remembering I hadn’t checked my mail in a couple of days. My mail was never interesting. I might get a flyer for Dollar General or Wal-Mart, or one of those ominous mass mailings about pre-need burial plots.

Today, after I’d sighed at my Entergy bill and my cable bill, I had a little treat: a handsome, heavy, buff-colored envelope that clearly contained some kind of invitation. It had been addressed by someone who’d not only taken a calligraphy class but passed the final with flying colors.

I got a little pocketknife out of my glove compartment and slit open the envelope with the care it deserved. I don’t get a lot of invitations, and when I do, they’re usually more Hallmark than watermark. This was something to be savored. I pulled out the stiff folded paper carefully, and opened it. Something fluttered into my lap: an enclosed sheet of tissue. Without absorbing the revealed words, I ran my finger over the embossing. Wow.

I’d strung out the preliminaries as long as I could. I bent to actually read the italic typeface.

ERIC NORTHMAN

AND THE STAFF OF FANGTASIA

REQUEST THE HONOR OF YOUR PRESENCE

AT FANGTASIA’S ANNUAL PARTY

TO CELEBRATE THE BIRTHDAY OF

THE LORD OF DARKNESS

PRINCE DRACULA

ON FEBRUARY 8, 10:00 P.M.

MUSIC PROVIDED BY THE DUKE OF DEATH

DRESS FORMAL RSVP

I read it twice. Then I read it again.

I drove to work in such a thoughtful mood that I’m glad there wasn’t any other traffic on Hummingbird Road. I took the left to get to Merlotte’s, but then I almost sailed right past the parking lot. At the last moment, I braked and turned in to navigate my way to the parking area behind the bar that was reserved for employees.

Sam Merlotte, my boss, was sitting behind his desk when I peeked in to put my purse in the deep drawer in his desk that he let the servers use. He had been running his hands over his hair again, because the tangled red-gold halo was even wilder than usual. He looked up from his tax form and smiled at me.

“Sookie,” he said, “how are you doing?”

“Good. Tax season, huh?” I made sure my white T-shirt was tucked in evenly so the “Merlotte’s” embroidered over my left breast would be level. I flicked one of my long blond hairs off my black pants. I always bent over to brush my hair out so my ponytail would look smooth. “You not taking them to the CPA this year?”

“I figure if I start this early, I can do them myself.”

He said that every year, and he always ended up making an appointment with the CPA, who always had to file for an extension.

“Listen, did you get one of these?” I asked, extending the invitation.

He dropped his pen with some relief and took the sheet from my hand. After scanning the script, he said, “No. They wouldn’t invite many shifters, anyway. Maybe the local packmaster, or some supe who’d done them a significant service…like you.”

“I’m not supernatural,” I said, surprised. “I just have a…problem.”

“Telepathy is a lot more than a problem,” Sam said. “Acne is a problem. Shyness is a problem. Reading other peoples’ minds is a gift.”

“Or a curse,” I said. I went around the desk to toss my purse in the drawer, and Sam stood up. I’m around five foot six, and Sam tops me by maybe three inches. He’s not a big guy, but he’s much stronger than a plain human his size, since Sam’s a shapeshifter.

“Are you going to go?” he asked. “Halloween and Dracula’s birthday are the only holidays vampires observe, and I understand they can throw quite a party.”

“I haven’t made up my mind,” I said. “When I’m on my break later, I might call Pam on my cell.” Pam, Eric’s second-in-command, was as close to a friend as I had among the vampires.

I reached her at Fangtasia pretty soon after the sun went down.