Vacations From Hell, page 1
Vacations from Hell
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I Don’t Like Your Girlfriend
The Law of Suspects
The Mirror House
Nowhere Is Safe
About the Authors
About the Publisher
“Sunblock?” Liz asks me.
I point to the pair perched on my head. “I’m ready. Can we go?”
“Kristin, you are wearing the new blue bikini we bought you last week?”
She leans across her twin bed, lifts up my shirt, and gasps. “No. You are not wearing that hideous brown one-piece. You are not allowed to wear anything that you bought before you met me, okay?” Liz is already clad in a tiny white bikini, if you can call what looks like two pieces of string holding up three triangles a bikini.
“But I’m going to burn,” I whine.
“You will not. That’s why we bought SPF 100 or whatever. Don’t be a baby. Put on your new suit so we can hit the deck already.”
I feel queasy—and it’s not because I’m stuck in a cramped cabin on a cruise ship. Although I’m sure that’s not helping.
I am excited to be here—of course I am—but I’m a little nervous. I’ve never been on a cruise before. What if I get seasick? The boat hasn’t even left port yet and already it’s kind of swaying from side to side like a slightly drunk rocking chair. What if it leans in a crazy angle and I fall off? What if it slams into an iceberg and we plummet to the bottom of the ocean?
Even the name of it—the Cruise to Nowhere—sounds spooky. Supposedly they call it that because we’re not headed anywhere specific; we’re going to float around international waters for three days and three nights and then zip back to New York. But still. It sounds ominous. If I was in charge of the marketing, I’d call it Sea Wanderer or Ocean Extravaganza, or something that doesn’t scream Dead End.
But that’s just me.
Okay, I’m not just nervous about falling off the boat.
I’m really nervous because…All right, I’ll say it. On this trip, this Cruise to Nowhere, I have a goal. I am going to do it.
Yes. It’s time. My first time.
Ack. I can’t believe I’m going to do it.
“Are you sure about the bikini?” I ask now, self-conscious. I don’t bother looking at myself in the mirror. I already know what I look like. Medium boobs, shoulder-length brown hair, not too big, not too small. Just call me Goldilocks. Average, average, average. My eyes are cool, though. I’ll admit that. They’re kind of green and brown and blue. Swirly.
“Kristin, if you wear that hideous one-piece there is a zero percent chance you’ll pick someone up. Less than zero. Minus one.”
See that’s the other thing. I don’t actually have a candidate in mind for the big event. First step: find guy. Second: reel him in. Third: do it.
No pressure or anything. I take a deep breath.
Except what guy will give me a second look with Liz lying on a pool chair by my side? Liz, with her white string bikini, waist-length wavy red hair, and legs that are longer than my entire body. She’s the Little Mermaid come to life. I bet she’d be fine if the boat pulled a Titanic. She’d toss her hair and twelve guys would give up their life rafts to save her.
I unzip my bag. “All right, I’ll change.”
“Hurry up. I want to be there when the boat—”
Before she finishes her sentence, the floor beneath us shifts. I look out through the window and over our balcony and see the pier drifting away.
My knees are shaking. Is this what they call sea legs? Or maybe I’m just nervous about what’s to come….
According to the map in our room, this boat has twelve floors. Twelve floors! How crazy is that? Maybe boats aren’t as bad as I thought. In fact, maybe I’ll move in forever. There’s a spa, a hair salon, a gym, a library, a gazillion rooms, a dozen restaurants. Four pools. What else do you need?
There’s already a girl about our age on the elevator when we step on. She’s blond and tiny, and her skin is flushed red, like it’s just been scrubbed.
“Hi,” Liz says with a big smile. “Are you going to the pool on level twelve?”
Liz talks to everyone. She has no fear. I, on the other hand, feel like I’ve swallowed a hundred butterflies when I have to talk to a stranger.
The girl nods. “Yup. Level twelve is supposed to be the best one. It’s all outside. And I need to start tanning immediately.”
“I’m pretty pale too,” Liz says. “So what do you think of the ship?”
“Nice. It’s my first cruise.”
“Mine too,” I blurt. It wouldn’t hurt to be a bit more fearless.
“Are you here with your family?” Liz asks.
The girl plays with the ends of her blond ponytail. “Yeah. I’m here with my insane mother. She’s already taken practically a bottle of Vicodin and passed out. She’ll probably sleep through the entire four days. She was supposed to be on this cruise with her new boyfriend but he dumped her last week. Not that I blame him.”
Well. That was a lot of info. Liz and I give each other a look, but then turn back to the girl. “At least you got a cruise out of it,” I say.
She snorts. “Lucky me. It’s a crappy time to go on a cruise. Did you guys read the National Eagle this week?”
Liz shakes her head dismissively. “I don’t read tabloids.”
Me neither. Fine, sometimes I do. “Why? What does it say?”
“Do you scare easily?” she asks.
“Then I probably shouldn’t tell you.”
The doors slide open. Ow. Majorly bright. Good thing I have my anti-UV, anti-glare, anti-any-light-getting-through-these-suckers glasses. Must protect my best asset. I slide my sunglasses over my eyes and adjust my cute new
We survey the scene. There’s a huge rectangular sparkling pool, two kitschy thatched-roof bars, and a pool-side terrace restaurant. The deck is packed with people. “How about over by the deep end?” I ask, pointing to a bunch of empty blue and white striped lounge chairs.
“Come sit with us,” Liz tells the new girl.
“Thanks,” she says, smiling. “If you’re sure you don’t mind. I’m Hailey.”
We introduce ourselves as Liz swipes three pale peach beach towels from a bin and claims the empty chairs.
I dump the bag between us, open the umbrella by my chair, and spread out my towel.
“So are you guys here with your parents?” Hailey asks, hunting through her bag. She pulls out a pair of oversize sunglasses and the National Eagle. I can’t help but wonder what the so-called story is about. Do I want to know?
“Just us,” Liz says, lying back in her chair.
“Wow. Are you guys sisters?” Hailey asks.
“Kind of,” Liz says.
I laugh. “In spirit at least.”
“Was this a graduation present or something?”
“Exactly,” Liz says.
Not yet, but I plan to be. Except what’s the big scary story Hailey isn’t telling? “So tell us what’s in the paper about cruise ships.”
“I’ll tell you, but don’t blame me if you can’t fall asleep tonight. It says, ‘Vampires Attack Cruise Ships.’ Isn’t that insane?”
“Yes,” I say. The boat sways slightly, and my stomach clenches.
“I know, right?”
Liz snorts. “Hello, it’s the Eagle people. It’s worse than the Enquirer. It’s not real.”
“It could be,” Hailey says.
I sit up in my seat. “Wait, what exactly does it say?”
“That people have gone missing from cruise boats in the last six months. They’re blaming vampires.”
“Um, do they know there’s no such thing as vampires?” I ask.
I shake my head. “The Eagle must be having serious circulation issues.”
“You never know,” Liz says. “Maybe vampires are killing people on cruise ships. Who’s to say what’s real and what’s not?”
I lightly kick the back of her leg. “Or maybe some psycho robs a girl who had too many vodka tonics and then shoves her overboard before anyone notices she’s missing,” I say.
“Yeah, that sounds about right,” Hailey says, flipping through the newspaper.
“Or Bloody Marys,” Liz jokes.
“I heard that happens way more than they report. It’s because of the international-waters thing. It’s harder to prosecute the criminals,” Hailey explains.
“Or find the bodies,” Liz adds.
“Scary,” I say, shivering. I wrap the end of the towel around my arms.
Hailey’s eyes are wide. “I’m not walking around at night, I can promise you that.”
“We’ll keep the bad guys away,” Liz pledges, and then flips onto her stomach.
I close my eyes. Rest time.
Ahhhh. The ocean breeze in my hair, the water roaring by, the sun glittering around me. Lovely. Perfect.
I’m just about to drift off when a shadow crosses my path.
I open one eye to see what’s going on and the other one promptly pops open.
It’s a guy. A cute guy, my age, maybe seventeen. Standing between my recently pedicured feet and the pool. He’s wearing checkered black and gray bathing trunks, has cropped blond hair, and sexy sculpted arms.
Could he be the one?
With a smooth motion he dives into the water, leaving my side without even a splash to cool me down.
Where’s he going? Come back, Checker Boy, come back!
“Dive in,” Liz tells me, pushing herself up on her elbows.
“What?” I ask, slightly panicked.
“You like him, don’t you? He’s kind of yummy-looking, huh?”
“Ick. I don’t even know him!” I say.
“You like what you see, right?”
“I guess,” I say.
“Then dive in.”
I hesitate. What if when I dive in I swallow a couple hundred gallons of chlorinated water and then lose my bikini top?
“If you want someone, you have to go after him.”
“I know, but…”
Hailey looks up from her paper and eyes Checker Boy in the pool now doing laps. “He is cute, Kristin,” she says. “Go for it.”
Liz smiles at me as if to say, “See, even the girl we just met thinks you should.”
I sigh. She’s right. I know she’s right. Unlike me she knows what she’s doing. Unlike me she’s done this before. Many, many times.
But…I don’t want to look like an idiot. What if he blows me off? What if he has a girlfriend? What if he has a wife? What if he has children? Okay, he looks a little young to have a wife and children, but what if—
Liz sighs. “Kristin, watch how it’s done.” In a fluid motion she removes her sunglasses, wrap, and iPod and dives, rippleless, into the deep end.
She surfaces like a supermodel, hair glistening and shoulders pulled back to show off her oh-so-tiny bikini top. She is directly blocking Checker Boy’s path.
He swims right into her. He pulls his head back, treading water and coughing.
“So sorry,” Liz purrs. “Do you need mouth-to-mouth?”
The look on Checker Boy’s face says he would love some mouth-to-mouth, thank you very much. “Sorry about that,” he says. “I have to learn to look where I’m going.”
“I don’t know if I can accept your apology,” she drawls. “You may have to buy me a drink to make it up to me.”
“I’ll do whatever it takes,” Checker Boy says, eyes blinking rapidly, not believing his luck. They swim toward the pool bar.
“Wow,” Hailey says.
“She’s a master,” I respond.
“But she’s not twenty-one! How can she drink?”
“She has her ways.”
“She stole your guy. You should have called dibs.”
I shrug. “There are other fish on the boat.”
An hour later Liz sashays back to our chairs.
“What’s he like?” I ask.
She runs her fingers through her damp hair. “Who, Jarred? Not bad. He offered to buy me lunch. I told him we’d catch up with him later maybe.”
“Does he have any cute friends?” Hailey asks.
“I didn’t ask, but this one’s our priority this weekend,” Liz says, pointing to me. “She needs to take care of a problem.”
“What kind of problem?”
My face heats up, and it’s not from the sun.
“Her virginity,” Liz says with a half smile.
“Oh, don’t do it,” Hailey says. “I wish I would have waited. I lost it last fall, beginning of junior year, to a total idiot. He told the entire school.”
“Jerk,” I say.
“So trust me, don’t rush,” she says. “Wait for someone you’re madly in love with.”
“Do not listen to her,” Liz says. “It will be too scary to do it with someone you’re madly in love with.”
“Maybe,” Hailey says, hesitating. “At least if you do it with some random stranger, it won’t matter who he tells. It’s not like you’ll know the same people. Have you ever come close to losing it?”
“Once,” I admit.
I hesitate. “It was with a guy named Tom. I thought it was going to happen. I was in his room. His parents weren’t home. And I was just about to when…”
“I chickened out,” I admit. “And bolted.”
“He must have loved that.” Hailey laughs.
“I’m sure he got over it,” I say. Not that I ever saw him again. Better off for both of us, I’d say.
“What about you?
She shakes her head. “It feels like forever ago.” She shrugs. “Who can remember?”
Hailey stretches her arms above her head. “I should probably go check on my mom. Make sure she hasn’t thrown herself off the side of the boat.”
“Or gotten attacked by vampires,” Liz says, winking.
Hailey laughs. “Will you guys be around later?”
“Yup,” I say.
“We’ll be at the casino,” Liz says, reclining in her seat again. “Meet us at nine.”
“Wait, Hailey?” I ask. “Are you finished with the Eagle?”
“Yup. You want it?”
“Yeah, if you don’t mind.”
She tosses it on my chair. “Enjoy.”
Liz snickers as I open the paper.
“It’s not funny,” I say, reading the details. “It says there have been seven disappearances on six different cruise ships in the past year. Two people were found in the water, drained of blood. Drained of blood! Aren’t you even a little bit worried?”
“Gimme a break. It’s the Eagle. Hello, there’s no such thing as vampires, remember? Anyway, you’re transferring your anxiety from what you’re really afraid of.”
“And what’s that?”
She gives me a knowing look. “You know. Losing it.”
“Thank you, Dr. Laura. But I don’t want to talk about it anymore.” I flip over in my lounge chair, turning my back to her.
“Are you hungry?” she asks a few minutes later.
“No,” I say, still mad.
“Stop being a baby,” she says. “I’m starving. I’ll get us something to eat. Let me find Jarred.”
“Hailey says I should have called dibs.”
“Hey, he’s all yours if you want him,” she offers.
“No, you go ahead. I don’t want your charity. I’ll find my own guy.” I take a deep breath of ocean air. “Promise.”
Liz and I meet Hailey at the casino later that night, by a James Bond slot machine. If I put in a quarter, will a gorgeous spy pop out?
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