Small-town life can be hard for a dead girl...
For Veronica Fischer the night to night life of a bloodsucking madam in Middle America is tough enough before she adopts Rachel Gregory, an eight year old ghost.
After her house is set on fire, and Rachel disappears, all signs point to foul play. When she finds herself with a hit out on her unlife, and warrants for her arrest, it becomes clear she's going to need help.
Now she has to contend with horny zombies, violent spirits, and murderous grave robbers if she's ever going to find Rachel and discover the awful truth of the coming storm.
A raucous ride through the dangerous lives
of the lecherous undead.
of the lecherous undead.
"Unique for this, my favorite, genre." - Tammy Vonderheide, 'Mena & Chloe'
"In a market flooded with vampire stories, I was not expecting much from debut author, Dennis Sharpe. I have never been so happy to be wrong." - darkfaerietales.com
"I loved how strong Veronica was, she didn't whine she took action. My kinda vampire! The story development, very rich & well done." - wickedlilpixie.com
"I'm surprised that a male author wrote this book from a woman's point of view, and did it well!" - Paranormal Opinion
"I freaking LOVED Veronica. She's sharp, funny and has a totally killer attitude... and she's a madam!" - Bookish-Brunette.com
"Sharpe’s writing is refreshing. I was so astonished that a man could write such a dynamic female main character that I repeatedly checked the cover to make sure Dennis wasn't a Denise. " - Book Sake
"It has action, mystery and a kick ass heroine" - The Book Nympho
Links to Blood & Spirits, Book One in the Coming Storm trilogy.
(links updated after the Jan. 20th 2015 release)
Listing on goodreads.com
The cinematic trailer for Blood & Spirits
The first chapter -
I’M TOLD IT’S AN ODDITY that I still sleep. It only comes in short
bursts, no more than forty-five minutes at a time. Most others with
my condition -- and I have only known a handful -- tell me they don’t
sleep anymore. Some of them haven’t in more than five decades. I can’t
imagine the hell that must be. Even in my brief moments of rest, I
still dream and in that I find relief. Even if the dreams aren’t what I
like, they are still an escape.
The soft thickness of my comforter envelops me as I relax back
into bed. Before I’m completely awake, my mind begins to unfold,
opening to the world around me. In the distance, the fog is rolling in
off the river, dense and blanketing, its vaporous fingers right there
on the edges of my consciousness. The night is cool, and the last
lights of the dying day dance across my ceiling, reflected from the
crystals hanging in my window. The light tinkle as they sway into
each other is a reassuring sound; the beautiful prisms they cast, a
blessing. Not one night comes that I don’t wake to thank Jules for
having the windows in this house ‘treated.’ I can actually see the
sun, even if I can’t be out in it.
I am now completely aware for miles around me. I’m awake,
and not even grudgingly so. Not tonight. He’ll be here soon. I look
forward to it and fear it all at once, but I ask myself ‘why dwell on
what we can’t change?’
A soft breeze blows across me as I slip out of my bed, making
the hairs on the back of my neck stand out. My mind recognizes the
sensation as a chill, even if my dead flesh can’t feel as it once did.
Rubbing a hand down from the base of my skull, in a futile attempt
to warm myself, I open the lid to the old steamer trunk Julie brought
up from the basement today. She aired out everything in it while I
slept, and the interior smells as though she even put some of my
perfume on a few of the choice garments. I breathe in deeply and can
feel the corner of my mouth turns up slightly. Time may have dulled
Jules’ scent, but it’s still unmistakable, mingled in with the fragrance
in the clothing.
Clothes have always held memories for me. The crimson silk of a
dress drops down over me and it’s as though his eyes were on me
again. The mirror reveals the garment to be no more out of place, for
its slinky cut or lack of length, than it did when I first wore it a lifetime
ago, when I could still remember being a girl. I first put it on in front
of him and twirled around to raise the hem, hoping to entice and astonish
with my feminine wiles, foolish enough back then to believe that
because I loved him, a creature like him was even still capable of love.
I’ve learned from his example and years of my own mistakes –
emotion is a weakness to be managed.
Yet, here I am, slipping into this dress that I haven’t worn since
he left, simply because I know he’ll remember it.
Stepping out into the thick evening air, the raw power of the
river hits me with the force of a freight train. Even from this distance,
the power is unmistakable. Tonight, though, it has an odd feeling, as
though it were restrained.
Standing still with my eyes closed, I concentrate and listen to the
pulse of the water rolling heavily over the rocky bed, feel the lapping,
almost angry waves against the shoreline. I don’t know why closing
my eyes helps me bond to my surroundings, it just always has. It
must be another facet of my insanity.
I’ve never met someone with my affliction that was as sane as they
had been when they were alive. I wasn’t ever all that sane, either, but
I’ve grown more detached as time has gone by. Too often these days,
I feel like a spectator. Maybe that’s just my coping mechanism. My
therapist would love to know about this fabulous train of thought. Prick.
As I enter the garage, it occurs to me that I’ve only got two cars
at this house. Frank was to take Julie back to town with the Charger this
afternoon to keep up the appearance that everything was normal. I’m
certainly not taking my old Volkswagen Beetle to go bar hunting, so
the flat black Eclipse will get a workout tonight. I hate this car, but
she’s been fast enough to outrun a lot of demons I didn’t feel like facing.
Pulling out of the driveway, I already wish I’d stayed at the other
house today. The drive into town is only thirty minutes, but I’m tense
enough tonight and don’t need the wait. Telling myself that I needed
to be here, for safety’s sake, only makes me feel more upset at my fear
and lack of control.
Six months ago, I’d have talked to Lucy; she’d have taken the edge
off. If she were here, though, I’d have had no need to contact Jules.
Now I get to feel like a failure and look like one, too.
The tires scream as I kick the car almost sideways, narrowly avoiding
a deer. My lack of focus is getting worse. As much as the idea repulses
me, tonight I’m actually going to have to go look for food instead of
letting it come to me. I haven’t had to do that in years. On one hand,
it’s a fitting start to the night, but on the other, I had really thought
I’d outgrown eating out.
I always forget how much sensory input I lose when I spend time
around all the steel and pavement. The dark moonless drive down
rural roads is a blessing, putting me more in tune with the land, at
once one with the leaves on the trees, the bats overhead, and the rocks
around the base of the roadside.
The sound of the insects in the high grass is comforting. Their
flittering finds my ears even over the engine noise. They are mine as
much as everything else here; as much as I am a part of them. It took
more than twenty years to reach this level of awareness, and I’m still
not foolish enough to believe I’ve mastered it.
I used to be able to spend time expanding my mind. I used to do a
lot of things I haven’t been able to do lately. Everything has devolved
so fast and I’m still reeling.
The past year I’ve been so caught up in the life of a dead girl,
I’ve dealt with little else.
Rachel died eighteen months ago at the ripe old age of eight; I met
her after that. She was hanging around the Jefferson House, where my
girls work. If she hadn’t picked that place to haunt, I doubt I’d be in the
mess I’m in now.
The town springs up slowly. Houses begin to sit closer together,
then nearer to the road. Side streets appear, and businesses start to
intersperse among the spider web of tight residential development,
obviously undertaken with no real planning or forethought. Then, at
last, the glow of the streetlights tells me I’m back where I’m in control.
This is the town I run, inside and out. Or I did.
Passing the street that leads to the Jefferson House, it takes will
not to turn. I want to check up on things, but personal priorities come
first, and I have to trust Julie has everything well in hand.
The dulcet tones of a southern rock cover band blare from six
blocks away, tingling my eardrums. The music is louder than usual. It
should be a fun night, or at least a packed house. Either way, I’m content.
The transmission voices its complaint as I downshift onto the
access road. I’ll never really like this car, but she does get from A to B
more quickly than most. I still wish I’d driven something nicer tonight,
something with a top I could put down. But, in the end, the car I’m in is
the least of my concerns right now.
The lot isn’t full yet, leaving plenty of good spaces, but rock star
parking wasn’t really a concern of mine to begin with. This just
means that after I eat and pick him up, I should be able to get back
here to a manageable crowd.
If I’m lucky, he’ll want to be social tonight. If not, then I’ll be too
busy to make it back here at all. I really want to show him that the
biggest part of my life is still under control, so he won’t only see the
little girl that has to call him in as her savior. Again.
Why do I need so badly for him to be proud of me?
As I cross the parking lot, the lingering scents of sweat, cheap
beer, and longing hang heavy in the air already. This might be a little
too easy. Though catching a fresh meal has never been really what
I’d call difficult. That’s why the small town, Midwestern life suits
me; I usually get what I want and rarely have to work that hard to
have it. Hopefully, years of having my food delivered hasn’t left me
too out of practice.
Someone sees me coming and opens the door and holds it for
me. That’s the thing about being a regular in a small town rural bar –
you are a known commodity, more or less. This helps and hurts
when you have to hunt for food where you also gather socially. Like
a balancing act. Some are good at it; some are not. Those who have
been less than good at it around here, I’ve had to deal with. No one
pisses in my pool even once and gets to do it again.
There’s a big cowboy at the end of the bar, a couple bikers near
the pool tables, and a few burly construction workers at a table. After
only the briefest pause, my route is clear in my mind. The first taker
is my next victim. I really love playing this game. Maybe I’m not so
rusty, after all.
I don’t get the chance to make it very far. As I pass the bar, in my
peripheral vision, the dark brown of the cowboy hat moves in my
“Now this is why I came out tonight. A good looking girl in tight
The booming words come projected from the stout bear of a man
standing at the end of the bar, undressing me through his beer goggles.
The cowboy it is; he’ll make a full meal.
I do my best to fake a blush, while acting interested and offended
all at once. Pretending to care what men think is an art. It takes moments
to learn, but lifetimes to master. I’d like to believe I’m an expert.
I walk over to him, smiling but with my eyes downcast. “My name’s
Veronica. Who are you, handsome?”
He puffs up in his detail-stitched denim shirt, pushing out his
barrel chest in a vain attempt to hide his well-tended gut. He’d be
fairly good looking if he didn’t obviously take such pride in how
good looking he thinks he is.
“They call me Buck, and if I could I’d like to do a lot more than
buy you a drink,” he slurs slightly at me.
He motions to the bartender for another round and I do my best to
blush again, this time giving a halfhearted laugh at his insipid comment.
“Here ya go, darlin’.” He hands me a Jägerbomb and tries to
force it to my lips. “Bottoms up, baby!”
He reminds me why I live in a small town; this corn-fed hick
really thinks he’s irresistible. Well, who am I to disappoint? I down
the drink like a good girl going bad, exhale deeply, and lean over
into him, letting my neckline plunge as it was designed to do. As old
and tired as this dance is, I really do love his eyes on me. Some
things never change.
“Now, that was worth it, wasn’t it?” he asks me proudly. “Buck
won’t steer ya wrong.”
“We can go somewhere more private if you’d like…Buck,” I
whisper softly in his ear, pulling back almost as slowly as the wicked
grin spreads across my face. His perverse smile hides nothing. I have
him now – hook, line, and zipper.
Money changes hands as we exit the bar. I laugh a little out loud
while remembering the lack of faith I’d had in my abilities. I try to
lead him to my car, but he’s intent on going to the alley behind the
building. I try to convince him, sliding my hand slowly down over
the large oval belt buckle with his name on it. But he’s convinced the
alley is what excites him, and I don’t want to take the time to change
his mind, so I follow along.
It begins subtle and playful, but it’s clear that’s not what he’s in
the mood for. He pushes me down onto my knees in a matter of seconds,
quickly wrapping a hand in my hair and beginning to jerk my head
back and forth violently.
He couldn’t hurt me if he tried, so I let his game continue on his
terms. Using my mouth like a cheap sex toy is a bit insulting, I guess,
but I don’t need to breathe so I’m not gagging or choking. As always,
I’m here to get what I need, and so I’ve gotten used to allowing them
what they need. I look at it like my public service, or my good deed.
I could just take what I want and be done, but that generally
leads to more problems than I want to deal with. I’ve even grown
bored with the games of superiority and subservience. I let them feel
dominant, and powerful. It’s the least I can do, really. Besides, the
heightened state of arousal makes them taste better, even if most of
them could use a lesson in hygiene.
It’s been so long since I did this in public. It might even be a little
exciting if I weren’t so anxious, or if Buck were more attractive.
I’m only vaguely aware of the fact that he’s calling me a dirty whore.
A little laugh flitters inside that he would call me dirty; the irony is lost
on him but not me. I’ve almost completely tuned him out, focused
on the job I’m here to do.
And then he makes a mistake; he hits my face, hard. If I were still
alive, it would have done some damage, broken bone, maybe even
knocked me out.
This isn’t playful anymore – this bastard actually likes to hurt
women – now, I’m done playing.
I pull back slowly from him, looking at his fist wrapped around
what looks like a roll of quarters. He’s using every ounce of strength
and leverage he has to try to hold me on my knees. He has no more
effect holding me down than the weight of my clothes. His eyes begin to
widen and he lets go of my hair as I rise slowly and determined. His
fist is still drawn back, but we both know he’s not going to swing.
I’m going over all the painful ways I can drive home the point that
he doesn’t get to hurt the girls he plays with, all the while considering
how much I love this dress and don’t want to ruin it.
Standing in front of him I wipe his liquid from the corner of my
mouth and stare deeply. I can see the panic in his eyes. I can smell
his fear, deep, rich and growing, and for the first time tonight, I’m
“Now, Buck, what could possibly have made you think that was
a good idea?” I ask in a cool and controlled voice.
“Get back on your knees, whore! I ain’t paying you to fucking
talk!” He spews the words out loudly, in a vain attempt to regain
control as he tries to force me back down with one hand, while still
menacing with his fist. He only succeeds in ripping my dress.
Not this dress, not tonight. He’s decided it for me; tonight is the
end of his story.
“I’m used to the rough stuff, Buck.”
In an instant, I have his throat in my hand and his back against
the wall. He’s beginning to shake as he draws back to swing.
“I was just going to let you off with a little pain and a warning
about hurting working girls, and look what you’ve done.”
The fear pours off of him in waves as I disregard his raised fist
and calmly show him my torn dress. It’s enough to make even my
body react involuntarily to the stimulation. “You want a pretty girl
to throatfuck, you pay for it. We’re all good. You like it a little rough,
that’s fine. But slapping a girl around hard enough to actually hurt
them? We just don’t do that, Buck. You’re incredibly lucky I don’t
I flash him a smile and for just a moment I can see he thinks it’s
all going to be okay.
“We had a perfectly good deal worked out, and now you’ve ensured
that I’m the last thing you’re gonna see, and given me the extra work
of dealing with your corpse.”
He shudders and wets himself.
It really is dirty how hot this has gotten me. I’ll blame it on my
state of mind, certainly not wanting to give this bastard any credit.
I peer deeply into his eyes, and his mind unfolds to me. I see all
that he had planned for me; I know all that is ‘Buck.’ The last restraint I
had left is gone. He’s from out of town, no one here knows him, and
only his trucking company will miss him.
I apply just a touch more pressure, and with a flick of my wrist,
he goes limp. I let go and he crumples to the ground in a heap. Quick
and painless is better than he deserves, but I’m pressed for time.
I drink from him what I need and leave him piled up behind the
dumpster. At least he’s served his purpose, even if he was more trouble
than I’d planned on.
Why this dress? Any other dress he could have ripped and he’d
still be breathing. Clearly, I’m too stressed out.
I dial my cell and wait, more than a little irritated when I get
voicemail. “Frank, you really need to call me back. I have a pick up for
you and it’s time sensitive. Remind me again why I keep you on payroll?”
I walk back up to the end of the alley and wait for my phone to
ring. The straps on the left shoulder of the dress are ripped completely
out of the back and there are two deep tears where they had been
attached. This is what happens when you have to rush. Things don’t
go as planned, and then shit gets broken.
“Can I help you with that?”
His voice is steady, soft, and scares me almost out of my skin.
This is why I pay him so well.
I turn to face him and am a bit taken aback to see him dressed in
jeans and a wife-beater. He’s never this down-dressed, even when I
tell him to be.
“Not with my dress, but you can wrap that up,” I fume, nodding
my head back down the alley to what remains of Buck. “And make it
Frank O’Leary looks like what a Greek god should look like.
Chiseled out of stone; an example of everything that makes a man
attractive. His mane of auburn hair, always perfectly messy, hangs
down between his shoulder blades. Like all men who look this good,
Frank has no interest in women. He also has very few morals, a
deviously creative mind, and an unequaled love for money. That
serves to make him an irreplaceable asset. I keep telling myself I can
never trust him completely, but he’s too smart to bite the hand that
pays for his lifestyle. Also, despite my attempts to keep him at arm’s
length, I’ve grown attached to him over the years.
He stares, one eyebrow raised, at the boots jutting visibly out
from behind the dumpster and nods. “Any particulars on how he
disappears or just ‘out of sight out of mind?’”
“Just make it fucking happen, Frank! I don’t have time for bullshit
tonight!” As soon as the words escape me, I’m aware they’re harsher
than he deserved.
The look on his face says it all. He understands. He’s not happy
about it, but he knows why I’m stressed and he’ll accept it for now and
hope that things will get better.
“He is coming in tonight, then?”
“Should be here in about an hour.”
I really have to get back to the old me, and soon. I know better than
to kill this close to where I go to relax. I know he knows that, too. It felt
good to destroy that piece of shit, and save generations of women from
having to deal with him, but I still know better.
Frank looks down the alley again, then back to me and holds out
a set of keys with a silver skull keychain. He knows me too well. I
take the keys to the Charger and hand him back the ones to the little
flat black speedster.
“How much gas does she have?” he asks, still looking down the
alley, sizing up the job.
“You need to get some,” I call back at him, already walking toward
the emerald-green muscle machine. “You’re on fumes.”
He’s muttering under his breath as I get in, but his voice is less than a
whisper and it gets lost under the deafening roar of the engine coming to
life. I put the top down and back her out slowly while checking my
watch. Not much time left.
I leave the lot and the mess behind me, able to count on Frank. I
have to get to the airport, and make sure everything is secure before
his plane lands.