Monday, January 26, 2015

Break Her Fall by JoAnna Grace




Meet the Blake Pride, a group of renegade feline shape shifters who are always on the run!

Vivian is the alpha female. The welfare of the Pride falls on her shoulders. She also has a husky singing voice that seduces her audience. But don’t let the sexy performance and sequins fool you, she earned her position by sinking her teeth into their last Alpha. A man might be able to pay for a lap dance, but touching brings out her tiger’s claws. Independence defines her and mating has never been an option—until now. Read her story in Pride Before the Fall.

Melissa is Vivian’s little sister and the only submissive of the group. She has the gift of keeping the four other dominant personalities steady. The shy, elegant snow leopard might submit to a dominant member of the Pride, but when she’s on stage she holds the power. She’s experienced the pull of her mate and wants her Pride members to find the same love.

Tyrone is a shadow, living in the darkness among his inner demons. As a ruthless assassin, the only thing keeping him from a life of blood and death is Melissa, his mate. For her, this black leopard would move heaven and earth. His quiet strength and unexplainable abilities make him a mystery that only his mate and his twin understand.

Amilynn, Tyrone’s sister, is the mouth of the group. The word tactful has never been a part of her vocabulary and her moral compass has never pointed due north. Part princess, part badass, she utilizes all her talents to earn extra cash and relieve Vivian of the financial burden she carries. This tawny leopard is the beta member of the Pride. Get to know Ami in Break Her Fall.

Conall is the odd man out. He’s the only non-related member of the Pride. Vivian has his undying loyalty and he’ll protect her with everything he has. His massive size and strength are evident in human and lion form. If it has an engine, he can fix it. He keeps the Pride’s wheels in shape in case they have to bolt. Book 3, The Harder They Fall, is expected mid 2015.

Music and friendship brought them together, blood and death sealed the bond, and together they can face anything.

Get to know each member of the Blake Pride, starting with Vivian in Pride Before the Fall, on sale now for .99!


Continue the journey with Break Her Fall, now available in ebook.
Break Her Fall
Blake Pride Series
Book 2
JoAnna Grace

Genre: Urban Fantasy/ Paranormal romance

Publisher: Winged J Press

Date of Publication: Jan 20th 2015

ISBN: 978-1-94-460-15-4
ASIN:B00RKOSPXS

Number of pages: 300+

Word Count: 91K

Cover Artist: Jleeann.com

Book Description:

As beta female of the Blake Pride, Amilynn does whatever it takes to get the job done and guard her family—even if it might not be morally sound. Now that the Pride has moved in with the Blackburn Pack, she faces a threat she never saw coming…a mate. The sexy and persistent wolf wants to claim the leopardess, but she’s not going down without a fight.

Ezekiel is used to getting what he wants and his eyes are set on his seductive target. Yet predicting Amilynn’s next move is fruitless. He’s caught between admiring her strength and resenting it. Does he dominate or submit? Can he prove to Amilynn she really is worth the fight?

When a ghost from Amilynn’s past stalks their family, Ezekiel will learn her true strength. Amilynn isn’t a docile house cat and, by the time she’s done, everyone will know it.

Available at Amazon


Excerpt:
AMILYNN SNUGGLED INTO the warm arms that were around her. God, Ezekiel smelled like heaven. The sweet honey of his mating scent filled her mind and made her inner leopard purr with desire. It was so easy to sleep when his strong arms held her close and kept her safe. He was there for her in her time of distress, waiting to see if her best friend would pull through the night. He’d given his own blood to save Vivian’s life. Amilynn never thought she could find peace in the middle of a hospital, in the midst of a catastrophe like this, and yet Ezekiel gave it to her.
Her cat had never been more satisfied, even if he was a wolf.
While Ezekiel kept her safe, Ami could focus on the crisis at hand. Vivian had to live. She had to make it. If there was no hope for Vivian to live a full life of love and happiness, then what chance did Amilynn have? Vivian was wilder, more feral in her independence than Ami and, somehow, she’d found a mate in Kasey Blackburn who was worthy of her devotion. The wolf alpha had shown his love for Vivian time and time again, gaining the trust of the rest of her Pride. But look where it got them. The songs were bullshit. Love is not all you need.
Vivian fought for her life in that hospital because members of Kasey’s Pack didn’t want the Pride coming in. The feline shifters didn’t belong there, so they said. The Pack might be a mixture of wolves and bear, but adding felines to the mix was more than some of them could handle. The rebellious group had done a fine job of letting Amilynn and her family know they weren’t welcome.
Amilynn, in particular, had been warned off the males of the Pack. Here she sat in Ezekiel’s arms, the arms of a future alpha. Wouldn’t that cause another rebellion? The hookers and hounds, what a mess.
Her cat came to attention when a rumbling in Ezekiel’s chest woke her up. The low growl was aggressive and full of warning. Her eyes popped open, ready to defend her family at any cost.
“Easy, fool,” Tyrone, her brother, warned Ezekiel in gravelly bass.
Ezekiel, who had also been awakened with a start, gripped Ty’s hand. It took a couple of seconds for all of them to realize there was no threat.
“V’s awake.” Ty yanked from Ezekiel’s grasp.
Amilynn didn’t hesitate to uncurl from Ezekiel’s lap and follow Ty. She didn’t look back, couldn’t. Once she was in her right mind, she would explain to Ezekiel that there was no way they were going to be together. They were too different.
Ami took her first easy breath when she saw Vivian’s eyes open. They were half crossed, but they were open. Relief and love bubbled over her, creating a wave of deep emotion she didn’t know how to process. She could cry, but who had time for hormonal drama? When Vivian smiled at her, she had to blink back the tears. Damn. This was not cool.
“Well,” Ami said, needing to escape with her dignity. “Since Kasey is stuck up your ass, and you’re in good hands, I’m going to jet.” She sniffed and made sure not to look Vivian in the eyes again. “Glad you’re awake.” Without another word, she left the hospital room. Her chest constricted so tightly, she could’ve passed out.
“Here.” Ty tossed her a set of keys. Of course her brother would know she didn’t want anyone to see her lose her shit. She gave him a nod and bolted from the hospital. Go figure; they were to Ezekiel’s motorcycle. At least if she cried while she was on the bike, she could blame it on the wind in her eyes. Sometimes being a girl sucked.

About the Author:

JoAnna Grace lives in a world of alpha males and strong females where true love conquers all—at least in her mind!

From the time she started holding a crayon she began to create magical worlds. Her first book was a series of pictures about a puppy princess. The story changed each time she told it, but there was always a happy ending! Her first written story was about girls who changed into tigers.

Now those stories have become a bit more complex!

JoAnna’s tales are spun at her home in East Texas where she lives with her husband, three kids, and a couple dogs. When not hiding behind the computer screen you can find her camping, boating, and shopping.

Sign up for her newsletter to receive information about new releases, events, and giveaways! www.authorjoannagrace.com

JoAnna loves to hear from readers and fans!

You can find her at the following places:

Authorjoannagrace.com

Twitter: @JoAnnaGrace4ya




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Guest blog and Giveaway The Devil’s Liege by Danielle DeVor



To Wing or Not to Wing by Danielle DeVor

With so many vampire books and films these days, it takes a little maneuvering to be unique. You can’t just rely on the old Dracula tropes anymore. Well, you can, but most people seem to want more. Don’t get me wrong, I love Dracula, but there is much more to vampires than that.

So, when I started writing Tail of the Devil, and its sequel, The Devil’s Liege, I kept all of that in mind. There were so many questions. One that came up was, did I want my vampires to be able to hover with no perceptible body changes, or did I want them to be able to really fly?

Well, since I always thought it would be cool to fly, it was a natural progression to have my vampires fly and have wings. Then, I had to think about what the wings did when they weren’t in use. 

Cumbersome was the word that came to mind. So, then I decided that my vampires would have retractable wings just like many vampires had retractable fangs.

Problem solved.

But, vampires having wings wasn’t a new idea by any stretch. It has basis in folklore from around the world. I think the first instance was ancient Sumeria. But, keep in mind that there are as many types of vampires are there are flowers. So, just because one type of vampire has wings, that doesn’t mean that every type of vampire has to or should.


Read folklore. Find the things that aren’t used as often in literature, and use them well. And, if you decide to give your vampires wings, make sure you fully think things through… like clothes. LOL


The Devil’s Liege
The Mathias Saga
Book 2
Danielle DeVor

Genre: YA Fantasy

Publisher: Eirelander Publishing

Date of Publication: September 25, 2014

ASIN: B00NYB4CZG

Number of pages: 162
Word Count: 52, 534

Cover Artist: Buffi BeCraft

Book Description:

Being a vampire isn't all it's cracked up to be- in fact, it kind of sucks.

After surviving his duel with Lilith, Mathias thought that he could relax. That is until he discovers that, Nossy, the new king, has been kidnapped.

When the investigating vampires seem to have no clue how to rescue Nosferatu, Mathias must step in. Everything is peachy until Mathias is named the next new king in order to stop the man behind Nossy’s kidnapping from taking over the throne.

Suddenly, his life is not his own again, and Mathias must make a choice: risk his life to find his friend, or sit back and watch disaster unfold.


Available at Amazon and BN

Excerpt:

“Thias.”
The voice was near to his ear and seemed breathy. Sleep was his friend. He hunkered down further into his pillow. The darkness was a comfort to him. Safe.
“Thias.” It was closer this time—right next to his ear. He didn’t want for this to be real, prayed that it wouldn’t be.
Snick. Snick.
Mathias jerked awake. His heart hammered in his chest. He looked around the room. Everything was where it was supposed to be. It was still too fancy for Mathias with the polished wood, the gold brocade curtains and the velvet chair next to the window with his stack of books beside it. Nothing was wrong. There was no insane woman about to cut him with a pair of rusty shears. With his eyes the way they were now, with his vampire’s ability to see in the dark, he didn’t need to reach over and turn on the light. He could see everything perfectly. It must have been a dream. At least, Mathias hoped that’s what it was.
There was no one was in his room but himself. “Fuck.”
He closed his eyes for a minute and sighed. Ever since he’d killed Nic, the sorcerer who had caused him to become a vampire, Mathias had been dreaming about her and the past. It honestly was something he wished he could forget.
Lilith, the former Queen, had tried to kill him just so he couldn’t tell the vampire world about the horrible things she’d done to him in a past life. She’d cultivated this kind and generous persona that wasn’t really like her at all. It wasn’t Mathias’ fault that Vlad had chosen to cross him over into a vampire. Being a vampire hadn’t been his choice. Hell, he would have rather had his parents back, but he guessed fate was just one of those things.
He wiped the sweat from his forehead with his hand. Along with the dreams, he’d been breaking out in cold clammy sweats. Why the dreams were happening now, he didn’t know. It would have made more sense for them to happen after Nossy had killed Lilith, his mother, but maybe his brain was still being stupid. It wouldn’t surprise him.
He got up, walked across the room to the window, and pushed the plush red brocade curtain out of the way. Staying with Vlad again was weird. The room was just too fancy. He preferred Nossy’s clutter. It felt more homey somehow. But, with Nossy being king, it was easier for Mathias to stay with Vlad. He understood that. He just wished things were less complicated.
Outside, the frost on the ground was so thick that it made the grass look almost white. That was Siberia.  Winter came early here. Snow had been hitting the ground in intervals since October, with it now being November, well, the frost was a little bit of an improvement. That meant it wasn’t as cold today.
He wrapped his wings around himself and sat down in the chair next to the window. It was still weird to have wings. They were longer than he was in order to support him in the air. They weren’t unlike the wings of a fruit bat, sort of. The glass reflected what Mathias still viewed as his new face. His brown hair was still long, his blue eyes were still jaded, but he was big now.
Part of him still expected to see that fifteen-year-old kid in the mirror. Needless to say, the last year had been one hell of an experience. He looked at the bookcase opposite his chair, but nothing sparked his interest enough. Still, no sense in trying to go back to sleep now. The dreams would just start again. Mathias just wanted to rest, but his mind had other ideas.
He leaned over the side of the chair and picked up the book he’d left on the floor. It wasn’t a fun read, but necessary. It was an old tome about ancient fighting techniques. Mathias thought that if he could learn about how the old techniques were taught, then maybe, he could rectify everything he remembered from the past with that things were like now. He sighed. His plan wasn’t working very well if his dreams were any indication. He didn’t want to remember more of her. It was getting to the point that when he saw a woman with long black hair, he’d have to suppress a shudder. Not normal at all.
He let the book fall into his lap and stared out the window again. The frigid scenery was something better to focus on.

I’m tired of being alive.
About the Author:

Named one of the Examiner's 2014 Women in Horror: 93 Horror Authors You Need to Read Right Now, Danielle DeVor has been spinning the spider webs, or rather, the keyboard for more frights and oddities. She spent her early years fantasizing about vampires and watching "Salem's Lot" way too many times. When not writing and reading about weird things, you will find her hanging out at the nearest coffee shop, enjoying a mocha frappuccino.




Twitter: @sammyig


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Interview and Giveaway: Blood and Spirits by Dennis Sharpe


Can you tell readers a little bit about yourself and what inspired to write in this particular genre?

Let’s see… about me? Well, I’m a Pisces. I like warm weather, late nights, and coffee. I enjoy long walks on the beach and… wait. About me, or my writing?

I’m going to start again. I’m a thirty something single dad to three wonderful kids, who writes fantasy, science fiction, and paranormal fiction stories (and novels). I draw inspiration from the world around me, and the people who are in my life – both as big parts of it and those I encounter randomly. I live in the middle of nowhere, which means that I have plenty of time to write… as there is little else to do that doesn’t have drastic consequences.

I write in the genres I prefer to read, watch, or listen to. I do my best to tell the kinds of stories that I’d want to have told to me. I am not exclusive to those genres (as I go where the characters take me, and sometimes those stories are very different) but I find that a vast majority of my work takes me away from most would consider reality and into one of the many realms of fantasy.

Ultimately, I just make things up, and hope other people enjoy those things.

What is it about the paranormal, in particular vampires, that fascinates you so much?

It could be the immortality of it all, but I doubt it. I’ve been into the idea of almost human monsters, actual human monsters, cautionary tales, and anti-heroes since I really understood how stories were told. I like unlikely heroes, and unlikely villains. It just seems like a good fit. I really wish Stephen Moffett and Neil Gaiman wrote more vampire stories.

Does that make sense? It’s really quite early as I write this, and I’m actually quite concerned that I may not be making sense to anyone but myself.

What inspired you to write this book?

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, Tap,Tap by David Martin, Vampire: the Masquerade by White Wolf Publishing, a bet, and a lot of spite.

If I’m honest, the story had been kicking around in my head – or at least the characters had been – since the late 1990s. The overall plot for this book, and the two that follow it, was a story that I’d wanted to tell for some time as well, and the plot and characters just fell into place at the right time in my head (after reading the first twilight book, and becoming very upset with “the state of” modern popular supernatural fiction).

I was an arrogant elitist at the time, or so I’m told, and really the only good thing to come out of that self-righteous phase in my life was this series of books.

Please tell us about your latest release.

I believe you’re asking about Blood & Spirits. It’s a story about vampires, ghosts, zombies, cops, hitmen, call girls, love, loss, all with a corrupt society… or two… setting up dominoes to come crashing down.

The who story was told to me by Veronica, the main character, who is a bloodsucker in a small town just trying to run her brothel and make ends meet. Her mentor is a ghost named Lucy who was a lady of the evening back in the 1880s who was murdered why plying her trade. Lucy sends Veronica the ghost of a little girl named Rachel who Veronica immediately takes to and adopts as her own… and things begin to spiral out of control from there.

Do you have a special formula for creating characters' names? Do you try to match a name with a certain meaning to attributes of the character or do you search for names popular in certain time periods or regions?

My characters either come to me fully formed and tell me their names and their stories; and try as I might, I cannot change those names. Those are usually the main characters in the stories. Other characters, the ones who are not main driving forces, but are still people who share the world with the main characters often require more thought… more work. They end up with backstories as well, and from that I usually pick a name that suits their story… or I steal one that I like from someone on Facebook, Twitter, or Goodreads.

Was one of your characters more challenging to write than another?

Some of my characters are certainly more of a joy to write than others, Frank, Sunny, Wednesday… some of my characters are just more fun than others overall.

I worry a lot more, and agonize, over writing certain characters as opposed to others. I always worry when writing a female character if I’m going to be called out by women for not being true to the gender… as I am not a woman. (I worry that about characters in certain professions, certain ethnicities, ages, heights, and so on, as well… but I worry most about women, as there are a lot more of them in the world who might be offended by me or my words.)

Is there a character that you enjoyed writing more than any of the others?

Yes.

Wait. In this book? Yes.

Sunny, was my favorite to write in this book. (V and Frank are close seconds)

Do you have a formula for developing characters? Like do you create a character sketch or list of attributes before you start writing or do you just let the character develop as you write?

If only I could. I get the characters in an “as is” state in my head. I can try to convince them to act differently, or have other traits… but then they call me a liar the whole time I’m writing them. I can sometimes, through the course of a story, develop something in a character that I want there… that wasn’t there before. But, short answer, No. I don’t develop them. They just are who they are and I write around that.

What is your favorite scene from the book? Could you share a little bit of it, without spoilers of course?

The bulk of Chapter 23 (which I can't get that much into for spoiler reasons) is my favorite. I'll give you some of it here:

__

The calm night air outside the Sikes Funeral Home starts to turn breezy. Only a few small gusts at first, then stronger ones. It builds in mere moments, more and more violently, whipping and howling around the façade. Windows rattle, and the building groans against the sudden gale.
There’s a brief flash of lightning followed by the deep low growl of thunder; like some massive creature dragging itself across the landscape.
The wooden double doors tremble then shake slightly. Once, then twice. A final vicious shudder and they are simply gone, replaced by a shower of glass, metal, and wood debris.
The delicate twelve-year old form of a girl in a plaid skirt and tied up white shirt comes into focus in the hole where the entrance had been. Her dark red-black pigtails bounce slightly as her oversized tanker boots crunch into the clutter.
She walks down the hall and stops in front of the door to the main parlor. She looks back and gets a nod from her team that stands ready just outside the gaping hole in the front of the building.
She raises her hand and smiles wickedly as another door shatters in front of her, blowing pieces of wood and metal everywhere.
__

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? How do you deal with it?

I usually have between four and eight projects going at once. If I hit a wall with one --- writer's block, need for research, whatever --- then I just switch over to another project until I'm ready to go back to it.

Do you have any weird writing quirks or rituals?

Preferably, I write at the Waffle Hut (a local 24 hour greasy spoon) with a bottomless cup of coffee between the hours of midnight and five in the morning. That's the most productive way I've found to work. I usually have my headphones in and a playlist of MP3s that work best for the project/scene I'm working on.

Is that odd?

Do you write in different genres?

Often.

Do you find it difficult to write in multiple genres?

Not at all. Sometimes that means doing more homework… just to make sure I’m not butchering things, but I go where the story is… the place, the genre… I just want to get the story told, and in the best way I can – with my limited talent and vocabulary. Writing isn’t difficult. Finding people to read what you write? That’s not easy.

When did you consider yourself a writer?

Since I was a very small child.

I really don’t remember a time when I didn’t think of myself as both a writer and a storyteller, though I didn’t always connect the two.

What was the last amazing book you read?

I've tweeted, and posted, and shared with everyone I could since I read Paper Souls, Allie Burke's 2014 release. It totally blew me away. I read it three times in a row. I am not exaggerating when I say that you are doing yourself a disservice if you don't read that book.

Where can readers find you on the web?

I’m likely too connected with the online world.

If you’d like the list, I’ll give it to you, but it’s easier to point to my website: dennis-sharpe.com and then to say that on that site there is a list (in a couple of different places) to my Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, etc.

Would you like to leave readers with a little teaser or excerpt from the book?

I rather like the one that I gave up above, but I suppose I can do another one, a small one…

A little something from Chapter 10:

__

Inching into the room, it’s clear something is wrong here. There’s a tingling sensation up my legs and back before I can even really focus on the parlor’s details. There are silhouettes of people, but I can see through them. It’s like shadows were cast and left behind to do as they please. Lost in the surreal sight of them for a moment, I inch further into the room without noticing that some were now moving behind me.
There is no warning. I’m suddenly in the air, and moving backward rapidly toward the wall. It’s almost a full second before my body registers the actual pain of the blow my stomach just took.  Being hit by a car doesn’t even compare to this, and I didn’t even see it coming.
“For a shadow, you hit like a sledgehammer!” The words barely escape before something else slams into the base of my skull, imbedding most of my upper body in the wall and all but removing my head. These things are like Lucy; the disembodied dead who haven’t moved on. I’ve never met others that can actually touch things physically; they must be fairly potent.
I pull my face out of the hole it had been planted in, letting plaster dust fall, coating my chest and legs like snow. Looking around quickly I try to gauge my surroundings. I can’t see them, but I know they’re there. Is one easy night without a huge dry-cleaning bill too much to ask for these days?
I only have time to dwell on it a moment before my head is bouncing off the hardwood floor; once, twice, and then a third time in quick succession. Now ‘pick splinters out of my forehead’ can be added to my Saturday night to-do list.  Damn it, this is not going as planned.




Blood and Spirits
The Coming Storm
Book One
Dennis Sharpe

Genre: Paranormal Thriller

Publisher: Booktrope Publishing

ISBN: 978-1-62015-595-0

Number of pages: 220

Cover Artist: Shari Ryan

Book Description:

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.




Excerpt:
Chapter 1

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 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 work out 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 direction.
“Now this is why I came out tonight. A good looking girl in tight fitting dress!”
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 actually aroused.
“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 bruise easy.”
 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 disappear.”
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.




About the Author:

Born and raised in the middle of the American Midwest, Dennis Sharpe has been a writer as long as he can remember. His mother has told many people about the fantasy and science fiction stories he'd write on scraps of paper, and staple together as his 'books', before he'd attended his first day of formal education.

He has spent many late nights at diners and dives, drinking coffee with a tattered notebook to put a voice to his feelings of himself and the world around him, and other worlds that can exist only in fiction. The voices in his head don't ever stop talking to him, and so sooner or later he has to get out onto a page all that they've filled him up with.

Inspired by Neil Gaiman, Kurt Vonnegut, Frank Miller, Chrissie Pappas, Charles Bukowski, Stephen King, Issac Asimov, and countless classic literary influences, Dennis continues with the ability to write what at a glance might seem absurd, but quickly begins to resonate with our own thoughts and emotions. He writes people we know, love we've known and lost (and found again), and places we've been in our lives and in our heads. Even his fictional characters and worlds carry enough of the grey areas we experience in day-to-day life, to let us find the truth in his words, no matter how fantastic.

These days he can be found still writing, drinking coffee with friends, or spending time with his children (the true joys of his life), in Western Kentucky.


Twitter: @witlesslackey


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