ABC Challenge Letter M: Man Tales by Dellani Oakes

ABC Challenge

Yet another first meeting (are we noticing a theme here? Good) This one is set in Florida, right on the beach, just a few miles from where I live. (I don’t live on the beach, but it’s only a few miles away) Jet Barber works for the cable company, and he and his partner have an appointment to install cable and internet in a new home. He’s surprised, and pleased, when he meets the home owner.

Jet walked through the arched doorway to his right, following the direction given by the pointing finger. The first room was obviously a music room. A baby grand piano sat in an alcove, surrounded by windows. The tile of the foyer gave way to hardwood here. Jet stepped carefully, not wanting to scratch it with his work boots. He heard a woman’s voice ahead. She was obviously on the phone and sounded angry. He stepped through the door, clearing his throat. The woman glanced up at him, nodding. She flashed a smile and held up a finger for him to wait a moment. Jet folded his arms, clipboard clasped to his chest, and waited.

“No. Not going to happen. Because I said so. Look, the cable guy is here. No, he’s not creepy like Jim Carey. I’ll call you later. You tell him no, clear? Okay. Bye.” She hung up her cell and smiled at Jet. “Sorry. My agent.” She held out her hand. “Callista Saucier.”

Her long, blonde hair cascaded around her shoulders. Her eyes were violet in the muted light of the living room. Her creamy skin offset her full, dark pink lips and the dusky rose of her cheeks.

“Jet Barber.” He took her hand in his, shaking it politely. Her skin was pale in comparison to his and her hand looked tiny clasped in his broad palmed one. “Wait, Callista Saucier—the screenwriter?”

She blushed, ducking her head. “Guilty. I’m surprised you know my name. Writers are so anonymous.”

“Your work is amazing. I started following your career after Hellforce II. Your script was ten times better than the first one that other guy did. You totally nailed the feeling of the graphic novel.”

Callista smiled, tilting her head as she gazed up at him. “You’re the first person I’ve met who knew it was from a graphic novel. Well, outside the industry, anyway.”

“My partner is a movie junkie,” Luke said as he walked through the door. “He can tell you about stuff from the early days of film until the present. Bores the hell outta you or fascinates you—depending on your tastes.”

“Callista, this is Luke Epps, senior man on the job. Your mother told us you had something special in mind?”

Callista shook Luke’s hand. “Yes. The stupid contractor didn’t drop the cable where I told him to—repeatedly, I might add. I want the entertainment system there.” She pointed to the long, blank wall that ran east to west from the windows the to the door. “And he dropped the line there.” She pointed to the cable line right in front of the windows. “Call me crazy, but I don’t want to face the sun if I want to watch TV during the day. I also don’t want to drag the line ten feet across the floor either.”

“So we need to drop a new line, is what you’re saying?” Luke eyed the job, nodding. “Not a problem. Do we know where it is upstairs?”

“Yes, I can show you.”

“Show him. My knees are playing up.”

“Sure. Follow me,” she said to Jet.

Luke winked at Jet when Callista’s back was turned. The younger man knew his partner had done that on purpose. There was nothing wrong with Luke’s knees. Jet followed Callista to the foyer and up the staircase across from the music room. He walked behind her, admiring the curve of her sleek hips and the firmness of her ass. Her jeans were well worn and clung to her body like a second skin as they rode low on her hips. Her bright pink crop top emphasized that her breasts were full and round. The fact she wasn’t wearing a bra made it clear that they were entirely real.

“The cable runs through this wall,” she said, walking to the far side of her bedroom. “It comes in up in the attic. The access is out in the hall.”

Jet had noticed the trapdoor in the ceiling as he’d walked by. “Okay. Let me talk with my partner a minute and we’ll get started. This may take awhile. I hope you don’t have anywhere else to go.”

“I set the whole day aside. Mom’s helping me unpack. I just moved in Saturday.”

“It’s a beautiful home.”

“Thanks. My brother, Cliff, designed it for me. He usually does set designs, but his first degree is in architecture.”

“Very unusual style. I never saw a Victorian on the beach.”

“I know, right? I thought he was crazy when he suggested it, but he told me that he’d always pictured me in a yellow Victorian. Cliff is weird like that. He looks at people and sees what houses would suit them.”

“Interesting gift. Pretty cool, actually.”

They headed back down stairs side by side.

“So, what interests you besides movies and installing cable?” Callista asked.

“I’m working on my masters in film,” he replied. “Not easy working all day and taking classes online at night. It’s challenging.”

“I imagine so. I was lucky that I had a full scholarship for my undergrad and my folks helped me with the masters. I couldn’t have done it without them. Now, though, I’ve been able to pay them back in full—with a little extra.”

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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ABC Challenge Letter L: Lady in the Purple Hat by Dellani Oakes

ABC Challenge

Let me say up front, I’ve never been on a cruise, but I watched a lot of Love Boat as a kid. That being said, I set this story on a cruise ship – don’t question, that’s how it came to me. Beau (short for Beauregard) Richard is the ship purser (don’t judge me) and has just broken up with his long time girlfriend, Cassie. In order to lighten his mood, he goes to one of the many nightclubs on board.

Things were just getting cranked up, as it was only about 10:00. Dozens of beautiful, nubile young women crowded the dance floor, gyrating to the fast club music. Several of them were dancing together, so he walked close. One of them crooked her finger at him, a sultry Latina with long, black hair and dark eyes, the opposite of Cassie in every way. She drew him into the group. They all danced with him, rubbing their supple bodies invitingly against him. He had never used the clubs as his own personal dating service, though many of the men had—and some of the women. He’d kept to one woman, but she didn’t want him anymore—if she ever had.

When the music ended, the lovely Latina tipped her head so he would join her at the bar. He bought them each a drink, chatting up the bartender, who was a pal of his.

“You seem very familiar with him,” the woman said, stirring her drink with one long, red nailed finger.

“Yeah. We go back a few years.”

“You take this ship a lot, then?”

“Yes. You might say that.”

“You’re being coy,” she teased. “I’m the one who’s supposed to play hard to get.”

He chuckled, taking a sip of his drink.

“You look like a man who’s in pain. And I don’t mean from the bruised up face.”

“I got dumped about ten minutes ago.”

Her face fell. “That’s awful! Anita,” she said, holding out her hand.

“Beau.” He kissed her fingers, then turned her hand over, kissing her palm.

Anita shivered, her eyes widening with pleasure. “Why did you get dumped?”

“The lady didn’t care as much as I did. I had hopes for more, but I pinned them on the wrong woman.”

“Well, that sucks. I’m on my honeymoon.”

Beau pulled his hand away, but she took it once more, showing him that her left ring finger was bare.

“He decided he cared more about the DJ’s girlfriend, than he did me. And the caterer, and all three bridesmaids….”

“What a dick,” he said, truly disgusted by the man’s behavior. “How could he do that to a beautiful woman like you?”

“No clue. How could she do that to a handsome, jacked guy like you?”

“Been asking myself that, too.”

“You know what we both need?”

“What’s that?”

“Another dance. Then we need some very hot, meaningless sex with a total stranger.”

Beau chuckled seductively. “Or…. We could skip the dance….”

“We could. My place or yours?”

“Yours is closer.”

“You don’t know where I’m staying.”

“But I know where I am, and I bet you’re closer.”

Giggling, she took his hand and led him from the club. They walked a few yards down the corridor, and stopped in an open, common area. The lights were low, here. More than one couple had stopped to snog and grope. Beau pulled her close, kissing her deeply. Anita clung to him, digging her fingers into his broad shoulders.

“Holy f**k, Beau. How did that woman turn down a man like you?”

“Dunno. How did that man want anyone but you?”

“Dunno….”

They kissed for a while before continuing to her room. It was another few yards. Anita had trouble unlocking the door, so he did it for her. Grabbing him by his collar, she pulled him inside. The door swung silently shut, and she shoved his shoulders against the wall.

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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ABC Challenge Letter K: Knight of Love by Dellani Oakes

ABC Challenge

This story is something I wrote quite a while ago. I don’t know if I’ll ever publish it, but I still like it. The characters belong to the SCA, Society for Creative Anachronism, a group which reenacts Medieval times. Each member chooses a persona, gives it a name and background, and pretends to be that person at the events. Ginny is with her friend, Emily, at one such event, when she meets someone interesting.

A young man detached himself from the fray and moved toward her. She recognized him from earlier when she and Emily had been on their way to the cabin to change. It was either Richelieu or D’Artagnan, the blond who had blushed. He smiled in greeting and recognition. He was dressed in leggings of hunter green, form fitting with a tie and flap in the front as befit the times. His white, ruffled shirt was just about, but not quite, long enough to conceal his hips. A very tasty looking leg and rear end were visible. She tried not to stare, but couldn’t help herself. He’d obviously considered the effect he would have on ladies and no doubt anticipated the stares. His blond hair was about shoulder length, soft curls tied back in a leather thong. A hint of a goatee fringed his chin. His blue eyes twinkled and he laughed at his own awkwardness with his ruffled shirt.

The neck of the shirt was cut in a low V, surrounded by three rows of ruffles. The sleeves ended with lots of ruffles too, and he seemed to be having trouble with it. Hopping off the ladder, he loped over to her bench. He was a little red in the face, the flush made him seem even more handsome. Ginny couldn’t help checking him out and blushed herself, as he sat next to her on top of the table, his feet on the bench beside her.

“Hi,” he grinned almost shyly. “We saw each other on the road earlier. I go by D’Artagnan, but my name is really Clai. Pleased to meet me?” He held out his hand, palm up.

“Hi,” she was so ashamed because she had been staring at him, her voice caught in her throat. “I’m Emily’s friend, Ginny. Well I’m Aelfwyn for the weekend. Pleased to meet me?” Her shy smile lit her face.

Clai took her hand, kissing it gently. His lips were soft, the golden hairs on his chin tickled her fingers. She felt a thrill run through her she had never felt before.

“Enchanté, mademoiselle.” His accent was quite good. He said something else in French that she didn’t understand, withdrew his hand, smiling a little forlornly. “You don’t speak French, do you?” At her negative reply, he sighed. “I keep trying. One day, maybe there will be another language major at one of these things with whom I can communicate. Anyway, I’d rather speak to you in English than anyone else in the room, but I have to help with the banners. These damn sleeves of mine keep getting in the way. Can you help set me free from my entrapment before I nail my sleeve to the wall? Being a Frenchman has its draw-backs.”

She blushed again as he held out his hand to her. She fumbled for a moment with the sleeve and managed to release the catch. The second was easier. She had difficulty concentrating on what she was doing, causing her fingers to fumble more. He didn’t seem to mind, so she worked slowly until it was open.

“Do you want the sleeves rolled up?”

“No, I was thinking more along the line of taking the whole wretched thing off, I just can’t manage the sleeves alone. Will you watch it for me? My sister made it for me and she’ll kill me if anything happens to it. She’s in costuming,” he added as if this explained everything. Removing his shirt, he carefully handed it to her. Their fingers brushing for a moment, a little shock sprang from his hand to hers. She took the shirt and folded it equally carefully, laying it in her lap.

His cologne was on the shirt and the scent was intoxicating. She wanted to press the shirt to her face, but didn’t dare with so many people around her. She watched the banner hanging with growing interest, not so much the process itself, but because of Clai’s rear end was so tight she could have bounced a quarter off it.

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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ABC Challenge Letter J: Jed from Mirrored by Dellani Oakes

ABC Challenge

Jed McMurtry is a police officer, who is recuperating from a knife wound, sustained in the line of duty. Strange things start to happen, not the least of which is finding out that someone has been watching his house. The last thing he’s expecting is to meet Cora Surrey.

He woke in a cold sweat to the sound of someone knocking on his front door. Stiff and uncomfortable, he slipped on a pair of gym shorts and hobbled to the living room. Whoever it was hadn’t stopped knocking.

“I’m coming!” he bellowed. “Give it a fucking rest!” Usually, only his brother or cousins made that much noise. The knocking continued. “Jesus, what’s the problem?” He flung open the door without paying attention.

A tall blonde nearly slapped him in the face. She looked angry and Jed was at a loss to know who she was. It wasn’t one of Vivica’s cousins. He knew them all with varying degrees of familiarity and was on good terms with them. This woman looked as if she wanted to rip his lungs out through his anus.

“May I help you?”

“I hope to God so. Are you Jed?”

“Yeah. Who are you?”

“Milly’s granddaughter, Cora. I’ve got a bone to pick with you.”

“Can it wait? I just woke up. I need to rock a serious piss. Sit.” He pointed to the couch.

Cora hesitated on the threshold before following him inside. She slammed his door shut with an impressive thud. Jed went to the small bathroom a few feet away. When he came back out, she was still standing by the door, tapping her foot impatiently. Jed nodded to her and wandered into the kitchen. Cora stalked after him.

“Excuse me! I want to talk to you.”

“Talk in here. I need coffee. You want?” He held up the pot.

Cora’s frown turned puzzled. “Don’t you want to know why I’m here?”

“I figure you’ll get to it. In the meantime, you woke me up. I didn’t sleep very well and I need caffeine. Have a seat.” He nodded to the table and wandered, still shirtless and barefoot, to the coffee pot.

Cora didn’t speak while he went through the routine of preparing his coffee. He poured two mugs, added cream and sugar and brought them to the table. He grimaced as he sat. Cora’s expression changed from angry to concerned when she saw him flinch. Jed took a gulp of his coffee and waited for her to speak. She took a tentative sip, followed by another, before riveting him with her glare.

“Did you know Grandma is holed up in her master bedroom closet?”

Jed arched an eyebrow. “No. And?”

“She said you told her to do it!”

Jed frowned, reviewing conversations he’d had with Milly. “Nope. I told her to find a spot in the house where she felt safe, but I didn’t specifically say she was to hide in the closet.”

“But she said…!”

Jed held up his hand as if directing traffic. Amazingly, Cora stopped talking.

“Your grandmother has been uneasy since Bear died. She called me at three o’clock one morning in full freak out mode. I told her to find a safe spot and wait until I called her. I’m guessing that the closet represents that to her. I never told her to stay there.”

Cora’s face softened. “I guess I owe you an apology,” she admitted with a slight laugh.

Jed raised an eyebrow.

“I said some awful things.”

Jed shook his head, confused. Cora tilted her head from side to side.

“While you were in the bathroom,” she added.

“So, you slandered an injured man? Wow, you’re kinda cruel, Miss Cora.”

She laughed hard, throwing back her head. Her long, blonde curls fell around her face and shoulders in a sunny waterfall. Her green eyes sparkled as she giggled. “Oh, I’m a total bitch. I came over here to rip you a new asshole.”

Jed glanced behind himself, rising from his chair as he looked at his ass. “I don’t need another one. This one works fine. Thanks, though. I know who to call if it ever stops up.”

“I can’t tell you how pissed off I was when I got over here.”

“Did Milly tell you what I do for a living?”

Cora shook her head.

“I’m a cop. Believe me, I could tell.”

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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ABC Challenge Letter I: It Takes a Thief by Dellani Oakes

ABC Challenge

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again – I love first meetings. It’s fun for me to see how the two main characters react to one another. Often, it sets the tone of their relationship, but other times…they just don’t go that well.

Jason Banes is a thief, however, he’s found himself on the wrong end of a murder charge. He admits to the accompanying theft, but maintains his innocence in the multiple murders he’s charged with. When compelling evidence comes out that he’s telling the truth, he’s released into FBI custody in order to help them find the person who is ultimately responsible, the elusive Orchid. Unfortunately, Special Agent in Charge Taylor Driscole, doesn’t seem very happy to meet him.

The woman was medium height with an athletic build. Her hair was an average shade of light brown, worn in a sloppy bun as if she couldn’t be bothered to style it. Her eyes were a common shade of blue, her complexion and looks attractive, but not impressive. She carried herself like a professional and her silvery gray suit coat bulged slightly under her left arm. She wore loose fitting, low riding pants that matched the jacket. Her shirt was stark white. She wore a tie; narrow, silk, gunmetal gray. Her makeup was minimal, severe. She had dark sunglasses perched on her head.

Putting the glasses to her teeth, she bit on the end a moment before speaking. “So, this is him, huh?” She looked at Jason like she was inspecting disappointing livestock.

“Jason Banes,” he said, stepping forward with his hand extended through the bars.

The men flanked the woman putting themselves in front of her like a wall.

“Cool it, guys. He can’t hurt me from in there.” She stepped forward, extending her hand.

Her nails were short, unpolished, well manicured. Her grip was strong, her fingers and palms calloused. Jason got the impression that she could kick his ass too. He took her hand, meeting the intensity of her grasp with equal pounds per square inch. His disarming smile flashed, making no impression whatever on the young woman.

“And you are?”

“Special Agent in Charge, Taylor Driscole.”

You’re Agent Driscole?” He grinned, still holding her hand. The other hand went immediately to his head. Long fingers brushed his curly hair out of his face. “I was expecting a chap. Nice to meet you.”

“This isn’t a social visit, Mr. Banes.”

“Jason,” he corrected automatically.

“Mr. Banes,” she said firmly. “You’re to be released in my custody. The men and I will escort you to a secure location. They’re setting up surveillance and checking security now.”

“All right. How soon do we leave?”

“I’ve got a few more papers to sign, then you’re officially my headache.”

“I won’t be one, I promise. I’m house broken and I do know how to treat a lady.”

He wasn’t really trying to flirt, but Special Agent Driscole seemed to think he was overly familiar. She snatched back her hand, glaring at him.

“Get him ready,” she told the men with her. “Move into position,” she said to the cuff of her jacket.

“Yes, ma’am,” her entourage replied in chorus.

Driscole strode to the door, slapping it with her palm, knocking it aside angrily.

“What’s biting her?” Jason asked the men quietly.

The meat shield shrugged, exchanging a knowing look. Jason wasn’t sure, but he had the uneasy feeling they might be laughing at Driscole, him or both.

He was cuffed, with his wrists in front of him, and escorted to the elevator. Driscole was nowhere to be seen, but she and more security men were waiting in the parking garage. Jason was led off the elevator, surrounded by a walking wall of muscle. He’d never seen so many big, well armed men in his life. Each man had a weapon in his hand. They all looked around carefully, checking for unknown menace. Jason didn’t know whether to feel very safe or very, very afraid.

Two black SUV’s were waiting a few feet away. He was taken to a vehicle and put inside. He was flanked by two members of the meat shield. Agent Driscole climbed up front and the rest of the team got in the second vehicle. She contacted the other driver and they took off.

“Why is it you lot like black?” he asked the agents.

“What?” the man on his left asked.

“Black,” Jason replied airily. “Could we be anymore obvious? Do you chaps buy every black SUV in America?”

The man on the left looked puzzled, the man on the right and the driver chuckled. Driscole stared straight ahead. Jason shrugged. He wiggled around trying to get comfortable, but his companions took up most of the seat. He was more of a wiry build himself, but he had very broad shoulders. Feeling slightly claustrophobic, he wiggled some more.

Mr. Left gave him an evil eye. Mr. Right eased slightly toward the door, angling his shoulders so the each had a little more room.

“Thanks,” Jason murmured, smiling a little.

The man said nothing, but nodded and a smile flickered for a second and was gone.

“May I ask where we’re going?” Jason directed at the group.

No one said anything. Driscole shifted in her seat, ignoring him.

“Oi,” Jason said rather more loudly. “I know I’m a criminal, but I think I’ve got a right to know if I’m going to be safe. Might I point out, that you need me—rather a lot?”

Driscole glared at him over her shoulder. Firming her lips, she inhaled slowly. “Look, Mr. Banes. I’m not here to be your friend. I’m here to protect you. The less you know about our destination the better.”

“What? Am I going to yell out the windows and give it away? Who am I gonna tell, Special Agent in Charge Taylor Driscole? Eh? And while we’re having this lively repartee, perhaps you could ask one of the kind gentlemen to undo the handcuffs? I assure you, I’m not inclined to go anywhere. Besides, they’d break me in two before I even got to a door or disabled the driver—not that I know how to do that in any case. I’m a thief, not an assassin.”

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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ABC Challenge Letter H: Heirs of Shakazhan – Lone Wolf Series Book 6 by Dellani Oakes

ABC ChallengeOn the world of Shakazhan, dreams can come true. Not just good ones. The people have incorporated what they call Dream Warriors to fight in the dangerous Dreamscape. It’s not for the faint hearted, because to die in a dream means real death. The War Lord’s daughter, Mariah, and her betrothed, Leo, walk in the Dreamscape every night, fighting against the evil there. Seasoned adult warriors in a dream, Leo and Mariah are, in reality, less than five years old.

“What do we face tonight, love?” Leo asked softly, resting his cheek on her hair, kissing her curls gently.

“Another siege takes place,” she replied, turning to face the landscape below. “The Picidaem are holed up in a cave about thirty clix to the north. Dreamers have them surrounded, but can’t seem to penetrate their defenses.”

He chuckled, hugging her. He imagined a pair of powerful binoculars and gazed steadily at the horizon. He could have thought himself there easily enough, but preferred a long distance inspection before he popped into the middle of a mess.

“See anything significant?” Mariah asked. Leo shook his dark, curly head. “May I?”

He handed her the binoculars. She pointed to the northwest.

“Something’s over there, a shadow.”

Leo dreamed another pair of binoculars, gazing off in the direction she indicated. It was indeed like a gigantic shadow, formless, amorphous, seething evil. Mariah shuddered slightly as she looked at it.

Beside her, Leo drew a deep breath through his teeth, hissing slightly as he tasted the air. Spitting abruptly, he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “I don’t like it, Myah,” he said, using his childish name for her. “The air is tainted.”

She nodded sharply, meeting his gaze steadily with her own. “Yes, it’s a trap. That shadow is not obvious from the position of the dreamers. It is above and behind them.”

“They can’t see it in any case,” he clarified. “We can see it, they can’t.”

“Why not?”

Shrugging, he shook his head. “No idea and don’t ask how I know, I can’t explain.” Smiling shyly, he ducked his head away from her as if she would reprimand him.

“You know I trust your instincts as much as my father’s, Leo. If you tell me they don’t see it, I believe you. We must warn them, something terrible is about to happen.”

As she spoke, a command building sprung up around them, fully manned and complete with war room and communications equipment. It was to this console she strode purposefully.

A concise message sent to the commander of the Dreamer forces and she stood back to watch the shadow on the long range monitor. The shadowy form had moved lower in the sky, dropping behind the ground units. Having been warned, the army turned to face their foe, but it was obvious they still couldn’t see it.

Suddenly, the bottom of the shadow split open, dollops of black goo slurped to the ground, landing with a sickly sploot. Each glob grew, rising to an upright position. Two long legs sprouted from the bottom of a squat, rectangular torso. Instead of a head, an irregular geometric shape gurgled upward. Three antennae bounced in sickly counterpoint to their jerky and hesitant movement. As one, the black bodies moved toward the forces of the light.

“We still can’t see them, Commander,” the squad leaders reported.

“Hold your position,” Leo told them. “When I tell you to, fire.” He let the black warriors advance a few more steps, then gave the command. “Fire directly ahead of you, a tight, horizontal arc!”

Each dream warrior opened up on thin air, puzzled by the command. As ordered, they swept their weapons from side to side. Their slugs had little effect on the encroaching darkness.

“Fall back! Regroup on the far side of the fort. I’ll meet you there.” With a pop, Leo transported himself to the rally point.

Mariah watched the dark warriors. They didn’t seem perturbed by the incident. In fact, they were unaffected by the attack and retreat. They continued to advance, neither faster nor slower, than before. Beneath their feet, there was a black, formless nothing. The ground didn’t show, the gray absorbed or eradicated by the army’s passing. Shuddering, Mariah reported this phenomenon to Leo.

“What is it?” Fortuvaze, a Fellician squad leader asked.

“No idea, Fort. I’m going to test a theory. Have the troops withdraw further, out of their path. I want to see if they follow us.”

With a sharp salute, Fortuvaze carried out his order. The army moved further away to the southwest. The path of the darkness didn’t alter but continued steadily to the west.

Leo dreamed up some drone bots, sending them toward the nothingness. For a moment, they sparked brightly, then were gone. Nothing remained, not even debris. It was as if they had never been.

“What’re they doing?” Mariah wondered. “This is bizarre!”

“It’s like they are making the Dreamscape disappear. Let me try something.”

Concentrating, Leo imagined the land back. He filled in the black nothing behind the warriors, only to have it fizzle and disappear. The edges of the horizon curled in, following the path of the black things, the Dreamscape sucked into the nothingness.

“It’s no good, I can’t bring it back. Everyone, leave! Evacuate this Dreamscape immediately! Dreamers, retreat to Yktobo’s stronghold! Now, dammit!”

In a mass exodus, the dream warriors popped out of the Dreamscape. Leo watched them all leave, until only he and his squad leaders were left.

“We have to go, Leo,” Fortuvaze urged him.

“I want to study this some more, Fort. Just a moment.”

“We don’t have a moment, Leo. Come now!” Jerking sharply on his friend’s sleeve, he dragged him to safety as the blackness closed around them.

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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ABC Challenge Letter G: Gravity by Dellani Oakes

ABC ChallengeI love first meetings, but I also love seeing the love grow. Dade Morgan has an unusual job. He does videos of himself refurbishing and repurposing furniture – upcycling. He also sells the things he makes, or salvages. He meets Lumina Hudson when he goes to her metal working shop to get some legs made for a table he’s constructing. Lumina is a blacksmith. They hit it off, and he asks her out on a date – but it’s a rather unusual one. There is an historical hotel downtown, which is being torn down. For a daily fee, people can go in and salvage however much they can load up and carry away. Today, the company handling the event, has just opened up the grand ballroom. Dade and Lumina get there first.

They walked inside, using flashlights Dade had with him in a backpack. Lumina hadn’t noticed it, since it was the same color as his coveralls. He led her with confidence, through the lobby. It was stripped nearly bare.

You said light fixtures, I want to show you something. It’s probably too much for either of us, but you need to see.”

They walked toward the center of the hotel, to a huge room with vaulted arched ceilings. The floor was an intricate parquet of several types and colors of wood. The walls had once been gilded wallpaper, which was chipped and faded beyond repair. In the center, a magnificent chandelier hung. It was dusty and covered in cobwebs, but there was no mistaking its beauty.

That’s worth the two hundred dollar fee, huh?”

Is it up for grabs, or do we have to wait until the auction?”

I dunno. Let’s ask.” He took a photo of the chandelier with a sticker in his hand, in front of it. Typing a quick note, he sent it to Benny. He got an immediate reply.

I’ll get my guys in to help you.

We can have it?” Lumina had to mute a screech. Her dark eyes widened as she gazed at the chandelier.

Apparently so. You really want it?”

Hell, yeah!”

Think it will fit in the truck?”

If it won’t fit the pickup, I’ve got a flatbed for scrap. Should I go get it?”

Let’s see what Benny says, first.”

Okay.”

Three men, with a cherry picker and other equipment, came in.

Nice choice!” one of them said.

Benny came in right after. “I wondered if you’d get that. If I could have, I’d have saved it for you. Those are Swarovski crystals. If there aren’t any missing, there are close to a thousand of them. The chandelier was made in Austria, brought here, and put together. It’s magnificent. Not another like it in the city.”

The men were slowly and carefully lowering the huge piece.

You have a way to carry this so it doesn’t smash to pieces?” Benny asked.

Lumina and Dade glanced at one another, shaking their heads.

Benny burst out laughing. “Didn’t think so. It happens, I do. I have the original crate. It will need new packing material, but I’ve got that too. Mr. Yarrow said to make sure it went to someone who really wanted it, and deserved it. I figure, first come, first serve. And I know Dade’s had his eye on it since he got here. We’ll get it packed up for you. Give me an address, we’ll deliver.”

She was so excited, Lumina kissed him on both cheeks. “Thank you!” She hopped up, kissing Dade on the lips. “Thank you for bringing me!” Squealing, she bounced over to the men, who had finally lowered the chandelier onto a padded platform.

Dade and Benny exchanged a low five.

Dude, nicely played,” Benny said.

Thanks. Not sure where I can go from here. Buy a girl a Swarovski chandelier…. Only way to go is down.”

Not necessarily. We just opened the fourth floor. There’s sweet pickings up there. It’s a treasure trove of untapped salvage. We’ll take care of this, take your lady friend up and show her the Presidential suit. I guarantee, she will not be disappointed.”

Dade’s grin grew. “Thanks, Benny! I owe you, man!”

Name your first kid after me.” Winking, he tapped Dade’s fist.

If you can drag yourself away, there’s more to see,” Dade said.

Lumina hopped up and down gleefully, clapping her hands like a little girl. One of the workers took the sticker from Dade, putting it on the chandelier.

We’ll get this all boxed up, Miss,” the foreman assured her. “Just give your address to Benny before you go.”

Thanks!” She gave each of them a kiss and hug. Turning to Dade, she gave him another, longer, kiss. “That is the greatest thing ever! Thank you!”

Nothing’s too good for my favorite smith. Enjoy.”

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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ABC Challenge Letter F: Free Zone by Dellani Oakes

ABC ChallengeI swore I’d never write a zombie story, but a few years ago, I broke down and wrote one. (Raven Willoughby: Origins which will feature later in this series) Apparently, my muse decided that one just wasn’t enough, so it bugged me until I wrote Free Zone. This isn’t your regular zombie tale, and they don’t eat brains – because EW! Lorelei Ward is a young surgeon, starting her first day as a fully fledged attending physician. The day before, she was in surgery, when there was a massive explosion at a local fertilizer plant. The news showed the photo of a man who was a Person of Interest in the investigation. Somehow, the police think that her surgical patient is that man. She finds them in his room, and he’s cuffed to the bed.

Sending my interns out, I confronted the woman, who had to be a police detective. She had on dress slacks, a coordinating blouse and shoes she could run in. Her hair was pulled back in a severe ponytail. Shorter than me, her head was at a level with my chin, but that didn’t seem to intimidate her at all. All five foot three worth of authority confronted my five foot nine and three quarters.

Who are you? Why are you harassing my patient?”

My name is Detective Adele La Rose.” She flashed a badge.

I caught her hand before she was able to put it away. Examining it closely, I memorized her badge number. Wigging my fingers, I insisted on identification from the man who was with her.

Still doesn’t answer my question, Detective.”

He’s a suspect in yesterday’s bombing.”

This guy?” I pointed to the man in the bed. “Want to walk me through that?” I squinted at the shorter, dark haired woman.

La Rose frowned. “Walk you…?”

Through it. Yes. When is he supposed to have done this horrible thing?”

La Rose checked her notes. “The bomb went off, by remote, at 9:56—”

Did someone have to actively click a button for it to go off?”

La Rose, and the uniformed officer, gaped at me.

That’s what by remote means, doctor,” the officer, whose name was West, said. His tone was on the rude side.

Okay. Well, then I’m his alibi. At 9:56, we were about halfway through his surgery.”

Surgery!” La Rose sounded aghast. “What for?”

Manu Astor’s eyes went wide and he gave me a pleading look.

None of your business. It would be a serious legal violation to tell you, since it has absolutely no bearing on this case. Take the handcuffs off him, and get out. You’re violating his rights, and getting in my way.”

The officer raised a curious eyebrow at his boss. She nodded slightly, and he took off the cuffs.

We were given an anonymous tip that the man we were interested in, was here. And one of your patients.”

Really? Interesting, since this guy looks nothing like that guy on TV. Did you bother to check his identification, photograph, anything?”

La Rose flashed an angry look at her uniformed companion. “That was, supposedly, already done.”

Well, fancy that! As a matter of fact, we did have someone in here yesterday, who resembled the man wanted for questioning. But he wasn’t my patient.”

And you didn’t call us?”

I couldn’t be sure. I wasn’t going to call, and have him be the wrong man. I didn’t want anyone to come in and harass him, rather like you’re harassing Mr. Astor.”

Still, if he looked like the man on TV, you should have called.”

He’s not going anywhere. His injuries were quite extensive. Part of his face was damaged by the chemicals. So, you can understand why there might be some confusion.”

La Rose pinched her lips together. Dark brows furrowed, and she did her best to look pissed off. She did it really well, but I wasn’t having it.

Lemme ask you something.” I crossed my arms, doing my own pinching and furrowing. “You said it was done by remote, right? You think someone would set off a blast like that, and be close enough to be harmed by it?”

Her mouth went from pinched to open. She and Officer West gawped at me, at one another, and at Manu Astor.

I don’t know about you, but if I’m gonna blow shit up, I’d like to be as far away from it as possible. We had that young woman in here. The one on TV.”

What?” La Rose screeched.

She died. Horribly. Her flesh was melted, unrecognizable. Tell me if a terrorist would do that to herself? Or if a man would do that to his wife and baby daughter?” I glared at West, who wore a wedding ring.

Not a man alive who would do that to his baby,” he said simply.

Unless there was something seriously f**ked up about him,” Manu added.

He and West exchanged a look. It was some man thing, but it said a lot to each of them.

So, I’m thinking, maybe you’ve got the wrong guy—twice.”

Will you direct me to the other man?”

I don’t know his name, or where he was taken. He wasn’t my patient. This man here,” I pointed at Manu. “He is my patient. Since part of my job description is to advocate for the health and well being of those in my care, I’m ordering you out. He’s not guilty of anything, and having you here is hampering his recovery. Out. Let my people do their jobs.”

You can’t—” La Rose burbled.

I drew myself up straight. When I stood like that, I was a little taller even than Officer West. He backed up a step. La Rose looked ready to take it further, but he intervened.

We should go, Carla, and let this man get some rest. Dr. Ward, sorry for the inconvenience. Mr. Astor, our apologies.”

Manu nodded, waving at him. “I’ll let it slide without a lawsuit, but next time, check your facts.” His voice held such authority, I almost apologized to him, too.

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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ABC Challenge Letter E: Escape of the Heart by Dellani Oakes

ABC ChallengeIn my nameless city, there are several prominent families, called the Founding Five – Descendants of the five original settlers in the area; Fellowes, Hendrix, Perrine, Reinhardt and Yarrow. All filthy rich, they are also (for the most part) kind and compassionate people, who work hard for a living. When two Founding Five wed, it’s a media circus. Oren Hendrix and Merle Fellowes are due to wed soon, but are planning a trip to get away together, before the craziness completely takes over. However, they aren’t anticipating getting into a car accident on their way to the airport.

A truck careened out of the ally without looking. Expensive brakes held, but the car behind wasn’t so lucky. It plowed into their rear. The Porsche lurched forward and sideways, smashing into a minivan parked at the curb.

The truck sped away, uncaring. Oren and Merle sat still, dazed. Someone tapped on the window. A young Indian woman dressed in a magenta sari spoke to Merle. Her voice was muffled by the glass.

“Are you all right?” Her lightly accented voice held a hint of England.

“Yes,” Merle whispered, nodding.

A swarthy man stood on the other side, angry and cursing, his ire directed at the departing truck. He shook a fist, making a universally rude finger gesture. The woman spoke to him sharply and he moved out of the road as a police car pulled up. Oren opened his door with difficulty, climbing out of the car as the EMTs arrived. As soon as they recognized Oren, the son of the police commissioner, and successful business man in his own right, they became very solicitous. The young Indian man wasn’t getting the same treatment. In fact, the police officer who was talking to him, was rude, almost brutal.

“Hold up there!” Oren called as the officer forced the young man to put his hands on the hood of his car. “He’s not to blame here. Let him go. And be nice, dammit! It’s not his fault.”

“He rear ended you, Mr. Hendrix.”

“Yeah, but it’s the truck’s fault.”

“Truck? There’s no truck here.”

“Check the traffic cameras.” Oren pointed to them. “And for gods sake, let him up. Dammit! Just because he ran into me, doesn’t make him guilty of a crime.” He walked over to the young man, holding out his hand. “Oren Hendrix. I’m really sorry about all this”

“I am sorry, Mr. Hendrix. But my insurance is insufficient to cover such an expensive car.”

Oren smiled, clapping him on the shoulder. The man winced.

“Hey!” Oren called to a nearby paramedic. “Have you checked him for injuries?”

“No, sir….”

“Why not? Because I’m f**king Oren Hendrix and he’s not?” he bellowed. “Dammit! Check him for injuries! Am I the only one here who doesn’t think I’m the shit?” He looked for Merle, finding her perched on the ambulance. The young Indian woman sat next to her, being checked by an EMT.

“Babe, are you okay?” he asked loudly as he walked over.

“I’m fine. What are you yelling for?”

“No idea,” he said quietly.

The EMT led the other man over. “I’m sorry, Mr. Hendrix. I was told he’d been checked.”

“Not your fault. I’m sorry I yelled.” He nodded at the EMT, kissed Merle and walked over to the police who were checking the traffic cameras on a tablet. “Any luck finding the truck?”

“Yes. We got an ID. You sure you aren’t pressing charges with this guy?” He jerked his thumb at the Indian man. “He was traveling pretty close to you.”

Oren chuckled. “Dude, it’s city traffic, near rush hour. Of course he’s too close. Cut the guy some slack. Do we have info on this car owner?” He pointed to the damaged minivan.

“He was in there,” the cop said, pointing to a jeweler’s store.

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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