I Love Dialogue! from Full Measure #3

books by dellani oakes 1Ralan and Daphne finally meet and are immediately attracted. So much so, they give in to their passions without thinking. Ralan realizes, too late, that being with her could compromise his case, but he finds it hard to care. He also realizes he must tell his Captain, Jeff Givens, what’s happened.

Givens and Ralan went to the Captain’s office. One of the office assistants brought in coffee and a platter of bagels, donuts and pastries. Ralan thanked her, Givens more or less ignored her, though he nodded slightly in her direction as she served him.

“So, who do you think these schmucks are?”

“No idea. I’m not even sure who all the players are, Jeff.”

“Then we need to find out asap. I can’t have my best agent looking over his shoulder.”

“I always look over my shoulder.” He sipped his coffee and took a cherry danish.

“I meant more than usual. Being paranoid’s kept you alive a long time. You sure no one followed you to Ian’s?”

“No. I watched for a tail, but that means nothing. I didn’t hide my plans, Jeff. What puzzles me is how they knew I was back.”

“Maybe they didn’t. Maybe they were breaking in for some other reason.”

“Armed for bear? Not a casual break in. They were after me. Maybe Daphne too.”

“Why would they think she was there?”

Ralan sipped his coffee, refusing to answer.

“Tell me.” Jeff Givens wasn’t a man to back away from confrontation. He dogged a bone better than anyone, including Ralan.

Not feeling like arguing, Ralan leaned forward, arms on his thighs. “I messed up.”

“Meaning you compromised our case by misconduct with the woman?”

Closing his eyes, Ralan nodded. Givens didn’t speak for a long time. Ralan could hear him breathing. He could almost hear the older man thinking.

“Ralan, did I ever tell you about the time I had a beautiful personal assistant I was protecting? Her boss was up to his ass in some crazy scheme and she made the mistake of doing her job and told him about some irregularities she’d found.”

The younger agent sat quietly. Jeff didn’t want a reply. Ralan waited.

“I was about your age, and they gave me this. My first witness protection as lead. We were stuck in a cabin deep in the woods. Just us two. Had some guys running patrols, but it was just us for over a week. We were bored and scared as hell we were gonna die. . . . I took that girl to bed. Damn near ruined my career.”

“What saved you?”

“I had a boss who’d been in the same situation and made the same mistake.” He paused, eyes on his desk. Glancing up at Ralan, he folded his hands in front of him. “Can you promise me this is the only time this will happen?”

Ralan looked away, unable to lie to his boss. “I’d love to tell you that, Jeff. I’m not sure I believe it.”

“Good, cause I wouldn’t either. If you’d given me a guarantee, I’d of pulled you off so damn fast your nuts would spin.”

“You could still do that.”

“I’m reserving that right,” Givens replied. “This goes no further.”

“Romy knows.”

“Who’s he gonna tell? Me? If I pull you off, I have to give a reason. Do you think I want to answer questions like that? Do you?”

“No, sir.”

“Damn Skippy, no. Keep it in your pants, Agent Hendrix. Get a hobby. Needlepoint is relaxing.”

“Yes, sir.” He stood, knowing he’d been dismissed. “Thank you, sir.”

“Kid, we all make mistakes. If I canned every agent who had an inconvenient itch, I wouldn’t have a team.”

© 2014 Dellani Oakes

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I Love Dialogue! from Full Measure #2

Dellani Oakes with glasses smallerDaphne Winstead is new in town. She meets a woman named Karen at the doctor’s office whose records she’s going over. The practice head thinks that someone is embezzling. It’s up to Daphne to find out who and how. For now, however, the city’s had the first major snow of the season, so the women get an unexpected day off. They decide to spend a long weekend at the home of Ian and Cynthia Yarrow—a multi-billionaire and his wife.

“Booya! Beat you at your own game, Mister Yarrow!” Frtiz’ British accent was strong, but sounded genuine.

“Someone give the man a cookie,” another male voice said. “Or he’s gonna explode from puffed up self-importance.”

Loud laughter ensued. It faded slightly when Karen and Daphne entered the room. They looked up expectantly. Some of the faces were familiar, others weren’t. The women rushed to her, hugging her and dragging her into the room. They tried to introduce her to everyone at once until Karen took control.

“Give the girl a chance to breathe! Let’s start with the host and his lovely wife. Daphne, my cousin Ian Yarrow and his wife Cynthia.”

A strikingly handsome man sat on a chaise lounge, his legs in some sort of odd braces. He smiled. “I’d get up, but I’m still getting used to this contraption. Welcome, Daphne. We’ve heard about little else from the girls. Glad to finally meet you.”

“Thanks for inviting me, Mr. Yarrow.”

Ian’s booming laugh warmed her. “Just Ian is fine. Or Yarrow. I even answer to hey you.” He took her hand. “Welcome. I’m glad to have another person to call friend. Honey?”

He deferred to the attractive redhead seated next to him. She was very pregnant, due pretty much any day, so far as Daphne could tell.

“I’m so glad to meet you. I hated that I missed the last girl’s night, but we were getting Ian’s brace adjusted.” She stood awkwardly, hugging Daphne. The baby kicked and both women laughed.

“When are you due?”

“Soon. About a month. Gillian’s due Monday.”

“Which is why they invited me,” a handsome dark haired man next to Reva said. “I’m Hal.”

“The token doctor,” Ian interjected.

“What they don’t know is I haven’t delivered a baby since my residency.”

“A hundred years ago,” the ginger haired Brit said, coughing.

“Don’t get cocky, squirt!” Hal said, laughing. “He thinks since he just won that round, he’s da bomb!”

“The British contingent is represented by Gillian and Fritz Heathrow-Cooper,” a pretty dark haired British woman said politely. “I’m Gillie and that ginger haired turnip is my husband. . . .”

“And hyphen,” he added. “Fritz Cooper. She hyphenated, I didn’t. What we’ll do when the baby is born, I don’t know. I can’t see saddling a little tyke with that sort of handle, can you?”

Daphne wasn’t sure what to say. She didn’t want to get into the middle of an argument, if such it was. “I don’t know. I never had any occasion to hyphenate.”

“Sounds positively dirty when you say it like that,” Fritz said with an enthusiastic rubbing of his hands. “Oi, love! Let’s hyphenate!” He winked at his wife, nudging her ribs.

She smacked him playfully. “Cocky bugger. As to the babe, she won’t hyphenate. Her middle name is Heathrow, her last Cooper.”

“Really? When did you decide that?”

“Just now.” She looked self-satisfied.

“They’re a crazy bunch,” Karen explained. “But fun. Last, but not least, my spouse, Luc Vaughan. Honey, this is Daphne.”

“The one you’re trying to hook up with Ralan? Aw, hon, she’s too good for him.” He kissed his wife soundly. “Kidding. He’s a great guy. Nice to meet you, Daphne. What would you like to drink?”

“What are my choices?”

Gillian replied, pointing to a variety of insulated carafes. “We’ve got tea, Earl Grey. Hot chocolate, coffee and hot cider.”

“Wow, so many choices! Cider sounds fantastic.”

“Excellent choice. My idea,” Ian answered. “See, someone besides me likes it, Fritz.”

“Insane, she is. Has to be. So, you’re dating Ralan?”

“No! What? I haven’t even met him.”

“Good,” Derrick said as he walked in. “That means there’s a chance for me to sweet talk you first.”

The room exploded in laughter. They weren’t laughing at Derrick, more at what he’d said. Daphne looked carefully at the pilot for the first time. He was tall, broad shouldered, blond and handsome. Every man in the room was gorgeous. How could there be so many good looking men in the world and she couldn’t seem to find even one? Her two boyfriends in college were nowhere near this handsome. She said as much to the room full of people.

“That’s a good question, that is,” Fritz said. “Let’s ponder it, shall we?”

“Ponder this,” Derrick said, grabbing his groin.

“I had hoped,” Cynthia said amidst loud, male laughter. “That we could go the weekend without that kind of humor.”

“With this lot?” Gillian said. “It’s amazing that none of them have dropped their pants and flashed us.”

“Give us time,” Ian countered. “The day is young and I’m sober.”

“I’ve seen your tukas,” Gillian replied in a bored tone. “Magnificent,” she whispered loudly to Daphne. “Really posh. Nothing quite so remarkable as a billionaire’s arse.”

Her husband pinched her ribs, laughing. “I’ll remember that, my girl, when you want to grab mine.”

“Yours is very nice too, sweetheart,” she said in a singsong voice.

“Are you always like this?” Daphne asked, somewhat taken aback.

“Sometimes we’re naughty,” Derrick replied, grinning as he poured himself some cider.

“I love it! You’re just like my family.”

© 2014 Dellani Oakes

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The Chosen One or the Reluctant Hero

Dellani Oakes with glasses smallerI recently read an article about clichés authors shouldn’t use. It was a well written, well thought out article. For the most part, I agreed. There was one point I’d like to refute. The author of the article stated that fantasy & science fiction authors need to dispense with “The Chosen One” hero—someone destined to lead, kill the bad guy and save the world.

Here’s the thing: Nobody wants to read about the Nobody. We want the heroism, the special skills, the destiny factor. That’s part of what makes a hero heroic. No one wants to read about an insignificant peasant, unless the peasant steps up to greatness.

Where would Lord of the Rings be without Frodo? Where would the Hobbitt be without Bilbo? Where would the Narnia series be without the Pevensie children? I’ll tell you—at the bottom of a drawer, gathering dust, ignored for all time. The Hunger Games and Harry Potter books would meet the same end. Nobody wants to read about the Nobody.

That’s not to say that the hero must be perfect or of epic proportions. Even the famous heroes of yore, Hercules, Jason and Achilles, were flawed. Deeply, dare I say, Epically, flawed. Yes, they did great things, but their mistakes were equally as outstanding as their successes.

Books without a Chosen One hero aren’t likely to do well. Readers want and need someone to believe in, someone destined to lead, someone born to succeed. The problem here is not the cliché itself, but the way it is often handled. If the hero is too damaged, or reluctant, too afraid to step up, the story drags. Readers get angry with him. Some will stop reading.

I’m put in mind of the Thomas Covenant series. Here was a man who was horrendously flawed, his body ruined by disease, his life in tatters. But guess what? He’s the Chosen One! Who, less than five minutes after he arrives in the new land, rapes a girl simply because she’s there and he has to prove to himself he’s strong once more. I stayed angry with him through the entire book for that. I read several of the books in the series, because they were somewhat engaging, but his personality constantly grated. I finally gave up on them. I don’t mind a flawed character, but I don’t like a hero who’s only marginally better than the villain.

Readers don’t want fairytale princes either. Too perfect is as bad as too flawed. No one is perfect. We all have character flaws. Mr. Wonderful has to be Mr. Horrible at some point or again, readers lose interest. Make him interesting and realistic, not some two dimensional man of film.

The Chosen One, the person who, through no fault of his own, has been handed a job so daunting, no one would want it. He doesn’t want to believe he is the Chosen One, because no one in his right mind wants to do that job! He balks, he fights it, but eventually, he does what needs doing. Perhaps the belief in a higher being who has ordered this, grates with some readers. Perhaps it is because this seems to take away the concept of free will? That, I’m not sure of.

Quite often, the Chosen One reaches a decision making stage. They can fight and fulfill their destiny, or they can give up. Usually, they step up and do what needs to be done because they are Frodo, or Bilbo or Peter the High King or Katniss Everdeen or Harry Potter. They choose to move forward and fight evil, not because it’s foretold, but because the alternative isn’t even an option for them.

As John McClain says in Live Free or Die Hard: “That’s what makes you that guy.”

Hooray for the reluctant hero!

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I Love Dialogue! From Full Measure

books by dellani oakes 1I’ve been having fun sharing these excerpts on my Writer’s Sanctuary blog, but I have so many, I decided to branch out. I hope you enjoy these as much as I do.

Daphne Winstead is a young, struggling accountant who specializes in forensic accounting. When she’s hired to track and catch an embezzler at a local mental health facility, she jumps at the chance, little knowing that’s she’s stumbled into something far bigger than she anticipated. Not only has she made several people in the office hate her, she’s apparently being followed.

Daphne didn’t see it follow her to the Super WalMart a few blocks from her home. She’d decided as soon as she walked outside, she needed some warmer clothing. What she had was good for cold in Mississippi. For this far north, not far from the Canadian border, it wasn’t sufficient. She didn’t have a lot to spend, but could afford a few things. Most important was a heavy coat and a pair of boots. Snow was forecast for the coming week.

After selecting her clothing, she did her grocery shopping. She was low on milk and coffee, among other things. She picked up a deli fried chicken meal for her dinner. Walking out of the store, she searched for her car, having gotten turned around in the store. She spotted it across the lot from where she stood. She’d come out a different door from the one she came in. Taking a deep breath, she struck out for her vehicle, shivering in the gathering chill. Moisture touched her face and she glanced up at the sky as she passed a dark SUV. It sat in a parking space with the motor running.

“Snow? Really?” Daphne sighed.

The windows of the SUV were tinted, but she suspected someone was inside. Paying it no mind, she loaded her groceries and put the cart in the nearby rack. Carefully, she headed home. Not used to driving in this type of weather, she was unsure of herself. Karen had grown up here, maybe she could give her some tips.

At her apartment building, Daphne carried her groceries to her apartment and unloaded them quickly. Her chicken went in the oven to crisp, the rest in the microwave. She poured herself a glass of wine and settled in the living room with her food.

Outside, the SUV sat idling in her parking lot. A large black man sat in the driver’s seat. Beside him sat the man in black leather. Dark, brooding eyes gazed up at Daphne’s window. He couldn’t see in, but that didn’t stop him from seeing her. Right now, she was probably curled up on her couch watching TV. He wasn’t sure how he knew that, but somehow it made sense.

“We gonna sit here all night?” The black man asked him.

The other man didn’t answer right away. Instead, he twirled his finger. The driver put the car in gear and pulled out of the parking lot into the gloomy storm.

“What’s this girl done? She looks totally harmless, man.”

“Nothing.”

“Then why we spending our time watching her?”

The dark haired man shrugged, shaking his head. Pinching his lower lip, he gazed out the window at the thickening snow flurries.

“Well, I need a drink, dammit,” the black man said. “I’m freezing ass.”

“You’re wearing a heavy coat, the seat’s heated and the heat’s on high,” a man in the back seat said, his British accent strong.

“Shut up, man. I’m from Florida. This is fucking cold!”

The Brit and the dark haired man chuckled. “Pussy,” they said in chorus.

The rest of the trip took place in silence. The SUV turned in at Kelley’s parking lot.

“You two go in without me. I have to make a call. Get me a coffee,” he said as they got out.

“American or Irish?” The Brit asked.

“You seriously have to ask that question, what kind of spy are you?”

Laughing, the men walked off. The dark haired man made his call and joined them a short time later.

“Feeling better?” The Brit asked.

The dark haired man shrugged as his coffee was served. Thanking the waitress with a smile, he sipped it. Hot, creamy and enough whisky to stop a horse. Closing his eyes, he let the hot, stinging beverage trickle down his throat.

“You gonna tell us what this is about?” The Brit asked calmly, sipping his scotch.

“I told you. Nothing. Don’t worry your pretty head about it, baby,” he said as if he were talking to a particularly obtuse woman.

The British man punched him in the shoulder.

“Hey! You nearly spilled my coffee!”

“Oh, precious, you’ll manage,” the British man said, batting his eyelashes.

“Y’all are a couple fruits,” the black man said sourly. “Act like girls. You two gay for each other?”

“Because you’re new to the team and don’t know us,” the British man replied quietly. “I’ll let that slide—this time. Say it again, and pieces of you will go missing.”

“You ain’t right,” the driver said. “Neither of you.”

“You don’t like it, go back to Miami,” the dark haired man said.

“St. Pete,” the black man corrected. “I can’t go back. Too damn hot.”

“Temperature?” The man in leather asked.

“Cops. One too many bodies disappeared in Alligator Ally. Got suspicious.” He shrugged.

The two white men exchanged a meaningful look. Nodding, they took a sip of their drinks in unison. The black man watched, shaking his head.

“Nope, y’all ain’t right.”

© 2014 Dellani Oakes

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