Indian Summer by Dellani

ABC ChallengeIndian Summer is my historical novel. I mention the writing of it in an earlier post. It is written in the voice of Gabriella Deza, the daughter of the Spanish Territorial Governor and is set in 1739, a year before a major siege by the British. Gabriella is 15, but has a lot of intelligence and pluck for a girl her age. By chance, she overhears something that starts a chain of events she has no control over.

I was rounding the corner on my way to the privy when I heard hushed and hurried voices ahead of me. They seemed to be moving in my direction rapidly. It was the sound of men who didn’t want to be overheard. Urgency marked their voices.

I ducked into an alcove, pressing myself against the wall. Secluded and shadowed, I was nearly invisible unless one looked directly at me. Grateful that I wore dark clothing and didn’t carry a candle, I virtually held my breath, seeking to make no noise.

The two men stopped just a few steps past my hiding place. I knew by his voice that one of them was James. The other man I didn’t recognize. James talked earnestly, looking furtively all around him. Not, thankfully, into my hiding place.

“I’m telling yew it mus’ be tonigh’!” The other man was speaking with roughly accented English in harsh undertones.

“Absolutely not! I forbid it!” James’ cultured voice held an authoritative edge. “It’s too soon. If we move now, all will be lost! We must plan this carefully. Tell General Oglethorpe that if this operation is to be a success, he must follow my lead. Tell him I’ll signal when the time is ripe.”

“Jes ‘ow do you pr’pose ta do tha’?” His companion growled. “Ligh’ a bloody sign’l fire?”

James barely held his temper. “In point of fact, I shall. Tell them to look to the south end of the fort and I’ll signal from there, but in my time! Tell him it could be months! Be gone now before we’re seen!”

With that, he rushed off in one direction. The other man, a sailor by his rolling gait, ran in the opposite. When I was sure they were gone, I eased out of the alcove and made my way to the privy.

I puzzled over the conversation I had overheard, not knowing quite what to make of it. The fort was in danger. I had heard something very secret indeed. Admittedly, I had difficulty putting James in the role of spy. Hadn’t he been a guest in our home? Surely James was beyond suspicion?

I didn’t know which way to turn or what to do. Who would ever believe me? They would call it childish, female fantasy and ignore me. I couldn’t tell Papa, he was too ill. I didn’t think the commandant would heed me. I had to say something! But to whom?

I heard a quiet voice call my name from across the hospital room. On his cot, Manuel had woken up and was calling me. Still weak, he managed to partially sit up, but couldn’t rise from his bed. As if a bolt of lightning hit me from above, I realized the obvious one to tell was Manuel. The commandant would believe him, but would Manuel believe me?

I was a child in his eyes, a little girl with big blue eyes and a wild imagination. I had been through much today, surely he would think that this was side effect of that over excitement. I owed him my brother’s life, but he in turn owed his to James. I hadn’t made up my mind when I reached his bed.

He smiled a weak version of his familiar, winsome smile. The twinkle in his eyes he always held for me was dim, but there. He was rapidly coming back to himself. I felt a flutter in my chest that was as pleasing as it was unfamiliar. He was so handsome it fairly took my breath.

His shirt was off and he was left only in his breeches. Having dried on him, they were tight across his powerful thighs. The sun bronzed muscles rippled in his back. I couldn’t help but admire his physique. His form was classic, like a statue of Adonis. Despite his injuries, he appeared virile, powerful, brave. I felt a warm thrill when he said my name yet again.

“Gabriella?”

I walked over to him quickly and quietly, not wishing to rouse anyone in the hospital. Manuel had many cuts and bruises on his arms, neck and back, as well as bruising and rope burns across his abdomen. His head was bound in a neat bandage, his right arm in a sling. A few of his ribs were wrapped. He tried to rise as I approached.

I smiled down at him. “No, Señor Enriques, please you must not try to stand. I’ll sit and then all will be well.” I pulled a stool near him.

He smiled at me again and his twinkle was stronger. “You’ve seen me near death, stripped almost to the bone and yet you call me Señor Enriques. It makes me sound like such an old man.” He sighed, shaking his head sagely. “I hear I owe my life in part to you. I insist you call me Manuel, and I shall call you – Señorita Deza.”

He winked wickedly and I blushed deeply, dropping my head in an effort to break eye contact with him. He was so close I could feel the warmth of his attentions and smell his manly scent. It was musky like sandalwood.

He lifted my chin gently with his uninjured hand. “You helped to pull me out of the sea. For that I thank you.”

I ducked my head again and this time he leaned his head sideways to gaze up into my face.

“So, she has no kind words for Manuel, eh? Well, perhaps one day she will. Perhaps too, she’ll save a dance for him at the next ball?”

I giggled almost hysterically at that. “Señor Enri-Manuel, I fear I can’t save a dance, for I’m not yet allowed to attend the parties.”

I blushed again feeling like a child, but this time I kept my head up and looked him in the eye. A slight frown played across his face.

“Well then, we’ll do this. When you have your fifteenth birthday party, will you allow Manuel to be your escort?”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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He Thought He Saw by Dellani

ABC ChallengeA couple years ago, for the NaNoWriMo Challenge, I decided to branch out and try something new. Not only did I decide to do a contemporary fantasy novel, I decided to write it for young adults. For me, this was a double challenge. I’d never written this genre or for this age group before. I found that I liked it, so much so, I wrote a sequel in 2014. This is the opening of the book and, I hope, it appropriately sets the scene.

The full moon seemed to follow him as he walked down the road alone. Wind whispered in the trees and dried leaves clattered in its wake. An owl hooted. The hairs on the back of his neck stood at attention.

The wind became voices. The leaves, the dry rattle of old bones. The sighing grew louder and Brian was able to pick out words. At least, he thought they were words, but in a language he couldn’t understand.

Picking up his pace, he glanced over his shoulder. Wispy figures gathered in the tree line around the swamp, moving slowly and steadily toward him. Brian tried to convince himself it was only his imagination, but it felt far too real.

One of the figures approached at a slow, loping run. Brian could hear the heavy, measured footfalls as it lumbered toward him. He completely lost his cool. Roaring loudly, he ran at the figure, dodging away when it grabbed at him. Chilling wind passed as the figure drifted away, dissipating as it headed to the woods on the other side of the road.

Brian ran along the center of the road, frightened by his encounter with the wraith. More of them gathered in the swampy woodland, but no others were bold enough to approach him. Hearing a twig snap to his left, Brian put on a burst of speed. With a cry of fear, he felt a shove at his back and tripped over his own feet. As he fell, he saw the wraiths grow bolder. They moved in unison, swooping toward him. Terrified, Brian lay on his belly, unsure how to combat them.

A solid form burst out of the bushes. A large dog stood over Brian, growling and barking. It took a moment for him to realize that the wraiths halted. Some tried to go a step or two further, but the dog renewed its attack. One by one the ghosts dispersed, melting into the fog once more.

Brian let his breath out slowly. The animal stood over him, but moved aside as he sat up. It was the biggest dog Brian had ever seen, broad through the chest with powerful legs and a ridge of hair down his spine. It looked silver in the moonlight.

Curious, Brian reached slowly toward it, hand out, palm up. The beast’s tongue flicked out, licking his cheek. Her warm breath convinced the boy that the dog was alive and real. She slurped him again, butting his hand so he’d pet her. Laughing, he complied.

“Where did you come from, girl?” Predictably, he got no reply. “Never mind, I’m just glad you’re here.”

He got up, dusting himself off. Leaves stuck to his body, mud caked every inch of him. Twigs and more leaves adorned his closely cropped hair. Getting his bearings, he headed toward home once more. The dog walked with him, her head under his hand. Her tongue lolled and she looked as if she were laughing at his appearance.

“You take a header into a mud puddle and see how good you look.”

The dog barked gleefully. She dashed ahead, sniffed and snorted, before trotting back to his side. She stayed with him until they reached his home. With a yip, she left him, drifting into the woods. The front door banged shut with a comforting thump behind him. Heaving a sigh of relief, Brian locked and bolted the door. He leaned against it, panting. His hands shook and he felt light headed. His heart thumped so hard in his chest, he could hear it in his ears.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Goin’ Down by Dellani

ABC ChallengeA few years ago, I participated in the Iron Writer’s Challenge. For those of you not familiar with it, five authors have five days to write a short piece using four random elements. The elements for our challenge were Atlantis, Flying Electric Bike, Dopplegangers and a random black and white TV show. This is what I wrote.

Wil sat on his flying electric bike, staring at the sapphire depths of the ocean. Somewhere, beneath the surface, lay their objective. Revving his engine, he prepared for the drop into the icy waters of the abyssal plain.

The rest of the platoon hovered around him, dressed in deep sea gear, multiple dopplegangers, waiting for the signal to jettison into oblivion.

It was strange to be on Old Earth. Stranger still was the Galactic Marine Corps’ interest in the place. Virtually abandoned 200 years ago, Earth had been reclaimed by nature. The few humans who remained were savages, wielders of crude weapons, hardly worthy adversaries. But something else lurked in the ocean—beings of half forgotten legends.

How they had come to the attention of the Marines, Wil didn’t know. He and his platoon were here to contain any possible threat before it could advance.

A voice crackled in his ear. “Ready, Sergeant?”

“Aye, Captain.”

“Commence drop in five – four – three. . . .”

The door opened at their feet and 32 cycles zipped down the ramp, making the 2,000 foot drop to the surface. Hovering over the waves, they were surrounded by force shields to keep the cold and pressure at bay. Still experimental, the shields were supposed to be impenetrable. Wil had his doubts.

Wil accessed the battle plans, projecting them to his platoon. The dive initiated on his command. Thirty-two cycles sliced into the water. Down they dropped, rapidly nearing their goal. Less than a hundred meters from their objective, Wil’s electrical system glitched. Instead of the detailed battle plans, he saw flickering images of an old black and white TV show. His visor was filled with a banner proclaiming “The Adventures of Superpup”. It was gone just as suddenly.

“You see that, Sarge?”

“Sure did.” Wil tapped his helmet and the battle plans filled his visor once more.

Something else caught his attention, far below and to his left. Raising a hand, he called a halt. Black as night, the water undulated around them. Wil’s raised fist was invisible, but the HALT message flashing inside their helmets, was not.

“What is that?” The same voice filled his ears.

“I’d say, that’s our goal, Corporal.”

With rapid movements, Wil and his corporal deployed the team. On his mark, they descended, surrounding an opalescent dome. As the bikes approached, a panel slid back and they were sucked in, unable to stop. They bounced around a huge tube, the suction drawing them inexorably forward.

A few minutes later, they were set down on a platform. The water drained away, leaving scattered puddles. They faced a 20 foot door, which opened slowly. A giant of a man dressed in scintillating blue robes walked out, smiling. His skin was indigo, his hair white. He held a metallic staff in one hand. The top was decorated with a single, multi-faceted diamond. He advanced to stand before Wil, bowing.

“Welcome, my friends. Welcome to Atlantis.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Finally Finished Your Novel by Dellani

ABC ChallengeSo, you’ve finished that four hundred and sixty page novel. You sit proudly and pat the cover page tenderly, smoothing the white surface when much to your horror, you see a mistake! Cold sweat breaks out on your brow, fingers tremble, mouth suddenly goes dry. As your eye wanders down the page, more and more errors jump out at you! Fear grips your heart as you stumble from the desk, desperate for a calming cool drink. It’s a nightmare, but you can’t wake up. It’s real. Your brainchild, the fruit of your creative efforts, is flawed and it’s up to you to fix it.

This is a scenario each of us faces. Sometimes it’s as minor as a misplaced comma or a dangling modifier. Other times an entire scene, or even half the novel is so bad it has to be scraped and retooled. I started an historical novel about ten years ago, set it aside since it wasn’t going anywhere, picked it up a few years later and realized the reason it hadn’t gone anywhere was that it was garbage! No other word for it. After careful review, I threw away all but ten handwritten pages. Of those ten pages, perhaps parts of seven survive in the retooled version.

Several things were problematic that I didn’t realize until much later. First, and most important, the point of view and style were all wrong. Set in St. Augustine in the Florida territory in the late 1700s, it was told in first person by a young Spanish woman. I had chosen to do it like a diary (not really sure why) and it was far too limiting to my story.

Second, after doing some more research, I found that the time period would have to be moved from the 1780s to 1739 or I could not incorporate certain facets of the novel. It would have been grossly inaccurate.

Third, and most difficult, the man I had intended to be the bad guy simply wasn’t working. No matter what I did, even in the retooled version, he wouldn’t be villainous. The heroine refused to fall in love with anyone else. Even the good guy couldn’t be relied upon to behave. He became the villain, the villain became the hero, the heroine didn’t succumb to another man’s charms, and they all lived happily ever after. (Except for the villain, because he, of course, was dead.)

It got terribly out of hand. After lots of time and effort reading and re-reading, honing, changing, and fine tuning, it is a really solid piece of literature that I am proud to put my name on. When I started re-writing it, I wouldn’t have given ten cents for it. It was the catalyst that started me writing in earnest and made me realize I had stories inside me to tell. Very few of the others are historical in nature, the rest are sci-fi or contemporary romantic suspense. With that novel I learned something else important. You can’t do too much research if you want to be historically accurate. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’d rather spend my time bleeding profusely from multiple wounds, than tracking down that evasive, all important fact. It took years to finish Indian Summer, because it was so hard to find the information I needed.

Sci-fi is far simpler for me to write. Once I have a believable setting, the rest is easy. Don’t ignore the laws of science, throw in some really good fight scenes, add a few interesting aliens and voila! Creating my own world is far more fun than working within the confines of someone else’s.

Writing is the ultimate escapism. For that short span of time, things work out; the hero and heroine fall in love and live happily ever after. The bad guy gets his just desserts, the good guy wins, and there is always a happy ending.

Despite the thrill of putting words on paper, the hard part is making sure that everything is right. We can live with the small stuff like ending a sentence with a preposition. Frankly, it sounds odd if it’s correct. However, misplaced modifiers, sentence fragments and subject – verb agreement are very important.

One solution is to read and re-read your own work, honing and perfecting it. It’s easy to miss simple errors that way. Sometimes running off a hard copy helps, but it’s still hard to catch it all. Better yet, get people who are gifted in grammar to help you. They might not be able to name the error, but they can spot one and may be able to offer suggestions on how to correct it. If you can afford it, have an editor review it. Few of us can, so it’s up to us to read and re-read our own work until it is smooth and as error free as it can possibly be.

For goodness sake, don’t rely on the grammar check in Word! It’s frequently inaccurate, and will cause far more problems than it solves. I don’t care if it’s the primary word processing program used worldwide, the grammar check is terrible. Spell check, on the other hand, is a Godsend, but won’t help you if you simply type in the wrong word. I once finished typing out a test for my 11th grade class, only to find that I had one very important little word wrong and the spell check hadn’t caught it. Instead of saying, “What is the theme of this story?” I had, “Shat is the theme of this story?” (For those of you who don’t know, that’s the past tense of the verb ‘to shit’. — 11th graders knew that!)

There is no easy way to get through the editing process. It is tedious and time consuming, but if it makes the difference between selling a book and having it gather dust, it’s well worth it.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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The Experiment by Dellani

ABC ChallengeA senior in college, Maggie is struggling with a required freshman psych class. It’s her own fault, she’d been putting it off. If she doesn’t pass, she won’t graduate. When her professor offers here a chance to participate in an experiment, she jumps at the chance. She soon finds she’ll be paired with a man, a complete stranger. They will get “married”, and live together as a couple for the next six weeks. Tonight is their first meeting. Maggie has no idea what to expect.

A man walked in, catching her attention. He was six feet tall, lean built, with broad shoulders. His dark brown hair was cut in a sort of early Beatles style and was tossed around in such a casual way, it probably took ages to fix. He bent forward to talk to the hostess, hands in the pockets of his tan chinos. He wore a darker tan corduroy jacket and a plaid shirt that was buttoned to his adam’s apple. His expression was made difficult to read by the black framed glasses he wore. Give him a pocket protector full of pens, he’d be right out of Revenge of the Nerds.

Maggie stood as he approached the table, holding out her hand. He took it, his palm slightly sweaty, shaking it in a moderately firm grip.

“Jaeger Jeffreys,” he said by way of greeting. He pronounced his name Jay-ger.

“Margay Simmons—but you can call me Maggie.

Jaeger came around to help her with her chair. Unused to such attention, Maggie sat too quickly, flopping awkwardly onto her seat. Fortunately, Jaeger didn’t seem to notice.

“So, Jaeger,” she croaked. Clearing her throat, she took a sip of water. “Do you go by a nickname? Like Jay or Ger?” Realizing she was babbling, Maggie stopped talking and took a deep breath. Another sip gave her an excuse to stay quiet.

Jaeger chuckled. “I sometimes go by Jeff or Jay. Good friends call me J.J. You can call me any of the above, or the full handle. I answer to about anything.”

His voice was a smooth tenor flavored by a slight Southern accent that she thought was from Alabama. Maggie had a good ear for accents and could usually pinpoint where someone was from after a very short time.

“Unusual name, Jaeger.”

“Yep. Mom’s family name. It’s actually my middle name. First name’s awful.” He made a face.

“It can’t be that bad.”

“Trust me. When I know you better, I’ll share.” He took a sip of his water.

The waitress brought their soup, a delicate gazpacho with croutons. Conversation lagged slightly as they ate.

“So, Jaeger, what do you plan to do once you graduate?”

He put down his spoon and folded his hands under his chin. “First of all, my future wife can call me Jay—please. Secondly, I’m going into the family business. Dad’s an accountant, his dad was, and his dad. Going back to the War Between the States, when my many greats granddaddy was pay master for General Lee.”

“The Civil War, you mean?”

Jay shushed her playfully. “Lord, chile, don’t ever let my granny here you say that! She will shoot you for a Yankee! She calls it The Recent Unpleasantness.” He laid a thick layer of Southern on his statement.

“Yankee! I think I might be offended by that.”

Jaeger laughed, slapping his thigh. “I say all that and you catch onto Yankee? Lordy. Where you from, Maggie?”

“I was born in Tennessee, but raised in Florida. I’m as Southern as you are.”

He held up a finger, wiggling it at her. “I do beg to differ. I was born in the Appalachian Mountains, in a cabin in the Chattahoochee National Forest. I was raised in Georgia, North Carolina and Alabama. My folks were from Citronelle, Alabama—population just around thirty-six hundred. They now live in Biloxi, Mississippi. My granddaddy’s family was one of the first families to settle there in 1811. I have a family tree with so many branches, I don’t know all my first cousins and only a handful of the seconds. So, I promise you, to my granny, a girl raised in Florida—she’s a Yankee.”

Maggie bridled, sitting up straighter in her chair. It took her a moment to realize that he was teasing her. She saw an amused glitter in his eyes. She hadn’t noticed it before because of the glasses, but they were a dark sage green.

“Smart ass,” she muttered.

Jaeger winked. “Been called worse.”

Their entrees arrived. Maggie had opted for the coriander pork chop with a sweet potato and cooked apples. Jaeger had a steak, fries and grilled pineapple.

“I’m glad to see you’re not a vegan,” he said as he cut into his steak. “I dated a girl for awhile, only to find out she didn’t eat meat. Considering she didn’t share that fact with me when I invited her to dinner at the steak house, it was somewhat….”

“Humiliating?”

He winked, pointing his fork at her. “Bingo. I enjoyed my meal and she took a cab home.”

“Bummer.”

“Yeah, it was our third date too. Subject couldn’t come up before that?”

“You’d think so. What’s significant about the third date?”

Jaeger stopped eating, glancing up at her over his glasses. His fork and knife were poised to cut and framed his face in glittering steel.

“Um—the third date. After the third date…..” He tilted his head from side to side indicating she should fill in the blanks.

“Oh, my God! I’m dumb. I don’t—date—a lot. Like—ever?” Embarrassed, she attacked her pork chop with renewed vigor.

Jaeger’s laugh made her ears burn. She glared at him.

“I’m sorry. Just, it’s kind of refreshing to find someone who’s not jaded. You don’t know how rare that is, Maggie.”

“I suppose that could be a compliment. At least you didn’t call me naïve.”

“Now why would I do that? Being naïve isn’t a bad thing, but it implies being cut off from reality and not familiar with the bad things in life. You’re not sitting in some ivory tower, you’re out here with the rest of us, but you haven’t let the association with the bad things tarnish you.”

Maggie stared at him in silence, a bite of pork in her mouth. She had no idea how to reply to that. He’d summed up her life entirely in a few sentences. Not only that, he made her sound strong, positive and self-possessed. Everyone else treated her like a silly little child. She smiled.

“Thank you. I believe that’s the nicest thing anyone’s said to me in a long time.”

“Then you don’t hang out with the right people.” He concentrated on his food.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Death Comes to Call by Dellani

ABC ChallengeDeath Comes to Call is my venture into the world of ghostly paranormal. I’ve avoided ghost stories and horror, because I tend to scare myself, but I felt the lure and finally heeded the beckoning call of the antebellum mansion, Belle Chase, in the heart of Miracle, Mississippi – where strange things happen, and ghosts have been known to walk the night.

Lyle is the son of Cymbeline Davis-Hargrove. His mother is decidedly a lady of the Old South. He and his siblings, and their children, have returned to Belle Chase for the yearly pilgrimage, when strange things start to happen.

Lyle’s dreams were chaotic, full of explosions, guns firing, and death. He felt as if he were running around in a first person shooter game, but nothing touched him. Though he heard the noises of a battlefield, it was an illusion. Real or not, it was highly disturbing. He woke with a start, clutching at his arm. It felt as if someone had touched him and he could have sworn someone called his name.

Sitting up, he put his hand on his shoulder, where the sensation of touch lingered. The room was cold once more and he fancied he could see his breath. Annabelle slept soundly, curled on her side. Unable to still his pounding heart, Lyle got up and went to the bathroom. On his way back to bed, he happened to glance out the window. This room wasn’t quite as close to the fenced in area of the dig, but he still had an unimpeded view of the back yard. He fancied he could see a figure moving around down there. It strolled slowly from one end of the enclosure to the other, pacing as if looking for a way out. Ponderous, slow, it turned and walked along the fence. It was then that Lyle sensed it wasn’t that it was looking for a way out, this moved like a soldier on patrol.

Shuddering with a sudden chill, he backed away from the window, only to encounter an unexplained cold spot. The temperature difference was uncanny and unmistakable. Fingers of fear crept up his spine and he couldn’t move or even call out to his sleeping wife. He felt as if something clutched his throat, tightening slowly. Heart pounding, he could feel the veins in his face swell as if he were being strangled.

Stop!” he whispered huskily. “Whatever—whoever you are. Stop! We can help you rest!”

The tension grew tighter. With a final gasp, he pushed himself forward, out of the cold spot and started babbling the St. Michael’s prayer. He’d read somewhere that when having a conflict with an evil spirit, this was a person’s first defense. “St. Michael, the Archangel, defend us in battle….” The cold gradually eased, but didn’t go away.

Rushing to the bed, he crawled in with his wife, putting his back to hears. He could feel her comforting warmth in the bed, though he still shivered with the unexplained cold. The room gradually warmed, but now he heard noises—like ghostly whispers.

Don’t be stupid,” he muttered. “No such thing….” But he knew he didn’t believe what he’d almost said. He knew there were ghosts, having seen them before. He knew the property was said to be haunted, and he’d believed it his entire life. Though he didn’t talk about it, not since he’d mentioned it as a child, and gotten a tail warming from his grandfather that he wouldn’t ever forget.

We don’t speak of ghosts here at Belle Chase,” his grandfather scolded. “There’s no such thing.”

Yes, Granddaddy.”

But you lied, you sorry bastard,” he said softly. “There are ghosts and something has them stirred up.”

His bedroom door burst open, waking Annabelle and startling Lyle. Chad stood there, eyes wide, sobbing.

Daddy, come quick! Something’s wrong with Polly! Hurry!”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Conduct Unbecoming by Dellani

ABC ChallengeConduct Unbecoming is the second Teague McMurtry Mystery. A year has passed since the frightening events of The Ninja Tattoo. Teague gets a call from an old girlfriend, Aileen. She asks him to look for their friend, Nadeya, who has disappeared. Teague begins his search with the help of his friend, Jasper Waters. By strange twist of fate, Jasper finds Nadeya first.

As he approached the door, he prayed for inspiration. It was going to take some fast talking for Nadeya not to freak out and kill him. He raised his hand to knock. Rethinking his position, he moved so he wasn’t standing directly in front of the door, but slightly to the side so the thick, log wall protected him. He tapped lightly and waited for a response. The curtain over the tiny window moved aside imperceptibly. Only someone trained to be observant would have seen it.

Jasper faced the window and smiled. “I’m Jasper Waters,” he said quietly. “I’m a friend of Teague’s. You hid on my boat.”

The door opened a crack and one dark, wary eye peered at him. “I remember you. What?”

“May I come in? The skeeters are pretty nasty and they’re feasting on me.”

Nadeya took a step back, leaving barely enough room for Jasper to squeeze through. She shut the door with her foot and slammed him against the wall, one hand pulled up at an uncomfortable angle behind him. She did a thorough frisking of him, leaving no areas untouched, before letting him go. She stepped out of easy reach, eyeing him with a neutral expression.

“I just want to talk,” Jasper said, holding his hands slightly from his sides.

“You’re a cop. Why should I talk to you?”

“Because I don’t think you killed that man on the beach. We’re both friends of Teague’s, maybe we could build on that.”

“Teague has lots of friends. . . .”

“No, Teague knows every damn body, but there are only a few of us he calls friends. You’re one of them—He told me what happened to your fiancé.”

She tightened up. Jasper took a step back, raising his hands.

“Would he share that with just anyone?”

Nadeya’s lower lip trembled slightly and she blinked hard. Jasper caught the hint of a tear in her eyes.

“He wouldn’t unless he knew I would help. You think I drop what I’m doing and run everyone out to a crime scene just cause I’m nice? Teague and I trust each other and I’d like to extend that courtesy to you, if you’ll let me.”

She stared at him several minutes, sizing him up. She gestured to one of the two chairs near the window. “Want some water or instant coffee? It’s all I’ve got.”

“Water would be good, thanks.” Jasper sat.

Nadeya got two bottles of water out of the mini-fridge and tossed him one. Jasper caught it with a grin. His left hand gripped it as he twisted it open.

“Nicely done. Now you know I’m a lefty.”

Nadeya smirked. “And you’re not armed. I could have taken your head off.”

“Yup, but I trusted you wouldn’t. And I thank you for that.”

She nodded as she opened her own bottle. “So, you’re here, talk.”

Jasper told her what he and Teague had figured out about the man on the beach. He even told her about C.L.A.D.

“What do you know about that?” Nadeya leaned closer, whispering.

“Bits and pieces, nothing concrete. What do you know?”

Nadeya looked furtive. “I shouldn’t tell you. We could get in a lot of trouble.”

Jasper held his hands out, palms up. “Who am I gonna tell? Except maybe Teague. Look, the more we know about this, the better. What do you say?”

She looked away, biting her lip. “I don’t know much more than you do. They intended it as a new interrogation technique. It’s supposed to be a way to reprogram people’s minds.”

“Like brain washing?”

“Kind of. More sophisticated, but still a way to break them. I know that someone else got ahold of it though. They were using it on us!” Anger flared in her eyes.

“Us—as in you personally?”

“No. But some of our soldiers. There was a captain I heard of, they tried to kill him off in a raid, but he took out everyone who attacked his convoy. They stole his memories and gave him a fucking medal.”

“Shit! How do you know about that?”

“The subject came up as they tortured my fiancé,” she mumbled.

“Oh, Nadeya, I’m sorry.”

“I know that. Next to Teague, you’re the only man I trust.”

Jasper exhaled sharply. “That’s quite a compliment. Thank you. I know you can’t possibly feel safe here. Would you like to come to my house?”

Her eyes grew hard. Jasper pressed his lips together, shaking his head.

“I’ve got a hell of a security system. Even you would have trouble sneaking through. I’ve got a couple acres around my place so I can see trouble coming and I’m armed better than Fort Knox. I’ve got a guest room with your name on it.”

Nadeya relaxed. “And leave this luxury accommodation?”

“I’ve got more to drink than water and instant coffee. I’ll even throw in breakfast.”

Nadeya’s smile was shaky. Taking a deep breath, she tried to smile again. Tears welled before she could stop them. She didn’t trust her voice, so she nodded.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Black Leather and Biker Babes – from One Night in Daytona Beach by Dellani

ABC ChallengeLong, dangerous legs, an ass that wouldn’t quit, lush curves clad in skimpy black leather, flaming red hair wafted on the breeze while the rumble of a thousand Harleys filled the air. He couldn’t draw his eyes from the gorgeous redhead, whose hair reminded him of the flames on the side of his bike. Heavy metal music thrummed from gigantic speakers, banging and echoing from the sides of the nearby condos. Cameras snapped, his included, as she draped herself over the motorcycles being raffled off for charity. The line to register wound around the parking lot.

“I’d like to rev her engine,” one man said as he stuffed his tickets into his wallet.

“Full throttle,” the man next to him laughed loudly at their joke.

Every man there was thinking the same thing, which was the entire point of having a sexy, long legged woman straddling the chrome studded leather seat. Leaning on the handle bars, she rocked back, her chest to the sky as she arched her spine. With a quick swing of her legs, she did a shoulder stand on the seat, then lowered her feet with agonizing slowness so that the toes of her high heeled boots pointed directly at the patch of stretched black leather between her thighs.

Draven nearly dropped his phone. The man next to him let his cup of beer slide from his numb fingers. Every man in the line eyed her with fascination. Though disgusted with the behavior of the men, the women couldn’t help but stare too. They were amazed that anyone could do such antics on a motorcycle. The music continued to thrum and pound at them as they watched her routine. In a fleeting moment of coherence, Draven recognized it as Killing Strangers by Marilyn Manson. She was certainly slaying every man in the place with her sexy routine.

“Hey, buddy, your turn!” the man at the cash register called, snapping his fingers.

Draven stumbled forward, his legs having lost the ability to move without conscious thought. He fumbled with his wallet and phone, trying to slide one out and the other into the pockets of suddenly too-tight jeans.

“How many?” the man asked, all business.

“Um, how much are they?”

“Hundred a piece.”

“You take plastic?”

“Everything but American Express.”

“I’ll take five.”

“You got it.” He filled out Draven’s details, rang up the cost and scanned his plastic.

“Does the girl come with it?” the man behind Draven asked. He was old and fat, not the kind of man a girl like her would even look at once. His words might have been said in jest, but coming from his slobby, heavy jowled mouth, it was seriously pervy. The men behind the table and near him in line, gaped at him, horrified.

“That young lady is my daughter,” the man who handled Draven’s transaction growled. “So you watch what you say.”

“How’s a man let his daughter act like a hoor in public,” the fat man yelled, slamming a meaty fist down on the table.

Startled by the noise, the girl lost her balance as she rolled out of the shoulder stand. Toppling, she fell. Draven leaped toward her, covering the ten feet to the cycles, in a superhuman rush. He steadied her, helping her sit up slowly. Getting a good look at her face, he felt a spark of recognition.

“Jamie Humphrey?” He touched her cheek, brushing her hair from the corner of her full, red lips.

“Draven Wick? Oh, my God! Is it really you?” She clung to him, hugging him tightly. “How many years has it been? Ten?”

“About that. God, you look fantastic!”

Clasping his face, she gazed into his golden hazel eyes. “Thank you for catching me.”

“You’re welcome. Are you okay?”

“I’m fine. Thanks.”

Others had gathered around, watching the scene unfold. When it became apparent that the woman wasn’t hurt, the men at the desk went back to selling tickets.

“That’s not really your dad,” Draven murmured.

“Of course not. He just says that so that men will leave me alone.”

“How about fair time for the women?” a heavyset woman called from the line. “Let’s see the hunk take his shirt off!” she whooped.

Women all over the parking lot cheered and whistled. Draven cast a saucy look at Jamie. The music had changed once more, pounding out Closer by Nine Inch Nails—the unedited version, he noted with a grin. Grabbing the bottom of his shirt, he raised it with agonizing slowness as his hips gyrated to the sexy music. Jamie played it up, running her hands under the shirt, rubbing his abs and tugging on the cloth with her teeth.

More cameras snapped and the women yelled loudly, screaming at him to take it all off. As he did a lecherous bump and grind, Draven strutted around the bike. Between the two cycles, he twirled his shirt, straddling it. Riding it like a hot woman, he continued to dance. Jamie hopped up, standing behind him, she ran her hands up and down his tight abs and hard thighs. Spinning to face her, Draven roped Jamie with his shirt, pulling her close to dirty dance with him. The song ended and he spun her under his arm, dropping her into a low dip, her back arched, breasts high. Red hair tickled the pavement as he raised her with one arm. Faces mere inches apart, they tried to catch their breath. It took some time before they realized that the line was now three times what it had been. Women ringed around them, waving money at Draven.

“You grew up nice, Wick,” Jamie said, taking a step back. Her hand drifted down his chest to the top of his jeans. Eyes wide with delight, she dangled her fingers by his zipper. With tantalizing deliberateness, she touched the fabric that strained across his throbbing member.

“You keep that up, I can’t be responsible,” he whispered.

“You keep that up, I can’t be either,” she replied.

“I really wanna kiss you, Jamie.”

“On the bike,” she suggested. “I get paid a percentage of what they bring in.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Are You Still Writing Your Book? by Dellani

ABC ChallengeI’m starting the ABC Challenge today and I will continue until I run out. Some posts will be articles, others will be quotes from books. Who knows where this will take me? I think this is going to be a lot of fun. Look for it the next 26 Fridays….

There are a variety of ways to answer this. Some of them are actually polite. I have to remind myself that most people don’t know what is necessary to write a book. They have no concept of how long it takes, but have some nebulous feeling that it should take a while. For some books, this is true. For others, not to much.

Non-writers (and some authors) have no idea that I work on anywhere from two to ten novels at once, bouncing back and forth like a March Hare on speed—400 words here, 1,000 there, until a book is complete. If the mood strikes and the muse cooperates, I can finish a book in as little as four days. Yes, I have done it—twice!

While it’s lovely that they remember that I write, it’s hard to explain that I have no idea what book I was working on the last time I spoke to them, especially if it’s been a few weeks.

I try to be polite and say, “What was I working on when we last spoke?” If they remember, I can tell them the progress I’ve made. Other times, I don’t bother, I just say, “Yes.” Then there are the times I feel like being snarky (usually depends on the person asking me) and I come up with a variety of snotty comments.

Are you still writing your book?”

No, I gave that up for Lent.”

Are you still writing your book?”

I was, but I was attacked by pirates and they stole it.”

Are you still writing your book?”

Yes.”

I suppose that the last isn’t so much snarky as it is definitive. Whatever book I’m working on, I’m still writing it. (Unless I just finished it, they I will say so.)

Not even my family knows how many books I’ve written. I used to try to talk over plots with my husband. He, kindly, asked more than once, “What are you working on?” He quit doing that after I gave him a twenty minute discourse on the plot of some book he had no idea I was even working on. It was complicated and his poor, tired brain couldn’t handle my high speed dissertation. Poor darling.

He does laugh when I tell him I have a new idea for a book. He’s even asked me, “How many is it this time?” Laughter increases when he hears the staggering number has increased by one.

I am proud to day that I managed to reduce the number last year and I am still two behind on the unfinished vs. finished. I had set myself a goal in 2015 of finishing a book a month. So far, I haven’t done that. Instead, I started three new ones. I attribute that to being somewhat tired of my other books. I needed greener pastures. However, the goal of finishing a book a month is still in my mind. We’ll see!

In the meantime, I’ll stop babbling on about this and let you go about your day in peace. Please come back next Friday for Letter B.

© 2017 Dellani Oakes

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Pantera at Panera

dellani photo dark redLooks like I forgot to post a Teacup for today. I apologize. In my defense, I’m combating seasonal allergies, and have had a fever and migraine on and off for weeks. In hopes you will forgive me, I offer you Pantera at Panera – a short piece I wrote several years ago.

A few years ago I was standing in a long, slow moving line at the Panera Bread Company. Ahead of me was a very tall, thin man in his twenties. Quite good looking and broad shouldered, he was wearing a black leather jacket. Across his broad expanse of shoulder, stitched in pale yellow letters was the word Pantera. However, because there was a white skull behind the T, it looked like it said Panera.

The older lady beside me was staring at the jacket with a puzzled expression. She leaned over to her husband, speaking in what she probably considered a confidential tone. “Why do you suppose he’s standing in line if he’s wearing a Panera jacket? Surely if he works here, he doesn’t have to stand in line.”

I couldn’t let the poor old girl suffer under that misconception, could I? No. I had to set it right.

I turned around, smiling pleasantly at her. (So I was eavesdropping, so what!)

“It doesn’t say Panera,” I explained patiently. “It says Pantera. There’s a T in the middle, see?”

They both squinted at the jacket as we took a couple small steps forward.

“Oh,” she said with a grin. “So it does! Well, what’s that? I’ve never heard of that. Have you heard of that?” She asked her husband.

“It’s a band,” I explained, feeling like I was conversing with Miss Emily Lotilla.

“Oh, what kind of music do they play?”

“Heavy metal.”

“Heavy what?”

“Metal. Very hard rock, loud, lots of screaming.”

“Well, fancy you knowing something like that,” she looked very impressed.

“I have teenagers,” I told her with a smile.

I didn’t tell the old girl I had a Pantera CD in my car, and I’d been listening to Cowboys from Hell at top volume, when I arrived.. I probably would have given her an aneurysm.

© 2017 Dellani Oakes

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