Alphabet Challenge Too – Letter I from Indian Summer by Dellani

ABC ChallengeIndian Summer is my first historical novel, as well as the first novel I published. Set in St. Augustine, Florida, in 1739, Indian Summer is full of intrigue, spies and romance. Gabriella Deza is the daughter of the Spanish Territorial Governor. One night, she overhears a British spy talking to his compatriot. Her father and fiance, Manuel Enriques, pursue the man, finally discovering his plans. Unwittingly, Gabriella sets herself up for grave danger, when she follows Manuel one night.

There was a nagging feeling of dread rising in my mind. I felt hot then cold all over as if I were taking sick again. I had the feeling that Manuel needed me, something was horribly, terribly wrong. I couldn’t suppress it, for it seared my soul. My dreams nagged my thoughts, causing shivers of dread down my spine.

Without saying a word to anyone, I wended my way as quickly and quietly to the door as I could. It was hardly more than three minutes after Manuel left, and yet he was nowhere in sight. He must have taken his buggy. Having no such vehicle available to me, I ran to the fortress with as much speed as I could muster. I was grateful to Grand-mère for the dress as it provided more mobility than any of my other outfits would have.

The hair rose on my arms as if I were cold, my breath came in shuddering gasps and yet I ran until I thought my lungs would burst. It was then I saw it, a flicker, a flame and suddenly the entire southeast bastion of the fort seemed to be on fire!

Silhouetted against it, I saw a man. My dream came rushing back of an instant and I knew it to be James the spy! I couldn’t contain my anger. It drove me onward, compelling me to be hasty, chiding my slowness. Anger burned within me, hot and fierce as the signal fire before me, filling me with a fury driving away my fear.

I finally reached the gate, passing the ladies and the buggy without fully noticing. I saw no sign of Manuel, James or anyone else. In fact, the postern gate was open and unguarded, just as in my dream! I stifled the shriek I felt rising in my throat. Fear gripped me, cold unreasoning fear. Dread of ghosts of dead soldiers floated through my mind, making me shiver again.

For the first time in my life, I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t think or make any decision. I stood there stupidly, gaping at the sight in front of me, riveted to the spot. That was my undoing. Stealthily out of the shadows, James was upon me. He grabbed me in his strong arms, holding me to him, using me as a shield, a gun pointed at my head!

An involuntary scream ripped from my throat! James chided me, goaded me on, pulling my hair, waving the gun before me!

“Go ahead and scream, lass. Scream for all you’re worth! It will bring him to me. I’ve waited, plotted, planned for this moment. Before the sun rises, he’ll be dead and you, my lass, you will be mine!”

He planted a rough, brutal kiss on my cheek, nipping my ear, causing me to scream again. I writhed away from him, but he held me fast. He shifted his hold upon me, crushing me against his pelvis. I could feel the lust in him. It disgusted and terrified me. He seemed to feed off my fear, growing more bold.

“That’s it, that’s it! He’ll be here any minute that upstart Spanish bastard!”

He was turning around from side to side, holding me in front of him, pulling my hair to keep me on my feet, for I was near to fainting. A shadow moved stealthily toward us. I hoped James had not seen. Perhaps I only hoped so much that it was Manuel, I imagined it. But no, I heard a pistol being cocked and knew James heard it to. From our left, Manuel emerged quietly from the shadows, pistol in hand.

The light from the signal fire threw wavering shadows and highlights over his face, making him look demonic, his handsome face contorted into an unyielding mask of cold rage and hatred. His hand was steady, pointing the gun at James, who tried in vain to keep me in front of him. Manuel lifted his chin standing still.

“Let her go, James, or I shall drop you where you stand.”

“If you shoot me, she’s dead.” He put the gun up against my head.

“Don’t be so sure of that, Doctor.”

I could hear panic rising in James’ voice. His breath coming in fast gulps, hot on my neck. “Drop your gun. I’ll let her go if you drop your gun!”

“Do you take me for a complete fool? You drop your gun and I’ll give you a head start to the gate to run like the cowardly cur you are. Stand away from her now.”

James’ hand holding the weapon was beginning to falter. I summoned all my resolve and slammed my elbow into his ribs, stamped on his foot and hit him in his private parts as hard as I could with both my fists together.

He gasped for breath, falling to the ground, dropping his gun. Manuel kept him covered while I jumped out of reach. All I could think of was getting away, returning to the safety of my home, of Manuel’s arms. I was in a panic, terrified! Then I saw the man behind Manuel, musket raised like a club, the sailor who had met James.

Manuel couldn’t get a shot off in time, but caught the blow of the musket with his pistol stock, forcing the man away from him. They grappled for what seemed hours, but was only a few seconds. Unfortunately, neither of us watched James. He lunged for his pistol, grabbing it before I could warn Manuel. I could do nothing to stop him. I was too far away. I tried to scream, to alert Manuel in some way, but the sound caught in my throat.

Manuel and the sailor turned just as James raised his gun to shoot. James’ shot caught the other man in the back, the bullet slamming through him as if he were jelly. The echo in the stone courtyard was deafening. Then they fell!

Manuel! Dear God, he’s been shot!” I screamed to no one.

The other fellow was dead, but Manuel was still moving. I ran to be by his side, but James grabbed my hair again and dragged me away! The last I saw, Manuel was lying in a pool of blood, his life draining from him and I could do nothing!

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Alphabet Challenge Too – Letter H from Honeymoon by Dellani

ABC ChallengeHoneymoon is a Florida Families novel starring the lovable, handsome and sexy Jasper Waters. He met, and fell for, Nadeya Raymund (Conduct Unbecoming). Thinking he’d be a bachelor for life, no one is more surprised than he, when he marries Nadeya. They spend their honeymoon in St. Augustine, Florida. Unfortunately, like their courtship, their honeymoon is somewhat fraught. While on a ghost tour of the city, something goes horribly wrong.

Jasper had to admit to himself that it was kind of creepy. Not his favorite spot during the day, this ancient burial ground was decidedly weird at night. Was it haunted? He didn’t know and didn’t really care. It gave him pause. Donovan didn’t seem any happier with it, nor did Robert. Nadeya strode in like she owned the place, completely unfazed. Jasper rushed to catch up, taking her hand.

She glanced at him, smirking. “Giving you the creeps?”

He didn’t answer, merely squeezed her fingers.

“Big, ol’ Marine scared of the dark?” she giggled softly. “I’ve been scarier places than this,” she said softly.

A sound caught Jasper’s notice. It wasn’t made by a member of their party. He’d accounted for everyone. It was off to his left, deeper in the cemetery, a click of pebbles on headstones. At least that’s how his mind decoded it. It could have been a slide racking. Nadeya listened to the guide, wandering absently after him. Donovan followed her, but Jasper hesitated, listening for a repeat of the sound.

“Problem?” Robert said from behind him.

“No. Thought I—heard…. Nothing.” Making another visual sweep, he trotted along the path to catch up with his wife. He planted a quick kiss on her cheek and slowed to a walk.

“You okay? If this is bothering you….” she said quietly.

“No. Fine. Hearing things.” Even more alert, he did another sweep.

This time, a flash of light behind and to their left caught his eye. It wasn’t his imagination, something was there. The flash repeated twice. Tugging Donovan’s sleeve, he pointed as unobtrusively as possible. Donovan nodded and dropped back while Jasper walked with his wife. Robert wandered around, not really staying in the same spot for long. At times he was very near them, others, he was further away.

Chips of stone whizzed in the air, stinging Jasper’s hand. Without thinking, he pushed his wife down, reaching for his own weapon. Scanning the direction the shot came from, he saw a flash of movement. Unsure of his target, he rose, running toward it. Donovan flanked him, but Robert was nowhere to be seen.

“You see anything?”

“No. Dammit!” Jasper holstered his weapon and wished for a radio.

Chaos erupted behind them, and he turned back to the crowd. “Where’s Nay?” Racing toward the group, he stopped where he’d left his wife. “Where’s my wife?” he demanded of the terrified guides. “She was right here!”

Robert and Nadeya were nowhere to be seen. Her purse lay a few feet away, kicked and trampled. Her phone and weapon were missing. Cursing angrily, Jasper was furious with himself for losing her.

“Are there cameras around here?” he asked Riffraff. “Security, anything?”

“I don’t know! I don’t know. Jesus!”

“There’s a security camera at the gate,” Magenta said, trying to calm down. “Let’s see if anyone got pictures.” Clapping her hands, she got everyone’s attention. “We need cameras, especially videos,” she commanded. “This gentleman says his wife is missing.”

Sirens approached at the St. Augustine police arrived. Jasper didn’t know who had called them, but he buttonholed the first officer on scene, showing his badge. He gave a quick and detailed report.

“My wife is missing. A friend and I addressed the situation, leaving her in the care of the tour group. She’s missing, as is a man who was walking with us.”

“What’re you telling me, Officer Waters?”

“I have reason to believe my wife’s been kidnapped.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Alphabet Challenge Too – Letter G from Game Junkies by Dellani

ABC ChallengeYoung and hard working, Colby Thatcher likes to play video games with his friends. He’s hung around the same group, since middle school. Now in their twenties, they are still good friends. The following is from the first couple of pages of the book.

The line at Game Junkies extended out the door and down the mall corridor. Colby Thatcher stopped in his tracks, blue eyes wide behind round, wire-frame glasses. He’d never seen such a mass of humanity unless it was a new game release. He stared a full minute before he realized someone was waving at him. Three of his friends stood in the line. Two were grinning widely, smart phones clutched in their hands.

“Wait until you see!” Stan Fitz said, hopping excitedly in place.

Stan was nearly seven feet tall. His lean, gangling frame moved oddly, like he was a marionette guided by a puppet master on crack. He giggled, waving his phone under Colby’s nose.

Gavin Carter eyed their friend with forbearance, but his dark brown eyes twinkled.

The only one who didn’t show enthusiasm was Avery. Dressed in skinny jeans, sporting a lip ring, nose ring and multiple earrings, she hunched over with her hands in her pockets. Her blue streaked red hair escaped from under her Rasta striped beanie. She looked bored and somewhat disgusted.

“If I didn’t have to be here, I wouldn’t,” she snarled before Colby could speak. “But I have to get game time. They’re doing buy one get one, because of the upcoming game launch.” She elbowed Stan who had hopped on her foot. “These two are impossible.”

“We saw her first,” Stan said. “Then all these others showed up.” He frowned, jerking a thumb at the line.

“Maybe if you hadn’t sent a massive text to everyone on your phone, it wouldn’t have happened,” Avery growled. “It’s your own damn fault. Get off me!”

She elbowed Stan again. Given the difference in their heights, the sharp jab got him in the nuts. Gasping from pain and surprise, he backed off. Avery smirked, satisfied that she had disciplined him appropriately.

“Nicely played,” Gavin said with a smirk of his own. He and Avery exchanged a knuckle bump.

“What’s going on?” Colby appealed to Avery.

Tossing her head, setting her hoops rattling, Avery glared up at him. She was tiny, maybe five feet tall if she stood up straight. Her slender frame and small breasts, in combination with her baggy shirts and bulky jackets, often got her mistaken for an adolescent boy.

“You really don’t know?”

“You live in a cave?” Gavin asked him. “We sent you the text.”

“Phone’s dead,” Colby said. “It got sent through the wash again. I’m waiting for a replacement.”

Avery grabbed the sleeve of his hoodie, pulling him toward her. She opened a text message with her thumb, holding it in front of his face. The screen was inches from his nose, so he squinted at it, blinking rapidly. Eventually, a fuzzy image appeared. The first detail he took in was a mass of curly, blonde hair. Next, a tight yellow T-shirt spread lovingly over the most luscious breasts he’d ever imagined. That held his attention nearly 30 seconds.

Avery waved the phone in front of him and he took in the rest of the image. A beautiful young woman stood at the counter of the Game Junkies store, her blonde hair loose around her shoulders. Her T-shirt fit her curvaceous form like it had been painted on. Her chest swelled beneath it and her body tapered to a slender waist, flaring to voluptuous hips. Colby grabbed the phone from Avery, taking in further details as he stared. The phone left his eager fingers as Avery snatched it from him, tapping him on the forehead.

“Men! God, you’re so disgusting!” She eyed Colby’s zipper, sneering. “You too, I see.”

“Me too, what?”

Avery pointed indelicately to the fact he had an erection. Apparently, so did his friends, though he hadn’t noticed.

“Sorry, Ave. We’re guys.” Shrugging, Colby ran his fingers through his spiky, black hair. “So, who is she?”

“Who cares?” Gavin said. “She’s hot!”

“She’s average,” Avery corrected. “Though the tits are impressive.” Her eyes traveled to her own less than impressive chest and she sighed heavily.

Colby could see disappointment in every line of her tiny frame. Though she’d never admit it, she longed to be the hot girl that men lined up to see. An unexpected lump rose in his throat as his gaze shifted from the phone to her face. Swallowing hard, he forced a smile.

“It’s cool, Ave. She’s probably dumb as a brick.”

Her smile faltered and her lips twitched downward. “I need game time,” she whispered. “Or….”

Colby reached out to her, but she jerked away and ran down the corridor toward the women’s restroom. Colby took a few faltering steps after her. Gavin grabbed his hood, tugging him back.

“Can’t follow her in there,” he reminded his friend. “She’d beat you blind.”

“You had to make a big fuss,” Colby reprimanded Stan.

“She’s hot!” Stan exclaimed, gesturing toward the store. “I want to see her naked and have her babies.” He continued extolling the mystery woman’s virtues, loudly.

“Shut up!” Gavin tugged Stan’s shirt front until the tall man was bent almost double to be at eye level with his shorter friend. “You upset Avery. When she gets back, you’re going to apologize.”

“What? Why?”

“Because you’re an ignorant, ungrateful, inconsiderate prick,” Gavin said in a matter-of-fact tone. “And because she’s our friend, and you made her feel bad.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Alphabet Challenge Too – Letter F from Feels Like Rain by Dellani

ABC ChallengeGrant Thibodaux is a police detective in New Orleans. Due to be married in just a little over a week, his world is shattered when his fiancee is kidnapped, and turns up dead. To his horror, Grant is suspected of her murder. Not knowing where to turn, he goes on the run and ends up in a derelict cabin in the woods.

“We ain’t ever gonna make that bridge tonight, across the Pontchartrain. And it feels like rain….”* the haunting, sultry strains of the song wafted out of the battery operated radio, filling the room with sound. He sat at the battered table on an equally tattered chair, tipping bourbon into his chipped glass. Tossing it back, he wiped his hand across his lips and sighed. Leaning back in his chair, he looked around, slowly. He’d already counted the holes in the wall—twenty-seven. The splinters in the table top—thirty-two. He thought he might start on the chips in the linoleum tile next. There looked to be a nearly endless number of those. The bottom of his glass beckoned, daring him to cover it again. Deciding that was more interesting than how many nails held the door together, he poured another measure, tossing it back, too.

It was a bad day, at the end of a bad week, and a worse month. Nothing had gone right for at least seventy-two hours. Past that, he wasn’t sure. Everything else was a blur. In fact, he wasn’t too sure of the last week, either. Had he been of a mind to care, he might have expended the effort, but he couldn’t be bothered. More bourbon trickled down his throat, warming his stomach. Another song wound around him, Kaelo’s version of Bang Bang—a personal favorite. The singer’s voice growled out the lyrics as Grant Thibodaux drowned himself in drink.

His phone rang. Somewhat surprised, Grant ignored it, sending it to voice mail. It rang again, and again. Finally fed up, he turned it off. His impulse was to hurl it across the room, but common sense won that battle. He was out here, in the middle of nowhere, in an abandoned cabin, with a bottle of bourbon and his self-loathing to keep him company.

“Wasn’t supposed to go down this way,” he muttered, dribbling the last of the bourbon into the glass.

He couldn’t have explained to anyone, including himself, how it was supposed to go. He knew in his heart, it couldn’t have gone down anything but hard. How hard, he hadn’t anticipated. Now, his partner was dead. His lover was dead. And he felt dead inside. He wanted to blame himself, but it hadn’t been entirely his fault, not even mostly. Turkle—he’d blame him for a little while. Then he’d blame Elise. And if he stayed conscious long enough, he’d get around to hating himself a little more.

Oblivion beckoned and he gave in. There was no bed, too much litter on the floor, so his head drooped to his arms and he slept. The sounds of the night cuddled him; the lake lapping on the shore, crickets chirping, the occasional hoot of an owl or the bark of a fox. It created a peaceful background to the noise of his dreams. Disjointed scenes raced across his mind’s eye, making him shiver and shake. He jerked awake, the crash in his dream echoed in real life.

The pale blueish rays of his Coleman, set on low, barely reached the far wall of the cabin. Groggy from drink and lack of sleep, he listened. The thudding repeated. That wasn’t a normal sound and it came from fairly nearby. It wasn’t an animal sound, either. It sounded like the thump of an ax against a large, thick tree. Who the hell would be cutting a tree in the middle of the night here in BFE?

Grant had one other thing to keep him company—his handgun. The HK 45 felt good in his palm as his thumb flicked the safety. Moving slowly, he wandered over to the window. The glass was shattered and a few sharp pieces were left in the frame. These, he avoided, glancing out into the night. His eyes, used to the meager light of the lantern, couldn’t pick out details. He thought about turning it off, but that might alert his company. His sharp ears didn’t pick up a repeat of the sound. He wondered if the ax wielding mystery man was going to suddenly surprise him by bursting through, what was left of, the door.

A furtive scurrying alerted him to movement on the dilapidated front porch. Still unable to see anything, he ducked and made himself as small as possible. Considering his height, it was a nearly impossible task, but he tried. Elise would giggle if she could see him—would have—he reminded himself. She couldn’t see anything anymore. Her sightless eyes had held accusation, or maybe that was simply his take on it. He knew he felt guilty for her death. Turkle—he’d blame him. Easier to blame a dead man than take that himself. He’d carry the guilt the rest of his life, however long that might be.

Nothing moved outside. Nearly convinced he’d imagined it, he tried to relax, until a board creaked in the bedroom behind him. He knew that board was in the middle of the room. He’d stepped on it so often himself, he recognized its pitch and cadence—going from a low groan to a high pitched shriek.

“Come out,” he growled, placing himself where he had a good vantage point. “I know you’re in there.”

The floor squeaked again and he trained his weapon on the door, his back to the corner. A dilapidated hutch provided a modicum of protection. The door drifted slowly open, Grant’s weapon didn’t falter, his hands steady.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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*Lyrics from It Feels Like Rain, written by John Hiatt

Alphabet Challenge Too – Letter E from The Experiment by Dellani

ABC ChallengeMargay Simmons is in danger of failing her psychology class. As a senior, theatre major, she can’t afford to fail the class, and get held up on graduation. When her professor gives her the opportunity to participate in an experiment, she agrees. What she finds out, is that the experiment is looking at the dynamic of married couples. She will be “married” to a man she’s never met, and they will live together for the next six weeks. Tonight, she will meet her intended.

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.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Alphabet Challenge Too – Letter D from Double Trouble by Dellani

ABC ChallengeI’m still working on this one. It’s been a lot of fun, and I hope to finish it soon. The Bates brothers, Trey and Chay, are an interesting pair. One is rather subdued, the other extremely outgoing. See if you can figure out which.

She opened the stained glass door to the office with trepidation. Never having done this before, her hands shook. Identical platinum haired men greeted her with dazzling smiles. Paige halted as the effect of their stunning good looks left her breathless. One stepped forward, hand extended.

“Good morning and welcome to Bates Brothers Investigations. I’m Norman and he’s Master.”

“Dude, be serious,” the second twin said, hanging back a little.

“Seriously, he’s Norman and I’m Master. Our folks run a creepy hotel. Middle of nowhere, house on a cliff? No?”

“I’m Chay and he’s Trey,” the second one said, shaking her hand.

“But Dad totally wanted to name one of us Norman,” Trey contributed.

“It was all our mother could do to stop him,” Chay added with a smile.

“Did she stab him with a big, scary knife while he was in the shower?” their visitor asked.

“No, but she does love her rocking chair,” Trey replied with a grin.

“We named the dog Norman,” Chay said.

“So, neither of you is Master?” she asked slyly.

“Well….” Trey began.

Chay punched his brother. “No.”

“But we….”

“Don’t need to explain that one,” she interrupted.

“How can we help you?” Chay, the calmer of the two, asked.

“I need you to find someone for me.” She held out a photograph in shaking hands. “I think I’m being stalked. I got this picture on my phone.” She handed it to Trey, who was closest.

He examined it carefully before handing it to his twin.

“Has he spoken to you? Approached you in any way?” Chay asked.

“Not exactly. But I get these creepy calls sometimes. The number’s blocked, but there’s someone there, breathing….

“Then they hang up?” Trey concluded.

“Sometimes they whisper something. It sounds like a name. But it’s not something I ever heard before.”

“Not Rosebud?” Trey supplied.

The young woman cut her eyes at him. “Yeah, could be,” she replied sarcastically. “The closest I can make out, they say Katrinka. But I can’t be sure.”

“Why don’t we have a seat in my office,” Chay said. “And you can tell us all about it, Miss…?”

“Turner. Paige Turner. Yes, that’s my real name,” she directed at Trey before he could comment. “My father’s sense of the absurd. Mom couldn’t curtail him.”

“Do you have a sister named Leaf and a brother named Pancake?” Trey winked one brilliant blue eye.

“Funny, but no. I’m an only child. We named the dog Pancake.”

The men laughed in perfect unison, their booming voices filled the confined space. For the first time in weeks, Paige laughed too. Humor had been hard to find lately.

Chay ushered her into his office. Some would call it shabby chic, some less kind, just shabby. It was obvious they needed her case. Everything spoke to her of lack—from the battered wooden desk to the dented metal folding chairs. Despite the absence of glamour, it was neat and tidy. There were no files stacked on the desk, no half empty coffee cups. There were McDonald’s wrappers in the trash, but they were folded neatly and at the bottom of an otherwise empty basket.

“Sorry we aren’t fancier,” he said with a blush. “Please have a seat.” He indicated the one folding chair with a cushion.

Chay sat in a rickety wooden chair behind this desk. Trey perched on the corner.

“Tell Uncle Chay all about it,” Trey said with a frown of concern.

Paige grimaced at him. “And what does that make you?”

“I’ll be your daddy,” he replied with a nod and sly raise of an eyebrow.

Paige burst out laughing. “I hope that’s an act and you aren’t seriously using that to hit on me.”

Trey smirked. “Planting the seeds of discord. If you think of my bro as an uncle, then it’s sick if you hook up with him.”

“I see.”

“And if I were hitting on you,” he replied quietly. “You’d know it.”

Now that, Paige decided, was a come on. She smiled.

“Trey, stop and be serious for five minutes, huh?” his twin reprimanded.

“Do you want me to stop and then be serious or stop being serious?”

“Stop being you and try to be serious.”

“I can do that.” Trey closed his mouth, lowered his eyebrows and pursed his lips.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Alphabet Challenge Too – Letter C from Conduct Unbecoming by Dellani

ABC ChallengeTired of constantly being on the defensive, Teague had intended to directly confront Quartermain and the others at the condo where they are staying. Nadeya discourages. She knows he can take Quartermain, but the other two are far more dangerous. She and Joel think baiting the bad guys is not only inappropriate, it’s dangerous. Still not liking it, Teague tells them he’s going for a walk on the beach.

Joel rose as his cousin walked by. “I’m going too.”

“I won’t do anything crazy!”

“Yeah, well I want to go for a walk too.”

Teague couldn’t think of a good argument against, so he agreed. They walked down the stairs, heading to the beach.

“He’s right down there,” Teague said with a groan. “Within reach!”

“No.”

“But he’s—”

“No! Dammit, Teague. Don’t make me drop you.”

“Like you even could,” was the disgusted reply.

Joel moved quickly, grabbing Teague’s arm. He tugged, spun and dropped, pulling Teague to his knees. Another move bought his cousin to the ground. Stunned, Teague lay on his belly. After a moment, he tapped out and Joel released him.

“You aren’t Superman,” Joel said.

“So, folks keep tellin’ me.” Teague rolled his head and shoulders rubbing his neck with a hand.

“Did I make my point?”

“Yeah. Shut up.”

Joel’s face fell, discouraged that Teague hadn’t really acknowledged his ability to take him down or taken his warning seriously. Teague noticed his cousin’s mute disappointment.

“I’m sorry. This gets to me. I don’t do waiting well.”

Joel clapped his hand on Teague’s shoulder. “Come on, I’ll buy you a beer.”

They went to the cabana by the pool. Taking stools, they ordered their beers and sipped them thoughtfully.

“We’re going at this sideways,” Joel mused. “You can’t go at them balls out with both barrels. They want that.”

“So, what do we do? I hate waiting. I waited on Mac and damn near got us both killed. They picked the time and place and were far stronger than I anticipated.”

“You didn’t know he was the enemy. This time, we know the players. We are at a home field advantage.”

“I’m not running away again. I won’t do that.”

“Not saying you should.”

“Then what?”

“Go home. Have a beer. Take your lady to bed.”

“That’s nothing.”

“Exactly.” Joel raised his beer at Teague.

“I don’t get it.”

“Do nothing. Go home. Relax. Let them come to you. No hiding, no running.” He shrugged. “Simple.”

Teague grinned. Taking Joel’s head in both hands, he planted a kiss on his cousin’s brow.

“You’re a genius.” Teague ruffled Joel’s hair.

“Been told that.” He rubbed at his head to smooth his waves back into submission.

“Let’s go home.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Alphabet Challenge Too – Letter B from Beach Babe by Dellani

ABC ChallengeFiona Cartwright has just been hired in an ensemble cast, for a show which is set, and filming, in Florida. The following is the opening scene of the book, where we are first introduced to her.

The yellow sun beat down on the sand. Sailboats drifted across the horizon, slipping along the surface of the ocean like leaves across glass. On the beach, bronzed, oiled bodies lay along the strand, cooking in the midday heat. My lush, thick blonde hair wafted on the warm summer wind—tangling around my ears and obscuring my vision. It might look sexy as hell to have three feet of hair, but it’s a pain in the ass. I shoved it out of my face, spitting and swearing.

“Cut! Lexi, what the hell?” Don, my director yelled at me from the shade of a huge umbrella. “We’ve been half the day on this damn shot. Just this shot, Lex!”

I said nothing, merely stood up, squaring my shoulders as he continued to screech. I’m almost six feet of woman. He’s tall, but comes across like a pipsqueak, because he’s skinny as a rail. I’m sick of the man, but I don’t control who sits behind the camera telling me what to do, or I wouldn’t be out here with all this damn hair!

“Someone fix her,” Don said, pointing at me.

The hair was really whipping around, lashing me like a whip. When your body is minimally covered in the skimpiest bikini ever, and you’ve got three feet of fake hair weave slapping you around the face, back and abdomen, it’s not the most fun.

“Lose the hair,” someone suggested. “She doesn’t need it. She’s hot and sexy enough without that mane. Her own hair is gorgeous.”

I couldn’t see who was speaking, but I was all for it. I didn’t offer my two cents. I’d only been working with Don the Dweeb for the last few days and already knew he’d do the opposite of what I wanted just because he could.

“We don’t have to reshoot,” the voice continued. “We’ve been in rehearsal all week. This is the first actual camera time. Give the girl a break, and get her out of that ridiculous weave.”

Don huffed angrily. “Do you think you could do the scene appropriately without the hair to distract you, Precious?” he directed at me.

I held my tongue, really wanting to cut into him, but this is my first big role. I’m not going to mess it up because the director is an egotistical prick.

“Yes, Don. I think that I can manage that.”

He gestured at me angrily.

The hair dresser came over, smiling. “Thank God,” she whispered. “Let’s get you in the trailer, Sugar,” she said with a smile.

“Thanks. This weighs a ton and I look like a Wookie—no offense to you, Shawna. It’s just a crazy amount of hair!”

“I know but himself liked this one. And I’m not offended, I didn’t make this monstrosity.”

I sat in the chair and she went to work, disconnecting the weave quickly and efficiently. It felt so good to get that extra weight off. And that doesn’t even factor in the heat index that mane produced. Shawna fluffed and styled my own hair, which is well below my shoulders, and declared I was perfect. She didn’t allow me to leave the trailer until I’d had something to drink and a chance to get out of the heat.

“He has no idea how long it will take.” She winked at me.

“Thank you.” I gave her a hug. “Would it kill him to get my name right, though?”

Lexi is the character’s name. My own name isn’t glamorous, but it’s easy enough to remember. Fiona. How hard is that? I suspect it’s his way of trying to keep me in character, but I also think he can’t be bothered to learn my name. I’m one of five key characters in this epic—and the only woman. The men are all devastatingly handsome, jacked and single. They are also slightly more famous than I am, so I’m the new kid and the only girl.

They’re eye candy, though. (Cue drool.) This takes place at the beach and they each take off their shirts at least once during the show. We’re sort of a low budget Baywatch, set in Florida, not California. They seem to think that beefcake will sell better than tits and ass—which is my role in the show.

Once I’d been rehydrated and cooled down a little, Shawna allowed me to go back outside. Don was pacing.

“How the hell long does it take to remove fake hair?” he bellowed.

“Nearly as long as it takes to put it on,” Shawna said, following me out. “Unless you want me to snatch the girl bald.”

“We could shave my head and make me a chemo patient,” I suggested very quietly.

“Shh, don’t give him the idea.”

“Let’s try it again, shall we? I’d like to get something on film today!” He waved his hands around. “Places, Lexi, if you will!”

“Fiona,” I corrected quietly.

“Excuse me?” Don raised his hand to his ear. “Did you say something?”

I waved, trudging over to my spot. Taking my mark, I loosened up a little, bending and stretching as I waited for Don to bellow out more instructions. Wolf whistles and cat calls accompanied my performance. Rather than risking another screaming session, I ignored them—my partners in crime, the men of the cast, were admiring my workout routine. For fun, and to loosen myself up a bit more, I did a silly dance with my back to them. Still on my mark, I fluffed my hair and wiggled my scantily clad ass in their direction.

“Whoot! Ooh, baby!” and various other comments accompanied my antics.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Alphabet Challenge Too – Letter A from Author of Love by Dellani

ABC ChallengeI had a lot of fun doing my ABC Challenge. It was, not to put too fine a point on it, challenging. I enjoyed it so much, I decided to do another one. This will be even trickier, because for the first one, I was able to reuse something I did years ago. We’ll see how this goes.

This time, I will present excerpts from my novels, both published and unpublished. I like finding good quotes and scenes from my books, to share with you. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do writing them.

The following scene is from my novel, Author of Love. It’s not published yet, but is on the agenda for sometime in this life.

Blake Arbuthnot is a photographer/ book cover designer/ book cover model. He’s on a trip from his home in Mississippi, to see the sights, and take pictures of, Florida. On his way to Miami, he witnesses an accident where a semi jackknifes and flips. The driver is killed. A young woman in the back, is injured. He’s allowed to ride with her to the hospital, where he meets her doctor.

The doors behind and to my left, opened. A doctor stood there, her scrub top mussed and sweaty. Blonde hair escaped under the edge of her surgical cap.

“Are you the guy waiting for news on the truck wreck girl?”

“Yes. Blake Arbuthnot.” I smiled, holding out my hand.

“Dr. Grace Healey.” She held out her hand, taking mine.

She was a pretty, little thing. Let me clarify, before anyone jumps on me for that sexist sounding remark. I’m a big guy, about six two. To me, anyone under five foot eight is a little thing. This woman was probably five four, tops. My hand circled hers, looking more like a bear paw than a hand. Tanned and well muscled, it was a stark contrast between it and her ivory colored one. She smiled up at me and I felt my heart flipflop. Then I noticed the wedding ring on a chain around her neck. My heart plummeted and the happy dance that had started in my pants, stuttered to a halt.

“How is she?” I was still holding her hand. She didn’t take it back, so I waited, suddenly feeling like a social inept. Then again, if I took my hand away…well, it was awkward.

“She’s doing as well as can be expected. She was pretty messed up.” She slowly took back her hand, gesturing to a chair. We sat side by side in the waiting room. “Did you know her at all?”

“No. Never met her. Just saw the wreck and stopped. I didn’t even know she was in there until they pulled her out. Why?”

She glanced at Rose and decided it was safe to talk in front of the older woman. “We think she’s been—assaulted. We aren’t a hundred percent sure, but I did a rape kit just to be safe.”

“How can you not be sure? Isn’t there—evidence?” I shuddered. The idea that pretty, little girl had been violated, was repugnant to me. Men that rape are the lowest of scum and should die horribly. If it was the guy in the truck, he had paid for his sin.

“There were some indications. She was pretty banged up by the wreck. Doesn’t look like she was wearing a seat belt. We think she might have been asleep, or unconscious, in the back. Being that relaxed probably saved her life.”

“Poor kid. I don’t know what help I can be, but I’d sure like to see her when she’s able to have visitors.”

“Are you from here?”

“No. I’m from Natchez, Mississippi.” It’s not exactly Natchez, but as close as may be. I saw no reason to belabor the point. People have heard of Natchez, nobody’s heard of Miracle.

“I knew you didn’t sound like a Florida boy.”

“No, ma’am.” My Southern comes out when I flirt, too. I winked at her. Married or not, she’d just saved that girl’s life. And she was pretty—damn pretty. “You from around here?”

“No, California. We moved here a few years ago.”

She and her husband. Damn.

“Anyway, if you’ll leave your number with Rose, I’ll make sure you’re informed when she’s awake and able to have visitors. I need to get cleaned up. Sorry. I wanted to give you the information as soon as possible.”

“Not a problem. I’ve worked as a first responder for five years. I’ve seen worse.”

“I’ll bet you have. Thanks for your concern, Mr. Arbuthnot.” She held out her hand again.

I shook it, admiring the strength in those small, long fingered hands.

“And thank you, Doctor Healey.” I kissed her hand.

She blushed, smiling at me. Her eyes were an amazing shade of blue and twinkled. How I wished she wasn’t married. Ah well, the beautiful ones get snatched up first. She made to rise and I jumped to my feet, helping her up. Slowly letting go my hand, she headed back to the ER.

Rose watched all this with a smile and raised eyebrows. “Well, I’ll be!”

I frowned, tilting my head in question.

“I haven’t seen Grace smile in a coon’s age. Poor girl. Her husband was killed in an accident a few years ago.” She shook her head, red waves hardly moving, but her dangling earrings did quite a dance by her large, square face.

Not married? Hmmm….

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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And Finally—Z by Dellani

ABC ChallengeI thought of this story when I was driving down State Road 44 into New Smyrna. The traffic is horrible at certain times of day, particularly in the summer. I can’t remember now why I was there, rather than taking I-95. There had to have been a good reason for it, because it’s usually a drive I avoid. In any case, this story, Driving Blind, was born as I languished in traffic.

It had been an indescribably horrible day. Zenobia drove with the top down, listening to Battle Without Honor or Humanity at full volume. Her red VW Beetle zipped along Interstate 95, her sun-streaked blonde hair billowing behind her like a standard.

She pulled off at the New Smyrna, eastbound exit, slowing way down for the sharp curve. Checking traffic, she eased her VW into the flow heading toward town. At the stoplight on the east side of I-95, she slowed as the light changed to yellow. She could have driven through, but there was a motorcycle cop three cars behind her on the left. She turned down her music and waited for the light to change. The left turners eased across State Road 44 and the police officer on the motorcycle pulled up next to her.

Zenobia risked a glance at him. She couldn’t see much because of the helmet and glasses, but she saw a strong chin, broad shoulders and tanned arms covered in silky black hair. She smiled and looked away when he turned toward her. The light changed and she carefully put the car in gear, moving forward slowly in the heavy traffic.

As luck would have it, the next light was also red. Slightly frustrated, Zenobia checked the traffic to see how badly it was backed up. Another look out the front window showed the cars were thick ahead as well as to the rear. The police officer was a car behind her, but eased up once more, crowding the SUV ahead of him. The driver peeped over her shoulder guiltily, but the officer did nothing.

Zenobia felt eyes on her and looked around to see the officer staring at her. She smiled again, nervously, and flipped her hair to cover her face. A furtive glance in her rearview mirror showed the officer staring at her, smirking. He had full lips and a hint of a five o’clock shadow. Of course, with hair that dark, he probably had a shadow right after he shaved. What little she could see of his hair was so black, it had a bluish cast to it.

The light changed and the car behind Zenobia honked. Flustered, she forgot to put her car in gear. Scrabbling around, she put it in first, took her foot off the clutch but not the brake and the car stalled. More honking followed. Mortified, she got the car started, put it in gear and jack-rabbited through the intersection as the light changed to red.

Flashing blue lights and a whoop of a siren warned her to pull over. There was an abandoned driveway from a long defunct business. Zenobia rolled over there, turning off her car. She pulled out her license and registration, ready for the officer. He was busy on the radio, calling in her humiliation and probably checking to see if she had any priors or outstanding warrants. Thankfully, her driving slate was clean. She lived a steady, boring life. At 29, she lived with her parents, putting her advanced computer degree to less than great use working on the Geek Squad at Best Buy. Far from ideal, her circumstances couldn’t be helped. She’d had a lot of difficulty finding a good paying job in her field that was also close to home.

Feeling an overwhelming desire to cry, Zenobia put her head on the steering wheel. “This is the worst day ever!” she sobbed into her lap. She forced the tears down, but couldn’t keep her shoulders from shuddering.

The clearing of a deep, male voice got her attention. She looked up in the the darkest brown eyes she’d ever seen. Black eyebrows arched over thickly lashed eyes. His nose was almost too big for his face, but he made up for it by having a square jaw and a cleft in his chin. He smiled down at her.

Zenobia handed her license and registration to him. He gave them a cursory look, jotted something down on a pad with his left hand and gave them back to her.

I’m sorry about the mess back there,” she apologized quietly. “I’m still getting used to standard.”

No big thing,” he replied. His voice was deep, husky and flavored with a true Southern accent.

Are you gonna write me a ticket?” Her voice cracked making her feel even more foolish.

You okay?” He frowned, taking a step closer.

Unable to control herself another second, she burst into tears. “I’m sorry. I’m not trying to get out of the ticket by crying,” she sobbed. “I just don’t know what I did wrong and I can’t afford a ticket and I’ve had the worst day ever!”

Rather than being sympathetic, he laughed. Zenobia glared at him. He laughed harder.

I’m sorry,” he gasped. “I’m not laughing at you—well, I am—but not because you’re crying. I pulled you over to make sure you aren’t having car trouble. You had such a problem at the light, I thought maybe your engine stalled. I wanted to get you out of traffic.”

You—you aren’t giving me a ticket?”

No. No.” He chuckled again. “I’m really sorry, Miss Vlachos. I didn’t mean to scare you.”

Zenobia squinted up at him, surprise replacing worry. “You pronounced it right. No one ever gets it right.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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