ABC Challenge Letter J: Jed from Mirrored by Dellani Oakes

ABC Challenge

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

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

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

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

“May I help you?”

“I hope to God so. Are you Jed?”

“Yeah. Who are you?”

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

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

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

“Excuse me! I want to talk to you.”

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

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

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

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

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

Jed arched an eyebrow. “No. And?”

“She said you told her to do it!”

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

“But she said…!”

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

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

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

Jed raised an eyebrow.

“I said some awful things.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cora shook her head.

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

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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

ABC Challenge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And you are?”

“Special Agent in Charge, Taylor Driscole.”

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

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

“Jason,” he corrected automatically.

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

“All right. How soon do we leave?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What?” the man on his left asked.

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

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

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

“Thanks,” Jason murmured, smiling a little.

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Something’s over there, a shadow.”

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

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

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

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

“Why not?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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ABC Challenge Letter G: Gravity by Dellani Oakes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ll get my guys in to help you.

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

Apparently so. You really want it?”

Hell, yeah!”

Think it will fit in the truck?”

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

Let’s see what Benny says, first.”

Okay.”

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

Nice choice!” one of them said.

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

The men were slowly and carefully lowering the huge piece.

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

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

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

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

Dade and Benny exchanged a low five.

Dude, nicely played,” Benny said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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ABC Challenge Letter F: Free Zone by Dellani Oakes

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

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

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

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

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

Still doesn’t answer my question, Detective.”

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

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

La Rose frowned. “Walk you…?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And you didn’t call us?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What?” La Rose screeched.

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

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

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

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

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

Will you direct me to the other man?”

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

You can’t—” La Rose burbled.

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

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

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

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes,” Merle whispered, nodding.

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

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

“He rear ended you, Mr. Hendrix.”

“Yeah, but it’s the truck’s fault.”

“Truck? There’s no truck here.”

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

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

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

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

“No, sir….”

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

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

“I’m fine. What are you yelling for?”

“No idea,” he said quietly.

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

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

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

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

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

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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ABC Challenge Letter C: Crash Into Me by Dellani Oakes

ABC ChallengeI started writing this story when I was visiting my daughter in Virginia. I didn’t have a computer with me, and the days grew long, so I started scribbling in a notebook. Eventually, it took form and became Crash Into Me. You may have noticed a trend here, toward first meetings. I love bringing my characters together and watching them fall in love. For Anton and Tabitha, though, the first meeting is kind of a rocky start. Anton is a thief, who is posing as a waiter at an exclusive jewelry event, which he plans to rob.

The other models were just that, nothing special. But Tabitha, she was unique, incredible. Anton had to admit, he had a bit of a crush. Crazy, as he’d never met her, but he’d studied her extensively; every article, personnel file, audio byte, or video he could find. He watched surreptitiously, as he circulated with trays of food. She noticed, but her eyes flickered past him as if he were part of the furniture. He knew he wasn’t, though. Her gaze passed over him often, lingering. It wasn’t his imagination—at least he hoped not.

“She made you?” the chef asked quietly, as he took up another tray.

“No.”

“She keeps looking at you.”

“Yeah.” He chuckled.

His next pass, he carried a tray of beverages, near Tabitha’s perch. Three uniformed men stood between them. Anton stopped.

“Sorry, guys. I thought the lovely lady might be thirsty. Non-alcoholic, sparkling juice. Scout’s honor, not booze.” He grinned, winking at her. A slight blush pinked her cheeks when their eyes met.

One guard lifted a glass from the tray, sniffed it and handed it to Tabitha. Anton offered drinks to the men, expecting them to refuse. Tabitha sipped her drink and smiled.

“Have some, boys. He’s telling the truth.”

They all accepted graciously, if gruffly. Taking his empty tray to the kitchen, Anton counted down the seconds. Since timing was everything, their glasses had been treated on the rim with the odorless, tasteless drug. Even if they didn’t finish their drinks, merely touching it to their lips was enough.

A surprised gasp escaped a few throats as the first guests fell. The exclamation grew louder when others began to drop. A few were left standing, these got the dart.

Anton and the chef, rushed to Tabitha to remove her necklace, to find it was fastened with a special catch. Rather than waiting to undo it, Anton lifted her, carrying Tabitha, to the catering van. The others made a fast sweep of the room, finding easy pickings between models and guests. Seven minutes later, they’d filled their packs and shed their uniforms. Each wore biking gear beneath. From the crate, they got goggles and helmets. Uniforms and other gear, went into the packs. Kickstands up, they were gone. Anton was left with Tabitha, and her tricky necklace. He gave her another dose of the drug, securing her in the van. His heart fluttered. He’d never kidnapped anyone before. He was a thief, and prided himself on never doing harm. Feeling he had no choice, he drove away from the museum with his glittering cargo.

It took time, but he was finally able to get to a remote location on the outskirts of town near a state park. Tabitha was still asleep, but he approached warily, helmet and goggles on to help conceal his face. Taking a pair of wire cutters from his pack, he removed the security catch on the necklace.

Tabitha’s eyes flew open. She tried to make a grab for him, only to find she was cuffed to the sink with her arms behind her. Snarling, she jerked her legs. they were attached to the stove on the other side. Both appliances were heavy steel and bolted to the floor.

“I just want the necklace, Princess,” he purred, lowering his voice an octave, adding a Midwest accent, which was anything but natural. “I promise to call for help when I’m away. They’ll find you in a few hours.”

“I’ll kill you, you bastard!”

“I apologize for this. I didn’t count on the extra paranoia. Bye, Princess.” He wanted badly to kiss her, but he was fairly certain she’d bite him. Also, some of the drug might linger on her lips—not to mention, he would deposit his DNA. Controlling his impulse, he gave her a saucy salute and was gone. The road was a little rutted, but the bike could handle it. Taking off with confidence, he was on his way.

Tabitha knew better than to fight the restraints. Trusting the man was telling the truth, she tried to get comfortable, not easy in this position. Despite the awkwardness, she dozed off.

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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ABC Challenge Letter B: Beauty Queen by Dellani Oakes

ABC Challenge

This is another story set in my nameless city. Those of you who might have read Undercover Lover, or Full Measure, will recognize a few of the characters in this book (when it finally gets finished and published). The main character of Undercover Lover has two brothers, Dex – two years older, and Chas – three years younger. I matched Dex up with a lovely lady a few years ago, but Chas has patiently awaited his turn. This is his first meeting with his soon-to-be lady friend. An owner of his own construction business, he’s been at Ravenwood Clinic to look over their new building site.

Chas wandered over to the unisex restroom and washed up. He wasn’t terribly dirty, but he liked clean hands when he wasn’t working. Besides, everything in this facility was so pristine, he didn’t want to be the one to sully it.

The door swung open and he found himself face to face with the blonde from the aerobics class. She looked somewhat startled to find him there. Checking the placard on the door, she frowned at him.

You should have locked it.”

I’m just washing my hands. Sorry if I startled you.” He made a sweeping gesture. “Help yourself.”

She frowned, standing aside so he could pass. The door closed and he heard the bolt inside snap shut. Chuckling, he wandered off toward the front door. An enclosed courtyard caught his eye and he went over to investigate. Several people sat around, eyes closed, relaxed. Another stood in a patch of gravel, stirring it with a wooden rake. He was somewhat surprised to find a Zen garden inside, but he noticed that the top was open to the sky.

Do you always spy on people?”

She’d come behind him so quietly, he hadn’t noticed her presence. Spinning around, he found himself face to face with the blonde once more. She was stunningly beautiful, carried herself with confidence and exuded absolute dislike of him.

Not usually. You in the habit of fussing at total strangers?” His smile was broad and open.

The woman glowered at him. “Why are you here?”

I was talking to Belinda about the new facility. I’m Chas, the builder.” He held out his hand.

Instead of shaking it, she transferred her glare to his palm. Her lip snarled slightly as if she thought he had a disease.

I just washed,” he offered with another grin. “You saw me. Chas Cross.”

Short for Charles?”

No.” He continued to hold his hand out.

Niki Tessler.” She gave him a very firm handshake, as if trying to prove something.

Short for Nicole?”

No.”

We got off on the wrong foot, Miss Tessler. And I apologize, if it’s my fault.”

If? You were gawking outside my classroom.”

I wasn’t gawking. I did stop to look. I heard what you said to the girls, and it got my attention.”

So, it was my imagination that you were staring at me and drooling?”

Chas burst out laughing. “No.”

She drew herself up, squaring off with him. “I’m not just an aerobics instructor, Mr. Cross. I happen to know Kickboxing.”

No kidding? What level?”

I’m sorry…what?”

What level in Kickboxing?”

She stepped back, flustered. “No one ever asked that question before.”

I dabble.” He clasped his elbows and shifted slightly, so he was entirely focused on her. “I’m a green belt.”

Her mouth dropped open. “I was—kidding. Green? That’s good.”

You don’t study?”

Blushing slightly, she dropped her chin. “I’m at yellow. Hoping to test for orange soon.”

Good for you. A woman should have some training so she’s not a victim. My sister-in-law can kick my sorry ass. She’s got the training of a black belt, but she hasn’t registered. My brother—whew. Romy….” He shook his head with admiration.

He must be very good.”

He’s scary good.”

Is Chas short for Charles?” she asked again.

Really wish you wouldn’t ask me that.”

So, not Charles?”

Not Charles, no.” His turn to blush. “And Niki isn’t short for Nichole.”

No. Honestly, that’s the sort of thing that is better left unsaid.”

A woman with a horrible, embarrassing name.” Shaking his head, he looked down at his shoes for a moment. “I’ll make you a deal, Niki. I won’t ask your embarrassing name until after we’ve had sex. Deal?”

Niki burst out laughing. “You’re certainly not shy!”

One thing I’ve learned, growing up with two older brothers, who do not lack confidence. Shy doesn’t get you a thing in this life. Being bold and confident, does.”

Particularly laid.”

Yes. Most particularly.” Chas shifted slightly.

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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