Alphabet Challenge Too – Letter O from One Night in Daytona Beach by Dellani

ABC ChallengeFinding themselves on the run, Jamie and Draven know they need to get new transportation. His motorcycle is known to the authorities and there are already news bulletins out with its description. Undaunted, Jamie has a suggestion.

“I have an idea,” Jamie said. “Give me the keys. I’m driving.”

“You know how to ride a motorcycle?”

“Is that so hard to believe? I’m no Hollywood stunt man, but I do okay. They’ll have an APB out on the bike by now. We need different wheels. Come on.”

Draven followed her like a bedazzled puppy. A light misting drizzle started again. Raising his face to the sky, Draven tried to gauge the fullness of the clouds.

Jamie tugged on his hand.

“Let’s go.” Taking back roads, she drove south to a secure storage locker in Port Orange, on Nova Road. Stopping by a large one near the back, she unlocked it, wheeling the bike in. There was very little there, except for a hulking form, covered by an elasticized car cover. Jamie pulled it off and Draven nearly collapsed with delight. A black beast of a car lurked under the dim light.

“Is that a 1977 Oldsmobile 442?”

“It is. Ned and I take it to classic car shows. Believe me, he’s put a lot of work into her. That baby can cook!”

Draven ran his hands over it lovingly. His eyes caught the light, glittering like twin chunks of topaz. “This is a seriously sexy car.”

“Thank you.”One_Night_in_Daytona_Beach_by_Dellani_Oakes - 500

“And a seriously sexy woman. God, I wish I wasn’t on the run.”

“Besides the obvious, why?”

“I really want to make love to you, Jamie.”

Jamie shrugged off her jacket, tossing it in the car. “All talk, Wick?”

Draven chuckled, slipping off his own jacket. “Not even, babe.”

“Prove it.” She pushed him onto the car’s hood. Taking his belt off, she then unzipped his pants.

Although he was turned on by the sexy car, Draven’s gaze drifted to the Harley. He lifted Jamie, carrying her to the bike. “Hell with the car, do me here.”

“Seriously?”

“Here. Now.”

Her blue eyes widened as she looked from the man to the bike and back. She kissed him. “Thank you can handle us both?”

“Oh, yeah!”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

To Buy One Night in Daytona Beach

For More About Dellani

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Alphabet Challenge Too – Letter N from The Ninja Tattoo by Dellani

ABC ChallengeTeague and Vivica meet under odd circumstances—he runs into her with the door at Dunkin’ Donuts. Needless to say, she’s not very happy until he buys her coffee and flirts unashamedly with her. Soon, they start dating and Teague finds out that her life is full of danger, mostly because her older brother is the head of a dangerous biker gang.

Teague was worried. The man sounded mean, hard. The tone of Vivica’s voice still bothered him. Lying in bed, he got a sudden case of the creeps. He made another circuit of the house, peeping out the edge of the drapes in the living room. With the room dark behind him, the moon reflecting off the water, he thought he saw a person lurking in the shadow of the dock. As he watched, a lighter flared, barely illuminating the figure. It was a man with a shaved head. Teague couldn’t see details from his room. He had the impression that the man was solidly built.

The idea of calling the police flickered through his mind, but he dismissed it. Instead, he got dressed in dark jeans and a black T-shirt. He got his survival knife, attaching it to his gun belt. Next, he got his Glock 22 out of the locked cabinet. He had a license to carry a concealed weapon. That went in a holster opposite the knife. As prepared as he could be, he put on his military boots and left the house by the side door that opened off the utility room. It was concealed by an arched trellis covered in bougainvillea and nearly invisible from the street. Chances were, if someone was watching the front, they were also at the back and the door facing the side street. He doubted they knew that this other side door existed. He’d lived in the house nearly a week before noticing it himself. Leaving it unlocked, he eased through the trellis, the thorns on the bougainvillea grabbing at his clothing and uncovered skin.

Ignoring the stinging wounds, he moved like a shadow through the overgrown side yard down to the street. He knew he’d be exposed crossing the street, but the nearest light was almost a block away. There were deep shadows from the thick water oaks that surrounded his house and the one next door.

Becoming part of the night, he took a circuitous route to the dock next to his, coming at the man from the right rear. His knife was out and across the unprotected throat before the other man knew he was there. Left hand held the knife, right clasped his neck in an unyielding hold.

“Who the fuck are you and why are you watching my house?” His voice a menacing whisper.

The man didn’t move, but Teague felt him tense. He was going to try to get away. The knife blade turned slightly, catching the glimmer of moonlight along the razor sharp edge. It was the only part of the knife that shone. The rest of the blade was a dark, matte finish. An assassin’s knife and Teague knew how to use it.

“Give me a reason,” Teague growled.The Ninja Tattoo by Dellani Oakes - 200

The man relaxed. “I’ve got friends,” he murmured.

“I’m sure you do. But you’ll be dead before they can take me out. Keep that firmly in mind. Now talk.”

“Doing what I’m told,” he grunted as Teague’s grip on his neck tightened. “I don’t know.”

He hyperventilated as Teague’s forearm put pressure on his windpipe.

“Swear ta God—I don’t—know!” He gasped as he collapsed on the ground. He wasn’t dead, just unconscious.

Teague went through his pockets looking for identification. He had a driver’s license on him. Teague couldn’t see it clearly in the half light, but caught part of the address. He wasn’t a local. Memorizing the face and as much of the name and address as he could, he put it back. He wondered where the other men were. Had they seen him? Doubtful, or he’d be surrounded.

He took his concealed route back across the street, making his way to his neighbor’s yard. He was up and over the high wooden fence in one smooth movement. Landing lightly on the soft turf behind his garage, he took another watcher by surprise. This one had the time to make a faint noise of alarm before Teague knocked him out.

He couldn’t have seen the other man’s ID in the murky darkness, but he searched him anyway. This one was armed. Teague emptied the magazine into his palm, ejecting the chambered round before tossing the gun on the man’s chest. He pocketed the bullets.

The first man had mentioned friends. Teague assumed that meant at least one more. Since he had another door facing the side street, he figured the third man was probably watching it. There was heavy cover around it. That would play to his advantage as well. He thought of the place that would be the most obvious ambush spot and headed for it. He wasn’t disappointed to find a third man standing by the birdbath under the oak tree, surrounded by a thick stand of ferns, hibiscus and other tropical plants.

It wasn’t the place Teague would have chosen, there were too many mosquitoes and noseeums hiding in the undergrowth. He hoped the guy was getting eaten alive. A slow, feral grin spread across his face as the man swatted multiple times, grumbling loudly about getting bitten. The grousing lasted about 20 more seconds before Teague had his arm locked behind him, his face grinding into the bark of the oak tree.

“Who are you?” He snarled low in the man’s ear. “I swear, I will end you and your buddies if you don’t talk.”

“This is your place?”

“Why the fuck would I be here if it wasn’t? Talk!” He emphasized the importance by slamming his thigh against the man’s knee from the rear. A grunt told him that it had connected with the tree. “And don’t give me ‘I don’t know’ like the guy by the docks.”

“What?” His voice rose in volume and pitch.

“How many are there?”

“Three. I swear, just us three.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Alphabet Challenge Too – Letter M from The Maker by Dellani

ABC ChallengeThe Maker is book 3 in my sci-fi series. Shakazhan is a mysterious planet, virtually forgotten by every civilization. Rumors and fables circulate, but no one realizes that the myths and legends are true. The planet is really an artificial construct, made by some long forgotten race. In essence, a giant, living computer, it must be repaired and reset.

When doing just that, Wil, Matilda, Marc & Ben must chase an escaped prisoner. Unfortunately, he gets away from them, and they end up running for their lives. To their horror, Matilda, pregnant with her first child, falls into a bottomless chasm. In his grief, Wil is inconsolable. His friends do their best to break his dour mood.

Wil said nothing as he turned and walked out the door, setting the privacy light as he left. He meant what he said, he wouldn’t leave without Marc. He realized without his wife he was vulnerable. He needed someone he could trust to back him up. He gathered a few things he would need, then ported to Anvil. He was looking for a way to spend the next couple hours.

Wil’s feet led him to the bridge, where Ben was taking report. Glancing up, he saw Wil and stopped talking. He tried to smile normally, but he couldn’t. He couldn’t admit to Wil or anyone else how dear Matilda was to him. Next to Emme, she was the only other woman he truly loved.

The pain in Ben’s eyes made Wil stop and look at him in a different way. To him, Ben had always been as hard assed as he was, tough, beyond pain, an iron man. To see him obviously suffering kind of put a whole new spin on their relationship. Right then, he felt more like a father than he ever had in his life. Giving in to an impulse, grabbed Ben in a bone crushing embrace.

No one thought it was strange. All the women on the bridge had been wanting to hug Ben morning, just to make him feel better. No one knew quite how to treat Wil. How did you talk to a man whose wife had been killed? What did you say?

Ben worked his way free, Wil’s arms like a vice around him, holding to him like a life line. Ben didn’t want to disengage, but he couldn’t breathe. He wasn’t sure what to say any more than his crew was. He couldn’t act normally, but he didn’t want to say all the standard things either. There was nothing anyone could do to ease the pain and sense of incredible loss. But to let it pass unnoticed was unforgivable.

“How are you doing?”The Maker front

Wil sighed deeply, running his hand through his hair. His dark eyes were troubled.

“I’m almost done here. Do you want to go work out, maybe hit the heavy bag? I could stand a good beating today and Ray’s busy.”

He tossed it out as a casual invitation, hoping Wil would accept. They both needed a release from the tension. He felt it in himself and could read it in every line of Wil’s face.

Wil tried to grin. “I could use a good ass whipping. Yeah, we can meet in what, ten minutes or so?”

As he headed down the long, empty corridors, he had a compulsion, to go on planet. He had to wait for Marc. He had promised him a couple of hours alone with his wife. Considering how dangerous the planet was, it might be the last two hours they ever had together.

He found himself praying quietly, “Dear God, please don’t let anything happen to him, for the sake of his family.”

The heavy bag hung in the deserted gym. He noticed that Anvil had added a few other items he liked to work with. He found his staff, a banderatta and another weapon he had bought on Primos. It was sort of a cross between a bullwhip and a club. The handle was short, stout and made for mace work. The other end was longer and supple like a whip. He hadn’t used one of those in ages. What was it called? Frowning, he felt the name was right above his eyes, trying to surface, but for once his memory let him down.

“I can’t even think straight,” said aloud. He hadn’t heard Ben come in, but wasn’t startled by his reply.

“I can only imagine how you must feel, Wil. Like you have a hole right through your heart.”

Wil couldn’t speak in reply. Instead, he hit the heavy bag, landing a series of blows on it so rapidly, he was a blur. Ben moved into position to hold the bag for him, but Wil shook his head, motioning him away.

The percussive volley of punches and kicks played a staccato tune, like machine gun fire on a battlefield. Ben couldn’t even follow Wil’s movements anymore. They melded into one dark cloud, like a tornado passing. The bag grew hot under the onslaught, but Wil kept hitting it until his hands were numb from the impact. Breathing heavily, not from exertion so much as emotion, he stopped the swinging of the bag with one hand. Leaning on it, his face close to the hot leather, it seared his skin.

Ben stood near Wil, arms folded, eyeing the bag critically. “I’m glad that you didn’t hit me like that. I can take a lot of abuse, but even I couldn’t have lived through that.” Ben picked up a whiplike weapon, weighing it, feeling it’s balance.

“I didn’t know you used these. Don’t see them often any more, they quit making them about thirty years ago.”

“Yeah, I got that about fifty-three years ago. I can’t remember what the damn thing is called.”

Ben eyed the weapon critically. “It’s got a lot of names, I always called it a snake-hammer, but it is officially known as a shnack-haueter.”

Wil’s frown turned to a smile of enlightenment. “Oh, yeah! I remember now. I got it in the Primos bazaar. This really gorgeous girl was selling them, so I bought a couple. Made a good excuse to talk to her. She was so hot, she made my skin sizzle.” He grinned happily as Ben handed it back to him. “Hey, you’re from around there, aren’t you, Ben?”

Ben’s nod was curt, his brow raised. His expression was unreadable, even to Wil. “I grew up around these. My mother’s family made them for centuries. They stopped when her father died. She sold them in the bazaar.” His statement hung in the air between them like an accusation.

Wil’s face clouded. “Oh, God, Ben. I’m such an asshole. You’re going to hate me when I tell you, I can’t remember her name.”

He turned away from his son, hanging his head sadly. Ben clapped a work hardened hand on his shoulder that would have brought a normal man down.

“She couldn’t remember your name either. She just told me you had the most incredible eyes she’d ever seen, black as night and deeper than a well. That was how she described them. One look and she fell into those eyes. She said I looked a lot like you.” He pretended to be offended. “God, what an insult!”

Wil examined at him, unsure of how to respond. Ben’s mother had been dead several years, he knew and never married.

“Was she happy?”

“Very happy. I had a great childhood and a wonderful family. Where I came from, it wasn’t a big deal for a woman to have children by different men and never marry. I didn’t grow up like Riley.”

“Ben,” Wil hesitated, not knowing how to continue. “What was her name?” It was a plaintive request, odd coming from Wil, but it was important to him.

Ben smiled sympathetically. “Her name was Elisicia.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Alphabet Challenge Too – Letter L from Lone Wolf by Dellani

ABC ChallengeLone Wolf is book 1 in my sci-fi series. Set in the year 3032, it begins in deep space. Marc and Matilda have unwittingly taken on a load of deadly Trimagnite ore. They aren’t equipped to transport it, so the Guild sends another ship to collect it. Enter the Lone Wolf. His dangerous smile and devilish good looks entrap Matilda. A whirlwind romance follows. After dinner with friends, one night, the couple finds themselves in a less that stellar part of town.

After parting from the others, Wil and Matilda decided to walk around for awhile. She wanted to see the older, non-tourist area of town. They strolled casually down streets that grew progressively narrow and shabby. Wil put his arm protectively around her shoulders. As they wandered the seedier parts of town, they walked past a sign advertising: Lady Lena, Psychic Readings.

It had an arrow pointing down the street. In the next block, another sign. Learn your future! See Lady Lena to find out what the stars hold for you! There was another arrow. A third sign in the next block said: Does he love you? Ask Lady Lena!

Matilda eyed this last sign for a few moments. “Hm, that’s a very good question to ask Lady Lena. Maybe I should find her.”

Wil turned her toward him, her fingers entwined with his. “If you really have to ask someone, why not ask me?” He kissed her gently.

“Do you love me, Wil?”lone wolf front

“More than life, Romance.”

Walking a little further, a large sign stood in a front yard. In screaming orange, chartreuse and gold, it said: What does your future hold? Ask Lady Lena! No appointment necessary! Walk in and have a seat!

She tugged his hands. “Let’s go in and see her.” She pointed to a small Open sign in the window.

Wil held back cautiously, not from fear but courtesy. He knew how telepaths reacted to him and he didn’t want to hurt anyone. “Baby, if she is a real telepath—they don’t like me much.”

“Oh, how could she be? It’ll be fun. I’ve always wanted to have a psychic reading done. Come on!” She tugged his hand doggedly.

He reluctantly followed her to the porch of an old house on a back street. The door opened quietly inward, the hinges smooth and soundless. A dry, raspy voice emanated from a back room behind the faded curtain of cheap green beads. “You are expected, children. Come in and be quick!”

The room was Spartan with a single round table top sitting on crates. Three chairs surrounded it. The small room smelled of decay and mold. A timeworn ceiling fan moved the thick, moist air with very little effect. The beads jangled aside, moved by a gnarled, age spotted hand, more like a crustaceous claw than a human appendage. An old woman stepped through. The ancient, wrinkled face gazed up at them. Her clear, bright green eyes bored into theirs; steady, calm, unwavering. Wisps of thin, white hair were pushed back with another frail and trembling clawlike hand. She wore a faded black woolen dress; long sleeved, even in the oppressive heat. Around her tiny shoulders was a white knit shawl.

She smiled up at Wil, then turned to Matilda. “Welcome, my dears. Please sit.”

Wil remained standing. Matilda sat across from the old lady who hobbled to her seat. She was the tiniest woman Matilda had ever seen. Just over four feet tall, her body was frail and thin. Her gaze compelled Wil to sit reluctantly at Matilda’s side.

“Let me see your hands, child,” she said to Matilda.

Slowly, she raised her hands, holding them across the table. The old woman reached over gracefully, taking Matilda’s hands in hers. Like moths in the dark, her touch was light, fluttering. Lady Lena studied them, muttering to herself.

“These are good, strong hands. You’ve worked hard in your life, my dear.”

Lady Lena turned the palms up, tracing the lines with one delicate finger. A hiss escaped her lips. She took the other hand, tracing those lines too. She studied the palms a few moments longer, going over and over the lifeline with her nail. With a decisive nod, Lady Lena drew a dome shaped object from her lap. It could have been wood or metal, it was impossible to tell, for it was more ancient than she. The lid was dark and sleek, polished to a dull sheen, as if hundreds of hands had held it, caressing it tenderly for centuries. It was devoid of all ornamentation, with no visible seams.

Chanting, she closed her eyes, moving her hands over the box once, twice, three times. She pressed both hands on the sides of the domed container. Leaning across the table, she slid the box toward them.

“Place your right hands on the dome. If it opens, take what is offered.”

“And if it doesn’t open?” Wil asked.

The old woman’s eyes flashed brilliant green, a suppressed fire dwindled to almost nothing, throbbing in the iris. “If it doesn’t open, then I have wasted our time.” Lifting her chin, she gestured sharply to the box. “Touch it.”

They did as she told them. The dome felt warm, pulsating and sleek. Suddenly, the box flew open without a sound, startling Matilda, making her jump. Wil stiffened in his chair.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Alphabet Challenge Too – Letter K from The Kahlea by Dellani

ABC ChallengeThe Kahlea is book 4 in my sci-fi series. I’ve been trying to get it edited and published for ever, but haven’t gotten it done yet. I keep hoping. In the meantime, here’s a teaser from the tale.

The people on the planet of Shakazan, have had it rough the last few years. Not only are they getting attacked by minions of the Kahlea Grand Master, Zoiathula, they are being ambushed by the people within the artificial environments inside the planet.

Wil and the other leaders, decide that a team needs to be sent inside, to speak to these people, and win them to their side. Ray Schmidt, and his wife Benni, volunteered to lead the party. At one point, they encounter a complex maze of tunnels. Hoping they have the right plan in mind, they begin.The Kahlea front

Underground, Ray’s team was unaware of reinforcements arriving. They’d begun the slow, mind wearying process of threading the maze. Using a systematic, scientific approach, they’d tried to eliminate one tunnel or another only to have them change directions and shift on a daily, if not hourly basis. Each time they thought one was fully mapped, new entrances opened, intersected with old ones previously marked. Horribly frustrated, they sat around a small camp fire to discuss it.

“What a hell of a day!” Ray rubbed furiously at his short hair.

All of them were equally frustrated, but it was he who had the ultimate annoyance and scare. He’d been scouting one of the tunnels, only to have it shift with him inside. The way forward was blocked with a portion of another tunnel which was already marked. Behind him the tunnel closed as well, trapping him in a tiny cell of stone. He waited, praying all the while the walls would shift again and free him. It had taken three hours to get out again.

Ray had used the time to his advantage by running scans continuously and saving them to the nearly limitless storage of the Kindred scanner. He was looking for a pattern to the movement and so far it seemed hopelessly random.

“We’re missing something,” Kaz said for the fourth or fifth time in as many minutes.

“Obviously, Gunnery Sergeant, but what?” Ray snapped. Taking himself in firm control, he continued in a much more level tone. “I sat in that hole for three hours, Kaz. Excuse me if I’m not in the mood for your babble right now.”

Kaz waved it away as unimportant. “I’m just trying to be systematic, sir. I tend to think out loud. I’ve been going over these scans we’ve taken. I started with day one until now. I even put a remote device in the tunnels on an automated bot so it can travel around independently and gather information. What I’m seeing is fantastic!” Eyes glittering, he looked around at the others who eyed him with grim expectancy. All their faces held the same question, Well?

Clearing his skinny throat, Kaz swallowed, the lump of his Adam’s apple bobbing nervously. “‘K, mind you I’m not one for spacial mathematics or anything. Kinda failed that in school,” he blushed deeply, his face rivaling his hair for intensity. “There is a pattern, of sorts, emerging. On a crazy whim, I tapped into Sentience’s memory banks and down loaded some specs about the galaxy this planet was supposed to be the center of. Did you know there were originally twelve planets? This was the fifth one from the sun, optimal distance as it happened. Seven moons surrounded it, apparently artificial, stars all over creation, constellations of amazing configurations!”

“Gunny,” Ray interjected, “get to the point.”

“Yes, sir, sorry. Astronomy is a hobby of mine. So I fed all this into the Kindred device, color coded each of the tunnel openings, and made a Tri D schematic and voila!”

A punch of a button produced a Tri D projection. Twelve tunnel entrances all in a circle with a thirteenth hole in black.

“That’s the outside entrance, which remains static” Kaz pointed to the black circle. “There are twelve tunnels, one for each planet. Starting with the black one, running clockwise, that puts the tunnel for Shakazhan here.” He pointed to a bright green circle. “I also realized that it could run counter-clockwise, putting it here.” He pointed to a vivid blue one. “Little more playing, I thought, what if this is some kind of code key, a way to protect whatever’s behind there from interlopers like us. Maybe it’s not that easy. So I did a simple little math problem. I numbered the tunnels from one to twelve, going clockwise, then added the two together. Split the difference and, of course, ended up with six point five.” He held up a hand to still comment.

“Obviously there is no six point five tunnel, however, add the two numbers together and you get eleven,” he pointed to the pulsing purple tunnel.

“So your supposition based on elementary mathematics, is that tunnel eleven is the one we want?” Ray sounded annoyed.

Kaz shrugged. “It’s an uneducated guess, sir. It could just as easily be two. Or they could’ve done something really sophisticated which would take years to figure out, if at all. But the races here on the surface were ultra sophisticated, high tech and extremely intelligent. I saw a genius level twenty-seven programmer stumped by a simple math error on line four hundred seventy-two. Instead of two plus two equals four, he’d inadvertently coded it to say, two plus two equals five. It took three lesser programmers to catch the error and convince him he was wrong.”

“You’re saying then that whoever set this here used a simple code to confuse them?” Hal chuckled. “It’s so stupidly simplistic, he might just be right!”

“We’ve been down that tunnel before, why hasn’t it opened up for us?” Benni asked.

“Could be any number of factors, ma’am. Time, alignment of planets, configuration of constellations, anything. It could be completely random.”

Ray made a face. He didn’t like how many times random was cropping up lately.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Alphabet Challenge Too – Letter J from Jerrika and Delmar by Dellani

ABC ChallengeThis book isn’t finished, nor has it got a proper title. That’s just as well, though, because otherwise I wouldn’t have a J book to share. The excerpt is fairly self-explanatory, and is from the first two pages of the novel.

The phone rang on the other end, sounding tinny in his ear. Staring at his computer screen, which was doing something he knew it shouldn’t be, he waited.

Tech support, Jerrika speaking, how may I help you?”

Hi, this is Delmar Fifth Floor.”

Hello, Delmar Fifth Floor. What seems to be your trouble?”

Her voice was bright and sparkly, somehow lightening the load he had on his shoulders.

I’m hoping you can tell me. I’m staring at a black screen. Before you ask, yes, it’s all plugged in, the monitor is on, I’ve turned it off and on again, and it’s still black.”

Hmm. Is there a cursor blinking?”

Yeah.”

So, we know it’s operational. Did you recently download anything?”

You think it’s a virus?”

Could be. Did you?”

Just some files for a client.”

Via e-mail?”

Yeah.”

He heard keys clicking rapidly.

Name?”

Delmar Washington.”

Gotcha.”

More keys clicked. Jerrika whistled. “Wow, Delmar, man. Do you ever clear out your inbox?”

I thought I did. Why?”

You’ve got over two thousand old e-mails here, love. Want I should purge this?”

You can do that?”

I am an Tech Goddess, I am omnipresent and omnipotent.”

But are you omniscient? Because that’s my favorite.”

She giggled. “Only on Friday. You’re in luck! This might take a minute.”

He could still hear her breathing, and the sound of keys clicking, so he knew she hadn’t hung up. As he watched, his screen blinked blue, black and came back on.

Whoa! What did you do?”

I have solved your problem. The most recent e-mails are in a file marked Recent. The ones which were less than a month old are now in a file marked 30 days or less. I did a quick check of the spam folder, threw it all away, and cleared your deleted files. The rest you’ll have to decide about. I didn’t want to purge anything important.”

Damn, girl! Will you marry me?”

That’s just the relief talking.”

True. But how can I thank you? That was amazing.”

I’m fond of chocolate chip cookies,” she teased.

I’ll send you some.”

There was a surprised pause. “You really would, wouldn’t you?”

You bet. Hey, better yet, I’ll get you a gift card to Lucille’s Bakery on Sixteenth. They make the best chocolate chip cookies in the city. What’s your e-mail?”

Jerrika Harper. That’s spelled J-E-R-R-I-K-A.” It wasn’t necessary to give the rest, they worked for Crossfire Sporting Goods, which had its own server.

His turn to tap keys.

Oh, my God, you really did!”

I was serious about that thank you. You have no idea how much I have to do before I can go home. You’re a life saver.”

I live but to serve. Anything else I can help you with?”

I’d love for you to keep talking to me, you have a beautiful voice.”

Why, thank you. You’ve got a very nice voice, yourself. But if you’re that busy, I’ll distract you.”

Also true. Much as I’d love to keep chatting, I gotta go. Thanks again.”

You bet. That’s what I’m here for. Keep your e-mail cleared out,” she admonished playfully.

Never gonna happen.”

Laughing, they said goodbye and hung up.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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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