First Meeting from Hardly Gothic ~ A Love in the City Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes

First Meeting image smallestFirst Meetings are fun, because they set the stage for what’s to come. Sometimes, they go very well. Other times, not so much. The initial meeting between Angelica and Royal consists of him bumping into her in the hallway outside her father’s office. However, love gives them a second chance, and they meet at the art gallery he runs.

Turning around, a familiar dark haired man strutted across the lobby, well manicured hand extended. He flashed a brilliant grin, taking her hand in his. Silver eyes twinkled as he lifted her hand, kissing it.

“I believe I ran you down earlier, Miss Hull. Let me apologize. Your father sometimes makes me so angry, I can’t see straight.” He sandwiched her hand with both of his.

“I have that same problem with my mother,” she replied. “At least you didn’t knock me on my rear. Royal Prothro, isn’t it?”

“I see your father already told you about me.” He looked mildly annoyed. Hands dove deeply into the pockets of his well tailored suit, he stood somewhat hunched over, like a schoolboy in trouble.

“Not really. Your name, and a passing comment about how you’re infuriating one another. That was it, before Her Majesty required his presence.”

Royal chuckled, clapping his hands. “Oh, I can tell we’re going to get along famously,” he said, a hit of an accent in his deep, melodious voice.

“I thought you got along with Petra.” Angelica followed Royal to the elevator and he led her to his office.

“I do, because I can charm her. Your father, well….”

“There’s no charming Daddy.”

“No. And I don’t try. We’re each in an untenable position. I don’t want to be there, and he doesn’t want me around. I’m completely unqualified, and we both know it.”

“Then why?”

Royal sighed, opening a massive oak door with his name on a brass plate. “Because my grandfather is putting pressure on us both. He’s more than a tad influential in these parts. He thinks that I’m wasting my life writing novels, while I manage the gallery. He also thinks your father’s an advertising genius.”

“I’ve always thought the two things were dichotomous,” she replied with a flick of her eyes over her shoulder.

“Thank you! Precisely what I’ve always said. There’s no doubt your father is brilliant, and superior at what he does, but there’s no teaching me. I have no desire to learn how to influence people into buying one brand of toothpaste, or toilet tissue, over another.”

“And yet you also manage the DeGrummand art collection? How do you have time?”

“By not doing the job my grandfather wants. I’m afraid I upset your father today. I told him I quit. We’re making one another miserable. If I resign, he’s got an out. I can handle my grandfather’s disappointment in me. I don’t want him taking it out on Brendan. Despite our professional differences, your father’s a fine man. I like and admire him.”

They talked several hours about the DeGrummand collection and his position at the gallery. The interview extended into the dinner hour, and he invited her to dine with him. Angelica, who had missed lunch because of the card party, readily accepted his invitation.

“I’m dining at the Old Mill tonight. Does that suit you?”

“Certainly, if I’m dressed for it.”

“You look incredible.”

She was dressed in a suit that consisted of a claret colored bolero jacket, matching skirt and a white, tailored blouse. Her chestnut hair was done in a loose chignon. Diamond studs, given to her by her father for her twenty-first birthday, graced her ears.

Eyeing her escort critically, Angelica felt rather under dressed. His three piece suit was an impeccable fit. He had a swimmer’s build, wide shoulders, tapering to a narrow waist. His hair was so black, it was nearly blue. His silver eyes were ringed with dark lashes. She thought she looked frumpy in comparison, but if he approved her appearance, she wasn’t going to argue.

“Did you drive over?” he asked.

“I did.”

“Then perhaps I could catch a ride with you, instead of calling for the car?”

“Certainly. You have a driver?” she couldn’t keep the surprise from her voice.

“I’m often on the phone, or doing paperwork. I keep a portable office in the car, and work while Sam drives. Inconvenient sometimes, but far healthier. I’m not dodging traffic whilst trying to text, nor am I up until the crack of dawn getting caught up.”

“Makes sense. I sometimes wish I had a driver. I hate traffic.”

“In the wrong city then.” Royal opened her door, seeing she was settled before going to the passenger side.

“Yes, but this is my home. Besides, Petra would be so disappointed if I moved. She’d have no one but Daddy to boss around. What would she do?”Angelica’s scathing tone wasn’t lost on Royal.

“Don’t get along with her well, I take it.”

“I don’t like my mother. Sometimes, I’m not even sure I love her much. I stay for Daddy. He needs me.”

He nodded. “Similar to the reason I stay, though for my mother, not my father. He, like my grandfather, thinks I’m wasting my talent.”

“What novels do you write?”

Royal grinned, glancing out the window. “Romance. Under a pseudonym, of course. Perhaps you’ve read Alana Royal’s Knights of the Table Round?”

“My God, that’s you? No wonder there’s no picture on the cover. The biography is very sketchy as well.”

“Born in Yorkshire, lives in the city. Owns a mated pair of Yorkies….”

“Yapping little nuisances.”

“Not mine, Mum’s. The bio is actually her.”

“How on earth do you promote the books without doing interviews?”

Royal shrugged, shaking his head. “Phenomenal staff and lots of money. However, with this next one, third in the series, I’m going to have to do interviews. Not sure how I’m going to manage. I’m afraid my readership will drop when they find out I’m not a woman.”

“Get a ringer,” she suggested, sliding into a narrow opening between cars.


“Someone to pretend to be you. Well, not you, Alana Royal.”

“Interesting idea. But what if she decided to tell?”

“Get someone you can trust. Your mother or a sister or something.”

“Mum’s not well. She couldn’t handle the schedule. No sisters, aunts or female cousins.”


“Haven’t one. Nor fiancee. My last one said I was incorrigible, and left with half my belongings in her boxes. I caught her before she stole the other half. Even now, she’s suing me for palimony. Because she left, she’s not got much to go on. Still, bloody inconvenient.”

“Your life sounds like mine,” Angelica said as she made the turn into the parking lot. “A romantic train wreck.”

Royal’s laugh was tinged with sorrow. “I fear I don’t know your circumstances, but mine—sadly, yes.”

© 2020 Dellani Oakes

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Love Takes a Swim Part 71 by Dellani Oakes

Love Takes a Swim cover smallKai and Paisley make love for the first time. They are interrupted by a text from one of Brill’s men. Someone is outside. Unfortunately, the men are injured. After the police arrive, Kai goes out to help.

“Put his towel on that head,” Kai told the officer before going over to look at Clevon.

There was a hole in the other man’s chest. It bubbled with each breath, seeping blood in a slow, but steady stream. Taking more towels, Kai pressed them over the wound, putting as much pressure as he could, on the wound.

Brill pulled up seconds later.

“He’s a friend,” Kai said. “These are his employees.”

The police officer respectfully asked Brill to wait until Sergeant O’Neill could give her okay. Anxious, but quiet, Brill waited. The Sergeant allowed him through, but not the men with him. Kai wasn’t surprised to see them get back in the car and take off. Brill squatted by Clevon.

“Is he okay?”

“Chest wound. Truck should be here in a second.”

They could hear sirens. Kai breathed a sigh of relief when his friends stopped a few feet away. He reported the injuries, officially turning the wounded men over to Cherise.

“You live here now?” she asked as she assessed Clevon.

“My girlfriend.”

“You’re gonna get chilly without your shirt,” she remarked casually. “Give me a hand!” she called.

Greg trotted over with a gurney. They got Clevon loaded up and took him to the hospital. Ottis was awake and lucid. Brill called for a car to take him to the hospital.

“How did they get the drop on you?” Brill asked Ottis.

“We saw someone go around back and I followed. I didn’t see anything, but someone tackled me, slamming me into the wall. I clipped my head on the siding. Clevon was out front. He yelled and I ran around the other side, but he was down. I tripped on the sidewalk and fell, hit my damn head again. I’m sorry, Brill, Kai. I let y’all down.”

“No, you didn’t. You helped me keep Paisley safe. I’m gonna go check on her. You’re going to need stitches, but let them check you for a concussion.”

“You bet, Doc,” Ottis said, saluting.

Brill helped his friend up and took him to the waiting car. The Sergeant O’Neill walked over to Kai.

“Mr. Marcelo?”

“Yes, ma’am.” He stood slowly, towering over her.

“You keep some interesting company, Mr. Marcelo.”

“Brill’s legit now, ma’am.”

“I know that. I’m curious, why is he watching your apartment?”

“Can we go in and have a seat? I’m a little chilly.”

“Sure. Got any coffee?”

“I’ll make us a pot.”

When they got inside, Paisley was talking to a uniformed female officer. She hopped up when Kai came in, throwing herself at him.

“Are you hurt? You’re all bloody! Kai!”

“I’m okay. This isn’t my blood. Why don’t you make us some coffee. I’m gonna wash.” He hadn’t realized what a mess he was. He’d have liked a shower, but didn’t want to take the time. Instead, he filled the sink in the bathroom with hot water and scrubbed off what he could from his hands, arms and chest.

The coffee was done when he came out. He picked up his shirt from the floor and put it on. Paisley brought him coffee, along with the two police officers.

“Why were Brill and his men watching your place?” Sergeant O’Neill repeated.

Paisley couldn’t speak. Her eyes widened and she hunched near Kai. He told the officers about Ralph, and his abuse. He mentioned that Brill’s men had seen someone lurking about.

“And you didn’t call the police, why?”

“Nothing against the police,” Kai replied. “But in stalking cases, you can’t do a lot until there’s been an actual crime. Maybe it was a bad call on my part, but I made it. This has Paisley spooked enough, ma’am. She felt better knowing that Brill’s men were keeping an eye.”

Sergeant O’Neill nodded. “I see where you’re coming from. What was the plan if they caught someone?”

“To call you, ma’am. We had no intention of taking this into our own hands, Sergeant O’Neill.”

She nodded, but Kai could tell she didn’t fully believe him. He didn’t let that bother him. He was telling the truth. Sergeant O’Neill opened her mouth to ask something else when her radio crackled.

“Suspect has entered a convenience store on the corner of Park and US-1,” the man said. “Advise?”

“Wait for backup and move in.”

“There are three of us here already, Sarge.”

“I’m on my way. Proceed with caution.”

“Copy that.”

Sergeant O’Neill rose to go. She hurled orders as she trotted to her car. The other officer stayed with Paisley and Kai, closing the ruined door.

“Have you got somewhere else you can stay?” she asked.

“Yes, Officer Warren,” Paisley replied. “We can go to Kai’s parents’ house.”

“Pack a bag. I’ll see you over there. This isn’t safe.”

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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Love Takes a Swim Part 70 by Dellani Oakes

Love Takes a Swim cover small*CONTENT WARNING* This episode may not be appropriate for readers under 18.

Kai couldn’t believe how responsive Paisley was. Each thrust delighted her, each kiss made her sigh. Despite his prediction to the contrary, he was able to make it last. Being as gentle as he could be, he brought them to their climax, leaving them both panting and breathless. Afterward, he rolled to his side, carrying her with him. Paisley lay with her eyes closed, smiling happily.

“That was delicious!” she breathed. “Thank you!”

“Delicious? Well, thank you. I don’t think anyone has ever used that word to describe it before.”

“They should have. Because that’s what it is. Let’s do it again!” She kissed him deeply.

Kai grinned, holding her hips close to his. “Give me a few minutes. Got to give my brain a share of the blood supply for a few minutes.”

“Will you kiss me while we wait?”

How could he say no? Things were just starting to heat up when his phone buzzed. Hoping it wasn’t work, Kai reached for it. He had a text from one of Brill’s men.

Got a bogey on your six, Clevon said. Ottis is going to have a look.

Thanks. Taking Paisley to bathroom.


Speaking quietly, Kai urged Paisley into her bathroom. It was an interior room with no window. He kept low and grabbed what clothing of theirs he could find. His shirt was missing, but that hardly mattered.

“Go in and lock the door,” he whispered.

“Come in with me!”

“Not yet. Please, babe.” Kai gave Paisley her cellphone. “I’ll let you know when it’s clear.”

She wouldn’t let him go until he kissed her. “You be safe!”

What do you see? he texted Ottis and Clevon. There was no response. In a slight panic, Kai sent a message to Brill.

On our way. Stay inside. I can’t see the guys.

Kai crouched in the dark room, feeling vulnerable. A sound at the window startled him. He crept closer, peering out the small slit between the drapes. He couldn’t see a thing, but didn’t dare move them further apart.

Something thumped and he thought he saw someone slam against the wall. He couldn’t tell if it was one of Brill’s men or not. Noises out front distracted him. It sounded like someone was kicking the door. He knew Brill’s men wouldn’t do that. Scuttling to the bedroom door, he locked it, glad that he’d closed it earlier.

With a loud crash, the front door banged open. Kai pressed the emergency call button on his phone and a police dispatcher answered.

“9-1-1. What’s your emergency?”

“Someone is breaking into our apartment,” he murmured, giving his name and address. “My girlfriend is locked in the bathroom. I’m in the bedroom. The door’s locked, but I heard someone break in the front door.”

“I’ve got a unit on the way. ETA, two minutes. Are you safe, Mr. Marcelo?”

“For the moment.”

Something thumped at the bedroom door. Kai knocked Paisley’s dresser over to block the door.

“They’re at the bedroom door,” he told this dispatcher. “We had some friends outside, but the bad guys are in the apartment.” There was no reason to be quiet any longer.

The door shook as someone hit it again. Kai wondered what was taking the person so long to get through. He must be hitting it with his shoulder. A good kick on the lock would have shattered the door jamb. The door shook again, this time splintering near the lock. Unfortunately, they’d thought of that too.

“Police!” someone called from out front.

There was scrambling. The thudding at the door stopped. The only way out of the apartment was through the front door or one of the windows. Their assailant was cornered. Shots rang out. Two more shots followed and bullets buried themselves in the wall outside the bedroom.

Paisley screamed his name.

“I’m okay. Stay put!”

There was a thud and the front door banged. Kai heard feet pounding along the walkway out front. Soon, the sounds of pursuit dwindled, the echoes of shouts following. Shaking, Kai sat on the floor. His phone buzzed, scaring him.


“Mr. Marcelo, this is the police. Are you all right?”

“Yes, ma’am. Pretty shaken up. Are your officers okay?”

“Yes. They are in pursuit. Did you say you had friends outside?”

“Yes, ma’am. Are they okay?”

“I’ve got an ambulance rolling. Your friends are injured.”

“Is it safe for me to go out?”


“I’m a paramedic. I can help. Tell your folks I’m coming out.”

“Will do.”

Kai told Paisley he was going out. He found his shoes and grabbed some towels from the hall closet. His first responder gear was in his Jeep, but he couldn’t find the keys without turning on a light. He went slowly out the door, identifying himself.

A police officer led him to Ottis. He was bleeding from a head wound. Clevon lay a few feet away. He didn’t look good.

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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First Meeting from Granny Strikes Again by Dellani Oakes

First Meeting image smallestI love first meetings. They set the often set the stage for how the rest of the relationship will develop. Charlene Draper owns a small bookstore on Main Street. When she finds out that there’s going to be a sidewalk festival, she decides to hire a musician to draw traffic to her store. Communicating by e-mail, they hit it off. He invites her to come hear him play. This will be the first time they meet in person, and Charlie is nervous.

Suddenly taken by a fit of nerves, I sat there trying to breathe. I almost drove away, but knew I wouldn’t be able to face him later, if I chickened out now. Better to get the meeting over with. If it was going to be a complete failure, I’d rather not delay it and build up my hopes. I walked into the restaurant and waited to be seated. The teenage girl acting as hostess came over with a smile.

“Hi, I’m Charlene Draper.”

“You’re here for Dane. He told me you’d be coming. Follow me.”

She led me to a table near the small, improvised stage where several guitars were on stands. His amplifiers and a microphone took up most of the rest of the space. I waited a few minutes, sipping the tea I’d ordered, when I felt someone behind me. I turned around, seeing him for the first time.

Even though the pictures weren’t that clear, I recognized his hair. It was a little longer than in his photo, but those dark waves were unmistakable. He rushed forward, taking my hand.

“Hi, I’m Dane. You’re Charlene?”

“Charlie,” I said automatically. “Please, sit down.”

I had to remind him, he was just standing there holding my hand, staring at me. It made me kind of nervous.

His eyes were a deep, dark green, like the water at the springs near my home. I couldn’t take my eyes off his. He was so handsome, it made it hard to breathe for a second. And, praise be, he was taller than me!

“Wow,” he gasped as he sat down. “I had no idea.”

I didn’t follow him. “No idea?”

“That you were so incredibly….” His voice drifted off and his eyes sparkled.

“Tall?” I guessed. “Young? Blonde? Impertinent?”

He laughed, tossing his hair out of his eyes. “No, so beautiful. You don’t have a picture of yourself up at the site, just the store.”

I blushed as bright pink as the flowers on my dress. I hardly knew how to answer him. I mumbled a thank you.

“I’ve embarrassed you. I’m sorry.”

“No, I’m flattered. It’s just no man ever told me that before.”

“Are they blind?”

“Dumb rednecks.”

“You just described most of my family.” He shook his head in wonder. “They must be blind.”

“I think they’re just used to me.”

“I suppose.” He stared at me a minute. “I get off at ten. Do you have time to go out after?”

He’d caught me completely by surprise. I hardly knew what to say.

“I’ll understand if you can’t….”

“I’d like to. Very much.”

“Sweet! You like dancing?”

“I’m not a very good dancer,” I admitted shyly. “But I love music. Next to books, it’s what I love the most.”

“I’m the same way. To me, music and books go together like strawberries and whipped cream.”

A waitress came up at that point. I hadn’t even looked at the menu. Dane solved my problem by ordering for me.

“Bring us two of my usual, Rita. This is my friend, Charlie. Rita and Megan are sisters. Their dad owns the place.”

“Nice to meet you, Rita.”

I smiled, shaking her hand. She didn’t look very happy to see me, but I smiled again anyway. When she left, I looked at Dane for an explanation.

“She’d like me to ask her out. If she was over eighteen, I might think about it.”

“Or she wasn’t the boss’ daughter.”

“That too. She’s a little pissed at me at the moment.”

It was Megan who brought our meals with a smile. “Anything else you need?”

“We’re good, thanks, Meg. Anything that Charlie wants, it’s on my tab.”

“No problem. You’re on in thirty.”

“Thanks, Meg.”

We had a nice meal together, laughing a lot as we talked. Ten minutes before he had to go on, Dane kissed my hand, gazing into my eyes.

©2020 Dellani Oakes

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Love Takes a Swim Part 69 by Dellani Oakes

*CONTENT WARNING* This episode may not be appropriate for readers under 18.

Kai and Paisley talk about Ralph. He asks if she wants to try to talk to him.Love Takes a Swim cover small

“Not really. I mostly want to get him off my tail. He scares me. The fact he’s come so far for me, proves he’s not stable.”

“I thought maybe his beatings qualified him for psycho of the year.”

“There are worse things to do to a person than beat them,” Paisley replied. “And Ralph is a master at them all. His torture was mental—which is far worse, believe me. The beatings you get over. Bruises heal. The mind games, those last a whole lot longer. I still have nightmares where I’m tied up and can’t escape. In my dreams, he captures me again, holding me against my will.” She shuddered, snuggling close to Kai. “I would rather die, than be his prisoner again.”

“That won’t happen,” Kai assured her. “I know you probably want to stay at your place tonight. I brought a bag and I’m gonna sleep on the couch. You won’t be alone.”

“Oh, Kai!” Paisley flung herself in his arms, kissing him. “You don’t have to stay on the couch,” she whispered.

“Do you mean what I dearly hope you mean?”

Biting her lip, Paisley nodded. “I want to be with you, Kai. I want you to be my one and only lover.”

Though he was excited at the prospect of making love to Paisley, Kai gulped. He’d never been with a virgin before. All the medical knowledge he had, flew out the window when she kissed and touched him.

“I don’t have condoms,” he mumbled as she pulled his shirt off.

“I do. I bought some when I went to get the cookie supplies.”

Kai wanted to laugh, but managed to keep a lid on it. It struck him as funny that she bought brown sugar, flour and condoms It also, strangely, endeared her to him further.

Paisley led him to her room. He trailed behind her, not wanting to let go of her hand. The world had become strangely surreal in the last minute or two. He couldn’t explain how or why, but it certainly wasn’t unpleasant. Euphoria swelled through him, settling in his nether regions. It all flowed south so quickly, he felt slightly dizzy from blood loss to his brain.

They sat on the bed, kissing and undressing one another. Paisley’s shirt followed his. Their jeans dropped simultaneously. Kai stopped to admire her body.

“Flawless,” he whispered, touching her cheek. His fingers trailed down her throat, to her shoulder, and over to her left breast.

Barely touching her, he closed his eyes, letting his hands do the exploring. One caressed her breast, the other undid her bra. She let it slide off her shoulders, down her arms, to the floor. Kai felt the warm, sleek cloth land on his foot, and opened his eyes.

“Are you sure, Paisley?”

She reached for his boxers, slipping her hands in the waistband. She lowered them with agonizing slowness, easing them over his firm cock. Kai shivered as the elastic band rasped slightly on his skin. It felt so good having her touch him, knowing he could take this to the final, orgasmic conclusion. He allowed his hands and lips to explore her body, finally slipping her panties down over her magnificent ass.

Paisley shivered with excitement, growing bold with her own exploration. Her curious hands stroked his firm, hot cock, delighted when it jumped like a living thing against her palm.

“Oh, God,” Kai moaned. “Condom,” he mumbled, his mouth on her breast.

“Drawer,” she leaned over and pulled open the drawer beside the bed.

Not wanting to leave her embrace, Kai grabbed the box, quickly tearing it open. The condom packets spilled out, but he caught one. Ripping it open with his teeth, he struggled to roll it quickly on. Paisley assisted him, smoothing the thin material over him.

A groan escaped him.

“Did I hurt you?”

“God, no. Keep doing that,” he commanded.

She did as he asked, fondling him as he worked on her breasts. His hand moved to her thigh, teasing at her. Paisley didn’t realize she’d clamped her legs together until he touched her. She relaxed a little. Kai eased his hand between her thighs. She gasped, jumping when he touched her for the first time. A flood of moisture gushed across his fingers.

Kai smiled, stroking gently. “That feel okay?”


“It may hurt a little. You tell me if it’s too much, and I’ll stop.”

“Feels good—so far!”

“I promise, it gets even better.”

Lifting her easily, Kai laid her in the middle of the bed before spreading her legs further. Kneeling between them, he kissed her deeply before thrusting into her. Paisley squeaked when she felt him enter her body. Biting her lip, she resisted the urge to scream—not from pain, from excitement and pleasure. She tightened up on him. Kai stopped.

“Did I hurt you?”

“No. No,” she breathed. “Don’t stop.”

Sliding in the rest of the way, Kai stopped again, waiting for her muscles to relax a little. She was so incredibly tight, he wasn’t sure how long he could last. Her body held him in a sleek, hot vice that felt incredible.

Paisley bounced under him, begging him to continue. Experimentally, he raised his hips before thrusting slowly upward. She couldn’t stop another squeak, but she assured him with her movements that all was well.

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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Love Takes a Swim Part 68 by Dellani Oakes

Love Takes a Swim cover smallKai finds out that Paisley spent the night at Brill’s, and is somewhat shocked. Then he picks her up, and finds out how much the gang leader has reformed.

“I always knew you had good in you,” Kai said with a smile. “Lianna, you’re a miracle worker.”

She patted her husband’s knee. “Nope, he did it all himself.”

“Cause she said she’d leave me if I didn’t straighten up. I couldn’t stand the idea of losing her.” Brill kissed his wife affectionately.

“I want to thank you both for taking Paisley in and watching out for her.”

“You’re welcome,” Brill replied.

Their conversation was interrupted by a piercing cry from a baby monitor. Lianna excused herself. Paisley went with her. When the door closed behind them, Brill leaned forward.

“Sushi says your boy is on the move. He’s seen all kinds of activity on the credit cards. He went up to Maine a couple weeks ago and he’s been working his way back down. He hasn’t hit on her location yet, but he will. Fortunately, Sushi is hella good, and is covering her tracks. Unless her ex has someone better, he won’t find her—yet. It’s just a matter of time, though. This guy is scary connected—at least his old man is.”

“Why doesn’t his dad put a stop to this?”

“Old man’s sick. He’s got MS or something. I don’t remember what. But he’s not in charge anymore, Lil Ralphie is. He’s a sick fk. Paisley told Li some of the shit that brute did to her. I see him first, I might have to kill him. And that’s not a threat, that’s a firm promise.”

“I don’t want his blood on your hands,” Kai said softly. “Your son doesn’t need a killer for a father.”

“Hell, he’s got one already. I’m no choir boy, Kai. I got here the hard way, and you know that. But that’s over. That ended as soon as I found out Li was pregnant. She wouldn’t marry me until I converted to legit business. She is, without doubt, the best woman in the world for me. And my son, he’s one cute little fk.”

The door opened and the women came back in. Paisley carried the baby. He was a very cute baby. He had big black lashed eyes and skin like creamy mocha. His hair was short and curly. He wore a UCF football jersey.

Brill rolled his eyes at his wife. “Dammit, baby. I gave you all the FSU stuff, so we wouldn’t be embarrassed in public.”

“When you change and dress him, you can put him in whatever you like,” she replied, tossing her head. “But I happen to like my alma mater.”

When he saw his father, the baby nearly hurled himself from Paisley’s arms. Brill caught him, tossing him in the air, catching him expertly. Lianna did her best to ignore it. Brill handed the baby over to Kai.

“This is Slick.”

“His real name is Henry, after my grandfather,” Lianna added. “But Brill calls him Slick. You don’t want to know why,” she confided in Paisley.

“Because of Brylcreem,” her husband persisted. “Because he’s my son and it was my cr—”

“Enough!” Lianna said, her caramel complexion reddening. “They get it.”

“A little dab’ll do ya,” Brill winked at Paisley.

“He has to say that—every time,” Lianna said. “It’s so gross.”

Kai laughed, tapping Brill’s knuckles. “Yeah, well that’s what passes for male humor, Lianna. We’re a crass bunch.”

“So, the men are helping you clean up your place?” Lianna abruptly changed the subject.

“Yes, whenever they’re ready,” Paisley said.

“Let’s go,” Brill said, taking the baby from Kai. He handed Slick to Lianna. “See you later, baby. You too, you cute little fk.” He bubbled the baby’s cheek, making the child gurgle happily.

“Language, Daddy,” Lianna complained.

“He’s eight months, babe. He doesn’t know fk from any other word.”

“Get in the habit now, because his little mind is a sponge. How would you like his kindergarten teacher to call us and tell us he’s the first child in the room to say—that word?”

Brill kissed her again. “I’ll try and behave, Mommy. Love you.”

Kai and Paisley rode to her apartment complex in his Jeep. Brill and some of his men followed in a convoy of SUVs. They descended on the building in a well dressed wave. Some of them started on Paisley’s place, the rest tapped on doors asking if her neighbors needed anything. Many of them were elderly, and needed strong backs to move furniture and clean up. The men pitched in, mopping, sweeping and toting damaged goods to the street for pickup.

At dinner time, Brill ordered pizza, and they all sat around outside Paisley’s apartment, eating pizza and drinking soft drinks. Kai couldn’t get over how very little like a gang these men appeared. A few years ago, they were stone-cold killers. Now, they were helping little old ladies clean their storm ravaged apartments. After their meal, the men picked up and headed back to Brill’s place. The electricity was on again in Paisley’s apartment, so she and Kai decided to stay there for awhile. A quick call reassured his mother that they were well.

“My mind is officially blown,” Kai said, making an exploding sound. “Who knew Brill was like that?”

“He’s a sweet man,” Paisley said. “He’s made some terrible mistakes and some bad choices, but he’s still a good man. Did he tell you that they are tracking Ralph?”

“Yes. Do you want to find him? Talk to him?”

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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First Meeting from Crippled by Love ~ A Love in the City Romance by Dellani Oakes

First Meeting image smallestI am a big fan of first meetings. These often set the tone for the relationship, and tell us a lot about how the couple will interact with one another later in the story. The meeting between Cynthia Marshall and Ian Yarrow doesn’t go well. Cynthia’s new to the society beat, covering for a colleague who’s out on medical leave. She’s been given the assignment of interviewing reclusive billionaire, Ian Yarrow.

The door slammed open and a very angry man, dressed in nothing but a glower and a pair of black silk boxers, frowned up at her from a streamlined wheelchair. Taken aback, Cynthia retreated and nearly fell off the porch. He grabbed her with a powerful hand, tugging her back on the porch.

“What?” he demanded.

“I-I’m Cyn-thia M-Marshall from the C-Clarion P-Post,” she grimaced at her own verbal errors. She’d hammered that stutter into oblivion years ago, but it came back in moments of high stress. Like now, when a gorgeous hunk of muscular, bronzed, hard bodied male in boxers yanked her nearly into his lap.

“The reporter, huh? Might have known you’d be early.”

“N-Not early, Mr. Yarrow. Actually, I’m—I’m a tad late. I had trouble finding the house. My GPS sent me in the opposite direction.”

He glared up at her, mouth a tight line, firm, well chiseled jaw working against his irritation.

“It’s cold out here, Miss Marshall, and I’m very nearly naked.”

He rolled back inside, holding the door partially closed so she had to squeeze past it. Full chested, she had to wriggle around the doorframe without catching her breasts or snagging Fiona’s sweater. He slammed the door behind her, the frown still present as he rolled toward an elevator at the end of the vaulted foyer.

Cynthia followed, unsure of where she was going or what she was supposed to be doing. The glower deepened as she stepped onto the lift with him, but he said nothing. The door of the cage slid shut behind her, tapping her on the rear.

“Why’s the paper so hot to do an article on me?”

His question, like everything else about him, caught her by surprise.

“I-I’m not certain, Mr. Yarrow. I was t-told to come here and interview you.”

“You gonna stutter like that the entire time?”

“S-Sorry. It comes on when I’m n-nervous.”

He leaned back, folding his hands in his lap. She caught the glimmer of a platinum ring on his pinky and another, more ornate one, on his thumb. There was no wedding band, though both rings were on his left hand. Since his hands lay just below the line of his boxers, she caught a good glimpse of the superb musculature of his chest and abs. A dusting of dusky, soft hair emphasized the well chiseled ridges.

A knowing smile twitched his full lips, his dark gray eyes taking in details of her physique. She was about 5’6″, full breasted, slender hipped and well toned. She worked hard at maintaining her figure and every inch of her bust line was real. Dressed in sleek black leggings and dark red turtle neck sweater with a black cashmere wrap, Stuart Weitzman boots and chunky jewelry of her own design, she thought she looked pretty good. Apparently Mr. Yarrow agreed with her. The smile grew—as did something a tad lower down—blatantly obvious given his lack of clothing.

Cynthia blushed, turning away. Yarrow laughed rather loudly. It was frightening in the confined space and Cynthia suddenly wished she’d brought the photographer with her after all. Since she was slated to have several sessions with Ian Yarrow, she’d opted to doing the first interview on her own to get a feel for him. She wasn’t sure she liked what she felt.

He rolled down the hallway toward an open bedroom door. She could see the unmade bed from the stairs only a few feet away. She hadn’t woken him—oh no, he’d had company. Thus the irritation and anger. Concealing a smile, she followed him.

“Gonna come in while I dress?”

“Oh, sorry. Of course not.”

“I mean, I don’t care. But unless you want to see more of me than is generally considered polite, you might want to wait there.”

“I apologize, Mr. Yarrow.” She stepped back from the door.

The tight lips returned. “Just Yarrow is fine. I don’t use my first name much, except with the women I take to bed. Having them scream Yarrow when they cum hasn’t got the same impact as Oh, Ian! You can quote that.” He winked up at her and rolled into the room, shutting the door in her face.

“Don’t we think a lot of ourselves?” she said more loudly than she’d meant to.

© 2020 Dellani Oakes

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Love Takes a Swim Part 67 by Dellani Oakes

Love Takes a Swim cover smallKai’s shift is exhausting, but he cheers up once he gets a call from Paisley.

“Hey, baby.”

Trent got up quietly and left.

“Sorry I didn’t call you, it got crazy here. Then I slept like a dead man.”

“So Trent told me. Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m shiny. Just tired. How did you like your first hurricane?”

“Not so much. I spent it at Brill’s.”

“What?” Kai stood, completely shocked.

“TM and Sushi came over. We were pretty well hunkered down, then the rain started. Water came in under the door and partially flooded my living room. We thought about going to TM’s place, but the road was blocked because of a downed line. Instead of risking it, he turned around and went to Brill’s. It’s like a fortress here.”

“You’re—still there?”

“Yes. It’s been a lot of fun. Everyone has been really sweet. Brill promised to teach me how to rap and shoot a pistol like a gangsta, yo.”

It took Kai a minute to realize she was teasing. “Funny. Tease the sleepy, horny boyfriend.”

“Lighten up, Marcelo,” she said with a giggle. “When are you coming home?”

“Soon. I’ve got the next few days off.”

“Great. Swing by and pick me up.”

“Not all of Brill’s guys like me, babe.”

“Brill says it’s cool. They won’t give you a hard time. Besides, he threatened to beat their asses if anyone upset me, so you’re safe.”

“That’s not a threat, babe. That’s a promise. He’d do it.”

“Brill’s a sweetheart.”

“Under an unbelievably hard exterior, yeah. I like him, don’t get me wrong—”

“Don’t worry. Get your unbelievably buff exterior over here. The guys are going to help me clean up at the apartment.”

“Okay. Let me get some more liquid sunshine in my veins, and I’ll be there.”

“Have I told you how hot and sexy you are?”

“Not today—not ever?” Kai was puzzled by her words. She’d never spoken to him like that. “I’ll see you soon, babe.”

“I miss you, Kai. I love you.”

“I love you too, Paisley. Bye.” He hung up. Putting his phone down, he clunked his head on the table.

Trent came in. He moved quietly around the kitchen. Kai heard a mug click beside him. He sat up. Trent had placed a fresh cup of coffee next to his cold one.

“Thanks. So, she rode out the storm with Brill Williams and his gang,” Kai said in a sunny tone before slurping his steaming coffee.

“No kidding? Wow. Isn’t he the head of the worst gang in the area?”

“He is. But he’s taken Paisley under his wing, so I have to be grateful for that. She baked him cookies.”

Trent rolled his eyes, trying hard not to laugh. He couldn’t help it. It burst from him like a damn breaking.

“That man has a rap sheet longer than the ladder truck, and she made him cookies?” He giggled and choked. “I’m picturing Brill dressed like Beaver Cleaver. Oh, my god.” Trent wiped his eyes. “Oh, my god.”

Kai left Trent gasping and sobbing with laughter. He got dressed and gathered his things together, said goodbye to Trent, who was still laughing, and left.

Brill’s place was rather like a fortress. He and his gang had taken over an old mattress factory, converting it to a massive complex. Though the exterior was shabby, the interior was luxurious. Kai had to give it to Brill, he had good taste, and spent his money where it counted. It was rumored that his girlfriend was an interior designer. Seeing the inside of the building, Kai had to admit that was probably true.

He wasn’t sure what he’d expected, but it wasn’t what he saw. It was all very modern—lots of stainless steel and glass. There wasn’t loud rap booming. Instead, it was a Mozart symphony fluttering from hidden speakers. The floors were Mexican tile, the walls painted in subtle earth tones. Artwork, spotlighted by concealed lights, graced the walls. It put Kai in mind of a doctor’s house he’d visited once on a Christmas homes tour.

Kai mounted an open, concrete slab staircase. The banisters were painted a silky dove gray. The stair treads were covered in swatches of colorful carpet.

Brill and his girlfriend sat in the living room on butter soft leather furniture. Paisley sat next to them, admiring a picture on Brill’s phone. She jumped up when she saw Kai, rushing to him. She flung her arms around his neck, kissing him deeply.

“I missed you so much! Come see Brill and Lianna’s baby. He’s so adorable.”

“I didn’t know you had a baby,” Kai said. “Congratulations.”

“And she made an honest man of me,” Brill said, flashing a tasteful platinum wedding band. “Just shows what a man can do for the right woman, right baby?” He kissed his wife.

Kai’s expectations were further shattered when one of Brill’s homeboys came in carrying a tray with an insulated coffee carafe and delicate demitasse cups.

“I have to say, Brill, this isn’t what I expected.”

Lianna laughed. “Brill’s reputation has been well earned. Up until a couple years ago, every one of your expectations would have been right on the money.”

“I was a thug,” Brill admitted. “A hard assed criminal. Now, my boys and I are legit. We have an import/ export business that isn’t a front for drug running. The only weapons we ship are antiques, or reproductions, that are made in our factory downstairs.”

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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Love Takes a Swim Part 66 by Dellani Oakes

Love Takes a Swim cover smallKai is called to the scene of an accident where an old lady in a Smart Car has been blown off the road.

“What’s your name, sweetheart?” Kai called.

“Gladys Finster.”

“Well, Gladys, are you ready to come down? My friends would like to help you.”

“Yes. It’s not nearly as much fun now,” she admitted, frowning worriedly.

“They’re almost ready. Can you see the truck? A buddy of mine is going to come up with a cherry picker and help you out.”

“Why didn’t you come up like that?” Gladys asked after a glance at Trent in the cherry picker.

“Cause this way’s more fun. We gotta get our fun where we can take it, right?”

“Of course.” She managed a faint smile.

“You think Mitzi would come to me? I can carry her down.”

“She’s in her traveling bag. I imagine she’s a little testy at the moment.”

“She’s not gonna bite me, is she?”

“Well, she’s not usually a biter, but we aren’t usually up in the trees, either.”

Kai chuckled. “Can you reach her?”

“She’s right next to me on the seat.” She reached over and the car swayed dangerously.

“Hold up,” Kai warned. “Tell you what, you hold still. Let me tell my buddy that you’ve got Mitzi with you. He’ll get you both out.”

“Okay, dear. What’s your name?”

“My name is Kai, Gladys. It’s Hawaiian for water.”

Gladys smiled. “What a wonderful name. Do you have any pets?”

He shook his head. “Mom’s allergic. But I’m a big fan of dogs.” He radioed Trent, telling him about Gladys and Mitzi. “I’m gonna stay right here until Trent gets here. He’s gonna take Mitzi and then we’re gonna get you out of there.”

“Okay. Please hurry. This isn’t fun anymore.”

“We’re doing our best.”

Kai continued to talk to Gladys as the cherry picker maneuvered into position. Mitzi was safely extracted, then they began the slow process of getting Gladys out. Fortunately, she wasn’t badly hurt, merely shaken up. She was able to crawl across the seat into Trent’s arms. He lifted her free, hauling her carefully into the cherry picker.

The tiny car shuddered. The trees around it finally tired of supporting its weight, dropped it unceremoniously into the muddy puddle below. Kai was splashed, but he was already wet from the rain. The Smartcar made a sick, crunching noise when it landed.

Kai climbed down, returning to the truck. Gladys was pale, but her eyes were bright and alert. She held out her hand to him.

“Thank you,” she gasped. “Is my Mitzi all right?”

“I don’t know, Gladys, but I’ll find out. Meanwhile, we need to get you to the hospital.”

“Will you take me?”

“My pal is gonna drive. Is it okay if I sit back here with you?”

“I’d like that.”

“Cool. The police will see that the car is towed.”

The doors slammed on the ambulance and it lurched into motion. There was no need to run the siren, but the lights flashed as it lumbered onto the highway.

Kai chatted with Gladys as they road to the hospital. She was clear and lucid the entire way. He gave report as they wheeled her into the emergency room entrance. She smiled, kissed Kai’s cheek, bidding farewell as they took her to an examination room.

“How’s Mitzi?” Kai asked as he climbed back in the ambulance.

Trent wouldn’t look at him.

“No. She didn’t make it?”

“What’s left in that bag can’t even be identified as a dog anymore,” Trent said. “We’re dropping it at the vet like we promised. I’m not telling that sweet old lady that her precious dog is dead. Could you?”

“No, of course not. Makes me sad, though.”

“At least Gladys is okay. We can feel happy about that.”

“Yeah,” Kai agreed, but he didn’t really mean it. He knew how much that little dog meant to Gladys.

The rest of the shift was a blur of accidents and emergencies caused by the storm. Kai was bleary eyed when it was all over. He flopped on his bed, falling immediately asleep. Not even a siren, sounding on the next shift, woke him. Six hours later, he woke and bathed, wishing he’d taken time to do so before falling asleep. He’d slept in his clothing, but some considerate soul had removed his shoes and socks. Probably Cherise, that wasn’t the kind of thing any of the men would have thought to do.

“Feeling better?” Trent asked as Kai stumbled into the kitchen.

“Kinda. What time is it?”

“Nine a.m. You okay?”

“Yeah. No. I don’t know. Point me to coffee.”

Laughing, Trent handed him a cup. “Your girlfriend called a couple times to see how you were. I tried to wake you, but you were out cold.”

“Thanks. I’ll give her a call—in a minute.” Kai held the warm coffee mug to his forehead.

His phone rang. Surprised it still had a charge, he answered.

“Hi, handsome.” It was Paisley.

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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First Meeting from Blacksmith’s Heart ~ A Love Under the Sun Romance by Dellani Oakes

First Meeting image smallestI am a big fan of first meetings. These often set the tone for the relationship, and tell us a lot about how the couple will interact with one another later in the story. Hana Sutherland wasn’t expecting to find love when she accompanied Great-Aunt Enid to the Lazy J Dude Ranch, but she hadn’t counted on meeting Jasper, either. With her new friend, Marnie, she is sitting on the rails of the corral as some of the young men put on an improvised rodeo.

Jasper rode a different horse from the others. It was black with a white blaze on the forehead. It bucked like a demon, spinning to the right as it jumped into the air. Howling like a banshee, Jasper hung on for eight and a half seconds before falling off.

The horse bucked a few seconds longer, then two of the young men grabbed him and calmed him down. Whickering and tossing his mane, he trotted from the corral.

Jasper dusted himself off, but instead of walking back to join the others, he came over to where Marnie and Hana were sitting. Grinning happily, he stopped and looked up at them. His eyes were an astonishing dark green, almost the color of his shirt. Hana’s heart fluttered again and she felt a blush rise up her throat as Jasper casually looked her over, eyes lingering on hers. An emerald sparkle lurked at the depths.

“Who’s your little friend, Mar?” He asked. His voice was a sweet, deep tenor that caressed Hana’s ears like luscious, warm honey.

“This is Hana, she’s new today. She came with her aunt.”

“Oh, Mrs. Parker’s great-niece, right?”

“That’s right. You know Auntie?”

Jasper chuckled, rubbing the back of his neck as if remembering a rather unpleasant experience. “Well, she’s been coming here since before I was born. Yeah, I know her. I know what it feels like to get rapped upside the head by her too.” He chuckled softly.

“Aunt Enid knows how to cuff a kid, that’s for sure!” Hana rubbed her own neck with the memory. “She grew up in the spare the rod and spoil the child era.”

Jasper tossed his dark hair out of his eyes, laughing happily. He had white, even teeth and full lips. Hana had to stop herself from staring until she realized he probably was used to being closely inspected by women. He carried himself with confidence and an air of nonchalance as if he hadn’t a care in the world.

“You two eating at the big house tonight?”

It was phrased offhandedly, but Hana suspected there was more to the question than he wanted to let on. Maybe he had a thing for Marnie? In which case, it sucked to be Hana, because of the available men, he was the one she was most attracted to.

Marnie looked at Hana. “So, you want to?”

“I’ll have to see what Auntie wants to do first, but I’d like to. Do I have to dress up?”

“Casual is great,” Marnie told her. “Some of the guests go all out with the cowboy theme. One guy dresses as Roy Rogers and his wife does the whole Dale Evans thing. It’s cute when they get up and sing their old songs with the karaoke. But you don’t have to do that much. You can show me what you’ve got, we’ll get you set.”

“Cool, thanks!” Hana turned to Jasper. “If my aunt hasn’t got other plans, I’ll be there.”

“Super!” He grinned happily, his green eyes sparkling. “I hope to see you there then. Seven o’clock,” He added as an afterthought. He swaggered off, dusting the seat of his pants with the brim of his hat.

“Oh, my God!” Hana couldn’t control herself another second. “Is he gorgeous or what?” She whispered excitedly to Marnie, hoping Jasper wouldn’t hear her.

“He’s a sweetheart too,” Marnie told her. “If I weren’t so wild about Jeff, I’d think about taking him for a spin. But I saw Jeff first and the brat stole my heart completely! I’m probably just attracted to him because he’s the only man who ever turned me down. Who knows?” She threw up her hands, rolling her eyes heavenward.

“Are those eyes for real? I mean he doesn’t wear colored contacts or something?”

“No! Totally, all Jasper! Come one, let’s go talk to your aunt and find something for you to wear.”

© 2020 Dellani Oakes

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