First Meeting from Only Time by Dellani Oakes

First Meeting image smallestWhen I start looking for a new couple, I try to mix it up some. It’s easy to bring people who work in the same place, together. It’s also easy if they travel in the same social circles. I like to introduce couples who are unlikely to meet under regular circumstances. I also like to switch up their jobs, so they’re unique and unexpected. So it is with Zander and Gretchen. He’s a fashion designer and she’s the head carpenter for the company who’s building his catwalk. They meet at Zander’s studio.

Inside, chaos had returned. Garry took a crema to Rose, leaving Zander to look over the catwalk set up. A woman with black hair, approached. She was dressed in well worn jeans, a black, sleeveless top, and thick soled boots. She was about 5’7”, with a lean muscled build.

Mr. Wilkes?”

Yes?”

Gretchen Sanderson.” She held out her hand.

Zander didn’t know whether to shake it, or kiss it. She was beautiful. Breathtaking, really. Her black hair had a blue undertone that looked completely natural. Her light complexion set off her amber eyes.

How do you do?” He held her hand several seconds longer than necessary, while he stared at her face. “You are—perfection. Have you been back to see Rose about what outfit you’re wearing?”

The woman looked at her clothing, then back at him. “Am I not dressed all right?”

You need to get back there for your fitting. The ensembles are roughed in, but have to be fitted before you can go on stage.”

Tossing back her head, the woman laughed. Seeing his puzzled expression, she sobered a little.

I’m not a model, Mr. Wilkes. I’m the head carpenter. I had a few questions about the catwalk design. I don’t know who did the plans, but—I don’t think they’re completely safe.”

Broken from his appreciative reverie, he dropped her hand. “Not safe? How?”

I’ll show you. This way.” Tipping her head, she led him toward the stage area.

What’s wrong?”

The platforms are made with half inch plywood. We didn’t build these,” she gestured to her co-workers. “They’re going to buckle and bend when more than one person stands on them. I can either redo the tops, or reinforce with more supports underneath.”

Which do you recommend?”

Retopping them with one inch ply.”

How behind schedule will that put you?”

Pressing her lips together, she tipped her head to the left. “No more than a couple hours. The superstructure is fine. We just have to retop them. My guys are good and quick. There are only six of them, it won’t be that much trouble. We’re building the rest to my specs. I hope that’s all right.”

That’s fine. I want this done right. The fashion industry may be cut throat, but it’s not usually lethal.”

She smiled, dark eyes twinkling. “Good point. Thank you. We’ll get right on that.” Whistling sharply, she gestured to a couple men who were about ten feet away.

Retop those,” she ordered.

Yes, Boss,” they chorused.

They walked over, uncoupling the platforms quickly.

Zander chuckled. “My crew calls me that, too.”

I insisted. I’m not in the military, so I don’t really like being called ma’am.”

I can understand that. Are there any other problems you needed to discuss?”

Let me check.” She pulled out a small notepad from her back pocket. “Yes.” She went on to point out a few things that needed to be changed. “Again, I don’t know who did these plans, but they kinda had their head up their ass.”

There should be a name on the floor plan.”

She shook her head.

Check with my business manager, if you need to know. She handles those details. I just sign the checks.”

Not that important, except you don’t want to use them again.”

Then we’d better find out. Got a minute? We’ll find her together. I need to tell her that I fired a seamstress, and have her find another one.”

Sure. The guys are good, they can work without me breathing down their necks. In fact, they do better if I leave them alone.”

He chuckled, nodding. “My crew, too. I learned a long time ago, to let them do their jobs, since they sew way better than I do.”

I thought designers had to be able to sew, and stuff.”

Oh, I can, they’re just better.” He escorted her up the steps and through to the back. “Does the backstage need to be redone, too?”

No. My crew did that work. It’s just the ones up front.”

You didn’t do that assembly?”

No. Your manager fired the others, for some reason. But she was specific that the plan had to be followed.”

Hmmm…. Okay. Anyone seen Pamela?” he asked the room.

Office,” Melodie replied. She was wearing a different outfit now. Rose was pinning it into place.

Thanks.”

Allowing Gretchen to precede him, he guided her to Pamela’s office. As he opened the door for her, he touched the small of her back. A spark hit the tips of his fingers. Hissing a little, he pulled his hand away. Gretchen jumped.

Are you all right?” Zander asked, deeply concerned.

Yes, fine. I must have picked up some static.”

©2020 Dellani Oakes

Love Takes a Swim Part 63 by Dellani Oakes

Love Takes a Swim cover smallCody has shared with Paisley and Kai that TJ and JT’s dad is abusive, and hits their mother. She offers to talk to them about her own abuse.

Cody absorbed all this quietly, nodding while he thought. “Okay. Yes. I want you to talk to them. But Kai, you have to keep TJ from hitting me.”

His older brother chuckled. “No problem, Cody. I’ll run interference while Paisley talks.”

“Thank you,” Cody said quietly as the Jeep pulled into their driveway. He scurried off before the others could respond.

Kai helped Paisley out of the Jeep and held her close a moment. “Thank you.”

“I hope we can help. No one should be in that sort of situation. You can’t believe how helpless you feel.”

“No, I can’t. I never understood how a woman could stay with someone who beat them.”

Paisley stiffened, her chin rising defiantly. “Do you think we’re weak? Or that we love them so much we can’t see their faults?”

“No. I think you get in over your heads. You’re so afraid of doing or saying the wrong thing, you do nothing because, you can’t see an escape. But you escaped, Paisley. You got away and the twins’ mom needs to know that.”

“I agree.”

“We’ll talk to them as soon as we can,” he said softly.

Conversation stopped while he kissed her.

Since it was late, Paisley spent the night once more. Nina was asleep, but Brad was still up. He wanted to hear about Cody and Marianna’s first date.

“Sounds like you did okay,” he told his son, ruffling his hair. “You keep being polite and gentlemanly, you’ll go far.”

“Ed’s a good guy,” Kai explained. “He just wants his sister to be treated right.”

“That’s what I want to do,” Cody said, rather exasperated. “Why won’t anyone believe me?”

“I believe you,” Paisley said, giving him a hug. “You’re a great guy,” she said, kissing his cheek. “Marianna is very lucky to have you.”

“Thanks.” His dark eyes glittered happily. Touching his cheek, he went upstairs whistling.

The following day, cleanup began at the pool. The insurance adjuster managed to find time to come see them.

“Could have been worse,” he said as he eyed the damage to the pool house. “Thank God no one was hurt. This is messy, but it’s just stuff.”

“Agreed,” Brad said. He’d taken the day off to deal with the adjuster and other details. “More bad weather is coming,” he said, eyeing the sky. “Have you heard a report?”

“They said on the news the storm makes landfall tomorrow night. They expected it to hit at Gulf Shores, Alabama, but it’s turned east. They think it will make landfall between Panama City and Port St. Joe,” the adjuster replied. “I’m gonna get some pictures, then you can get on with the cleanup. The processing could take some time, what with all the damage around the county. I’ll do my best.”

“That’s all we can expect,” Brad replied. “Thank you.”

After the adjuster left, they worked a while longer on cleaning up the rest of the glass in the pool house. Kai’s tower was unsalvageable, so they took it apart and put it in the dumpster along with the other trash.

Damage to the main building was minimal. With luck, they would be able to open it the following day. Brad, Cody and Kai erected a fence between the building and the pool. The area was unsafe and they didn’t want any children wandering in there accidentally. That accomplished, they headed home.

Paisley had spent the day cleaning the house. Nina was better, but felt traumatized by her experience. Tempest had stayed close to her all day. For some reason, her daughter’s presence calmed her more than anything. The two young women had fixed a nice meal, but it wasn’t quite ready.

The men went to clean up, arriving in the dining room as the timer went off in the kitchen. The boys helped serve while Brad helped Nina get settled. The meal was a bit more subdued than some. Nina didn’t feel much like laughing. She was so deep into her sullen mood, it was hard to shake her free. They tried, but it was obvious she wasn’t interested in leaving her sorrows behind.

“It’s just something she’ll have to snap out of,” Brad said. “I set up an appointment with a counselor. I think she needs to speak to someone. The idea that she could have been in the pool house—that freaked her out.”

“I’d never let that happen,” Kai said.

“I know. But she’s caught up in the what if scenario. She’s second guessed her actions and is over thinking it.” He shook his head. “It’s going to take some time for her to get past this.”

“Meanwhile, she’ll go back to work, won’t she?” Kai asked, alarmed.

“I don’t know. I hope so.” Brad sighed. “We’ll figure something out.” He said goodnight and went to bed.

Everyone opted for an early night. Kai’s sleep schedule had been so bizarre lately, he was exhausted. He gave Paisley a goodnight kiss, yawned and went to his room. She watched him with concern, which Cody didn’t miss.

“He’s okay,” Cody assured her. “Things aren’t usually this hectic.”

“I feel like it’s my fault everything is falling apart. Since I came into your lives, it’s been nothing but chaos.”

Cody chuckled. “That’s coincidence, Paisley. For my brother, you’re everything that’s right with his life.”

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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Love Takes a Swim Part 62 by Dellani Oakes

Love Takes a Swim cover smallMarianna didn’t want to leave, but she and Cody made plans to spend the day at the beach. That seemed to satisfy her. They said good night and drove off in opposite directions.

“Thanks for coming along,” Cody said in the back seat. “Takes the heat off a little. I thought Ed was gonna kill me.”

“He’s a good man,” Paisley said. “He’s like you two, he worries about his little sister. Treat her right, you’ll get along with him fine.”

“Yeah, but what’ll he do if we break up?”

“Depends on if you dump her, or she dumps you,” Kai said. “And timing. If you sex up his sister and ditch her, you’re a dead man. Pure and simple. If Ed didn’t kill you, I’d do it on general principle.”

Cody shivered. “I’d never do that. You know me better than that.”

“I do. You’re a good man, Cody.”

There was a prolonged silence in the back seat while Cody digested that compliment.

“Thank you. I’ve tried hard to be like you….”

Kai cleared his throat. Paisley could tell that his brother’s pronouncement had touched him.

“I guess we both chose well, then, cause I’ve tried to be like Brad. He’s the best man I know.”

Cody didn’t speak for a moment. “Not your dad?”

“My dad’s cool, but he’s not the man who raised me. Brad is. He’s done more for me than my father ever has. He’s the one who taught me to drive, told me the facts of life, and made sure I used my manners at the dinner table. He also set a great example for how to treat a lady, by the way he’s always treated our mom. There were nights I lay awake wishing he was really my father—then it hit me once—he is. He might not have given me life, but he’s my father. You won’t find a better example—not even me.”

“I didn’t know that,” Cody said quietly. “Thanks, Kai. That means a lot to me.”

Kai stopped for a light and grinned at his brother in the rear view mirror. “You’re not so bad, for a kid brother,” he remarked speculatively. “You’re pretty okay. Now TJ….” He blew a disgusted breath as the light changed.

“What’s wrong with him?” Cody went immediately on the defensive. “You’ve never liked him.”

“That’s because he’s a dumb ass, and he doesn’t think before he acts. One day he’s going to get you into serious trouble. I may not be around to pick up the pieces.”

“He’d never get me in trouble. He’s my best friend.”

“Who would throw you under a bus to save himself.”

“He wouldn’t!”

“Okay,” Kai said in a disbelieving tone. “Who broke the windshield on Old Man Curry’s classic Pontiac Gran Prix?”

“TJ.”

“Who got blamed, and had to work off the cost doing Curry’s yard work for two months?”

“Me.”

“Who pulled the fire alarm at the school, because he didn’t want to take the science test?”

“TJ.”

“And who got blamed and suspended for a week?”

“Okay, you’ve made your point. TJ’s an ass, but he needs me.”

“Why?”

Because he’s an ass. No one else even likes him much. If it weren’t for me and JT, he wouldn’t have anyone. TJ’s really shy and he can’t talk to people like JT can. I know he doesn’t act like it, Kai. But he’s a good friend. He’s pulled me out of some scrapes.”

“That he got you into?”

Cody laughed harshly. “Yeah, sometimes. Usually…. It hasn’t been easy for him, though. You know their dad has a bad drinking problem, right? And he sometimes….”

“Sometimes what?”

“He sometimes hits their mom. So JT and TJ take turns goading him so he’ll leave her be. One time, he got hit so hard, he lost the sight in his eye for awhile. He still doesn’t see quite right.”

“Do Mom and Dad know this?”

“No,” Cody said softly, hanging his head. “The guys told me not to tell. TJ will get really pissed if he finds out I said anything—even to you.”

“Cody, if his dad is that bad, he could hurt someone—including you, if you’re over there. Mom and Dad need to know. I’ll tell them, if you don’t want to.”

“I can. I just don’t know what to say.”

“We’ll figure it out.”

Paisley turned to Cody, putting her hand on his arm. “We all will, Cody. We’ll talk to them together.”

“You’d do that for me?” His dark eyes were wide, tears hovering in the corners.

Paisley nodded. “I’ve had some experience with abusive pricks, who drink, and take out their anger on women. It gives me a clear perspective. I’ll even talk to the twins, if you think it will help.”

“I dunno, TJ’s gonna be mad….”

“He lost his eyesight to protect his mother. I wish I’d had someone to protect me. Ultimately, though, she has to save herself. Her boys can’t do it for her, and neither can you.”

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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First Meeting from The Great Mandrake ~ A Florida Families Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes

First Meeting image smallestDrake Mann, also known by this stage name, The Great Mandrake, works part time as a comic magician. A young father, he also takes care of his older sister’s son, Davy. He goes to school to pick up his nephew, only to have him not walk out the door. Worried, he talks to the teacher, Amalia Capo.

Drake looked for Davy, but he wasn’t out yet. Poking his head in the room, he saw his nephew at his desk, hands folded in front of him.

“Is he in trouble?” Drake asked the teacher. He recognized her as the redhead he’d seen in the office that morning.

“No, he knew I needed to speak to you. He assured me this was the best way to get your attention.”

Drake chuckled, grinning at the young woman as he ruffled Davy’s hair. “I’m all yours. What do you need?”

“As you may know, the winter carnival is tonight.”

“I didn’t know.”

“Well, I was put in charge of organizing it and the main entertainment canceled on me this morning. Davy tells me you’re a magician?”

“Yeah.” He frowned at his nephew. “What did he volunteer me for?”

“Nothing. He said I should ask if you could fill in?” She opened big blue eyes, giving him the best sad puppy look in the world. She had to have practiced, it was too slick.

“Umm….”

“Please? It’s a paying position. Most things are voluntary, but I’d booked a clown for tonight and he insisted on payment. Then he called and canceled.”

“Did you pay him anything in advance?”

“No, thank God. The school won’t pay in advance.”

“Good thing. I’ll have to see if anyone can watch the kids.”

“Oh, bring them. It’s very kid friendly. I will personally watch your daughter while you perform. Then our class is singing some Christmas songs with the other second grades. He didn’t tell you?”

“He could have. I’ve been real busy. Sure. I’d be happy to.”

“Thank you! You’re wonderful!” She flung her arms around his neck, kissing his cheek.

Shelby hugged Miss Capo, kissing her cheek too. They stood in a little cluster, arms around one another, until Miss Capo blushed. She stepped away from Drake.

“I’m so sorry. You don’t know how much I’ve been sweating this. If you hadn’t said yes, I don’t know what I would have done. Probably gotten out my baton and twirled it for twenty minutes. Can you be here ready to go on at seven?”

“Yeah. No problem. I’m happy to help out. See you at six thirty.”

“Thank you again, Mr. Mann. You’re a lifesaver.”

“Call me Drake. You’re very welcome, Miss Capo. What flavor am I?”

“Flavor?”

“Lifesaver.”

She giggled, blushing. “What flavor do you want to be?”

“I dunno, what’s your favorite?”

“I was always partial to butterscotch.”

He nodded. “I like Wint-O-green. They spark in the dark.” He winked, giving her a crooked smile as he walked out the door.

Davy followed closely as they walked back to the car. “Were you flirting with my teacher?”

“What makes you say that?”

“The silly banter and the wink.”

“Banter? Where’d you hear that?”

“On television. Were you?”

“Was I what?”

“Flirting?”

“No, kid, we were just talking. Not every conversation between a man and woman is flirting.”

“I also heard on Discovery Channel, that flirting is a precursor to sexual relations.”

“Dear God! What show was this?”

“Something on human behavior.”

“Davy, that’s a tad mature for you to be watching. No more of that, okay? And don’t ask anyone else these questions.”

“Miss Capo said it’s good to ask questions. That’s how we learn.”

“Yes, but not about that. Don’t even ask Miss Capo.”

“Can I ask her about flirting?”

“No. She’ll think I was hitting on her. Please, don’t mention it.”

“You didn’t hit her.”

“Not gonna explain. When you’re older, I’ll tell you all about it. Not today.”

“Okay.” That seemed to satisfy his nephew.

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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Love Takes a Swim Part 61 by Dellani Oakes

Love Takes a Swim cover small“I’ll try that,” Paisley said bravely. “What the heck, I’m not driving.”

“If you don’t like it, I’ll finish it,” Kai said. “Sweet tea with lime,” he ordered.

Cody got the same. Ed and Marianna ordered ice water with lemon.

“Never heard of tea with lime,” Ed remarked. “That’s different.”

“Our mother’s allergic to lemons, but she likes citrus, so she uses limes instead.”

A young man, with light brown hair and a dark tan, walked over to the table with two Mojitos. He set them down in front of the women with a flourish. Kali hopped up, hugging his neck, kissing his cheek.

“Stu! I didn’t know you were working here!”

“Just started, part time. With the baby coming, I needed a little extra cash. When Brandi told me she needed unmolested Mojitos, I knew they had to be for you. How you been?”

Ed regarded the other man warily. Kali pulled Stu over, extending his hand to Ed.

“Sweetie, you remember my cousin Stu. He’s Dave’s older brother.”

“Oh!” Ed stood, shaking the other man’s hand. “I was about to cream you, man.”

Stu laughed loudly, shaking Ed’s hand heartily. “No worries, man. I understand. She’s not real good with explanations, so we’ve learned to run fast—me and my brothers,” he explained. “Kali’s the only girl with a million male cousins. We met at Thanksgiving once,” he reminded Ed. “But there were billions of us there.”

“Yeah, I should have know, though. You look just like David.”

Stu chuckled. “No, I’m older, so he looks just like me, only I’m better looking.”

That gave them all a laugh. Kali introduced the others. Stu shook hands all around, grinning.

“I need to get back to the bar, sweet pea. Be sure to tell me if I made them right.”

“You’d better. I taught you.” Kali cut her eyes at him. “I’ve tended bar since I was old enough to hold a bottle,” Kali explained. “I started out with lemonade stands, and now I tend bar at the Hilton.”

“She doesn’t need to work at all,” Ed said quietly.

“No, but it keeps me busy and it’s fun. I’ve also swung a lot of business his way,” she explained. “There’s a lot of bored, rich people out there, who have nothing better to do than customize their cars, or fix up old ones. There was an antique car convention in town one time. We lined up a couple dozen jobs from that one gig.”

“Just know you don’t have to work, babe,” Ed said softly, kissing her.

“I like to, Eddie.”

The waitress came back to take their meal orders. She didn’t write anything down, simply smiled and nodded, repeating the order before moving on.

“She doesn’t write it down?” Ed asked Kai.

“She’s got a fantastic memory. Everything she hears, she remembers,” Kai, who knew her, explained.

“That would drive me crazy,” Kali said.

“That’s cause half of what you hear is your own self talking,” Marianna said with a giggle.

Kali laughed, tossing her bread at Marianna. “God, she’s so right.”

They had a great time at dinner. Paisley and Kali each had two Mojitos. Kali got more talkative, if that were possible. Paisley got the giggles. Everything was hysterically funny. Kai kept an eye on her, concerned she’d had too much to drink. When the women went to the restroom, he watched her until the door closed behind her.

“Don’t worry,” Ed said kindly. “She’s fine. So, Cody. Having fun?”

“Yes, sir. Marianna’s a great girl.”

“God, don’t call me sir, okay? Ed’s good. She really seems to like you.”

“I hope so. I like her a lot. And you don’t have to worry. I’ll treat her right.”

“You’d better, or I’ll break both your legs,” Ed replied, not smiling.

Cody gulped. Ed laughed loudly.

“I’m fking with you, man. But seriously—I will.”

Hanging his head, Cody looked so upset, Ed relented.

“I’m teasing, kid. You seem like a real gentleman. And I’m only gonna say this one time. You know she’s not experienced, right?”

Cody nodded, gulping. “Me either,” he answered honestly.

“Okay. Well, if you have any questions, you ask, got it? You do something wrong, you can hurt her your first time.”

“I can’t believe you’re telling me this,” Cody said, blushing. “I mean, she’s your sister.”

“I wish my first girl’s brother had said something to me,” Ed answered. “Maybe it would’ve gone better. But you got two experienced men here to ask. I know eventually it’s gonna get to that stage, only it better not be too soon.” He pointed one stubby, calloused finger at Cody.

Cody gulped again. “I’ll let her decide,” he whispered.

“That’s the answer I was after,” Ed told him, smiling proudly.

They said good night by the cars. Ed allowed Cody a chance to kiss Marianna good night. The two other couples walked away from the cars for a few minutes to give them a little privacy.

A chilly breeze blew in off the ocean. Paisley shivered. Kai put his arm around her shoulders, holding her close. She leaned her head on his shoulder, cuddling up to him. Kali did the same with Ed. Soon, they too were kissing under the star laden sky. Another, colder wind sprung up making the girls gasp. The men decided it was time to go.

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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Love Takes a Swim Part 60 by Dellani Oakes

Love Takes a Swim cover small“Door was open. Don’t jump me cause you’re horny and hurting,” Cody snapped. “You know, the rest of us have to deal with that shit too. At least you’ve had girlfriends before and can get some relief. So far, my sex life has been palm action. Got no sympathy for you—none. She may not get a boner every time she sees you, but it’s not easy for Paisley, either. And you haven’t had the shit in your life she has. So, before you become an even bigger prick, think about that for a second.”

Cody had never spoken to him like that before. Kai wasn’t sure how to respond, so he didn’t. He knew his brother was right and it made him angry that his behavior was commented on by a kid. Instead of hitting Cody, which was his first impulse, he shoved past him, trotting down the stairs. He paced the living room impatiently while he waited for Cody and Paisley to come down. Eventually, they were ready and the three of them headed out.

Cody had let Marianna choose the restaurant. She chose a steakhouse over on beachside. As it happened, they pulled up and parked next to Eduardo just as he turned off his engine. He drove a vintage Jaguar 340 sedan. Kai wasn’t sure of the year, but he knew old and expensive.

“Ed restores and customizes cars,” he explained to Paisley as she admired the pale green vehicle.

“It’s magnificent,” she gasped, running her hand over the sleek fender.

“Meet Briar Rose,” Ed said proudly.

“I thought your girlfriend was Kali,” Paisley said with a puzzled frown.

Ed laughed as he walked around to the passenger door. “She is. In fact, this is Kali. The car is Briar Rose.”

Paisley giggled, covering her face with her hands. “Oh! I never was introduced to a car before! She’s beautiful.”

A tall, attractive blonde got out of the car with Ed’s help. “Ed swears he’s giving the car to me for a wedding present. But he’s already gotten six offers on her.”

“Eight, got two more this morning.”

Kali raised an eyebrow, tossing her head. “Well, if I actually get her, I’ll be shocked. Hi, I’m Kali. He introduces the car, not me. If he wasn’t built like a god, and hung like a horse, I’d ditch his sorry ass.”

Eduardo laughed loudly as he pulled Kali toward him. Kissing her loudly on the cheek, he held her as she tried to get away. Paisley could tell she wasn’t really trying, but the punch she caught him in the gut with, was real. Ed woofed slightly, holding his abs.

“Baby, you didn’t give me a chance. Seriously, I’d never forget you, Kali,” he gasped. “The tall one’s Kai. The shorter one’s Cody, he’s with Marianna. And the woman who’s as pretty as you, is Kai’s girlfriend Paisley.”

“He’s being kind,” Kali said as she took Paisley’s hand. “You’re prettier than me.” Tossing her head, she grabbed Paisley’s arm and strutted toward the door.

Marianna walked shyly over to Cody. He held out his arm and she took it with both hands, leaning in close. Ed and Kai followed, watching he younger couple closely.

“He’s gonna behave, right?” Ed asked.

“He’d better, or you and me will gank him.”

Ed tapped his knuckles, grinning. “I knew I liked you. So, what do you think of her?”

“Which her?” Kai said with a smirk. “Got a few to choose from.”

“Kali.”

“I think she’s beautiful and a handful. And if I’d seen her first, we wouldn’t be friends.”

Ed laughed, nodding. “Ditto. So, when’s the wedding?” He winked at Kai.

“Haven’t even dated two weeks yet, Ed.”

“Kali and me, we’ve been together just over a year. She’s the greatest thing that ever happened to me.”

“Ditto,” Kai replied absently as he watched Paisley walk into the restaurant.

The women and Cody were already seated when they walked in. Based on how many people stood around outside, Kai was surprised. At this time on a weeknight, there was usually a 20 minute wait.

“Kali called ahead,” Ed said somewhat self-consciously. “She throws my name around like I’m somebody.”

“They must think so, or we wouldn’t be sitting down yet,” Kai said with a grin. “Be happy. The rest of us peons would still be standing.” He gave Ed a playful punch on the shoulder.

The powerfully built Mexican man chuckled. “That all you got, chico?”

“No, but since you could fking kill me one handed….”

Ed eyed him critically. “No, it’d take both hands.” He laughed, shoving Kai. “You’d hold your own. Not that I ever wanna find out. You could put the hurt on me at least six ways.”

Kai smirked, shoving his hands in his pockets. “I figure at least twice that on a bad day.”

Ed chuckled, dark eyes sparkling merrily as he took his seat beside Kali. She and Paisley sat next to one another with Cody and Marianna across from them. Kai and Ed took their places as the waitress approached with menus.

“What can I get you to drink?”

The men exchanged a look. “I’m driving,” they said in chorus.

“I’ll have a Mojito,” Kali said. “And tell the bartender to bruise the mint, not molest it.”

The waitress grinned. “One unmolested Mojito. Got it.”

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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

First Meeting image smallestDade Morgan is a skilled carpenter, who takes old pieces of furniture, and other items, refurbishing, or upcycling them. He has the need of a blacksmith, and is a little surprised with what he finds when he arrives at the forge.

Sparks flew. The ring of hammer on anvil landed to the beat of the music blaring from the speakers. The musical choice wasn’t exactly what he was expecting, though he couldn’t have said what he thought a blacksmith would listen to. However, he found John Mayer’s Gravity surprising—made more so, because the smith was singing to it. Near the big finish, voice soaring to the high note, the hammer became the microphone. The song came to an end, and the hammer was silent long enough for him to speak.

Excuse me?”

With a screech of alarm, the smith jumped around, hammer lifted to strike him. With a gasp, the tool-cum-weapon lowered and the laughter began.

You startled me. I thought I was having my musical moment alone. Can I help you?”

Yes. Dade Morgan,” he said, holding out his hand. He gazed into the darkest brown eyes he’d ever seen.

The young woman smiled, white teeth flashing in the soot covered face. “Lumina Hudson, though I expect you know that, since you’re here.” Wiping her hand on the seat of her jeans, she took his in a firm, calloused grip.

Lovely to meet you, Miss Hudson.”

You called about a table?”

Yes. I find objects and rejuvenate, repair and up-cycle them.”

Oh, I’ve seen people like you on TV. I love those shows.”

I do that, on a much smaller scale. I have a fairly healthy You Tube presence. Small but steady audience, so far. I hope to change that, soon. For now, it’s me and my imagination.”

She flashed another grin, her dark eyes sparkling. “Imagination is largely underappreciated.” She gestured around her, showing off items in her fenced yard. “All fruits of my imagination. Some were commissioned, others done on spec.”

He looked more carefully at the sculptures, photos and wall hangings. “Beautiful. Who knew that metal could be shaped so delicately. May I?” He gestured to a sculpture on a nearby table. It looked like a tiny bonsai tree, but it was made out of some sort of metal.

Sure. You can’t break it.”

He snatched his hand back. “Oh, don’t tell me that! I’ve been known to break the unbreakable.”

Perhaps just look, then,” she teased. “I made that out of old flatware. Forks, mostly. The trunk is made from knives.”

It’s beautiful. Forks? Really?” He squatted to better view the delicate leaves. “Ficus?” he tilted his chin, raising a questioning eyebrow.

Good eye. Bodhi tree or Ficus Religiosa, to be precise. You do bonsai?”

I failed at it. One of the unbreakable objects? Yeah….. My first bonsai. And the dish. And the table it sat on.”

Oh, you’re good. Most people aren’t that thorough.”

In my defense….” He paused, dropping his head.

You were drunk?”

Yeah….” Clearing his throat, he stood abruptly. “Might have had a little—help—on the table.”

Female help?” She tilted her head, trying to catch his eye.

Yeah. Never mind.” He rubbed his nose. “For this table, I wanted wrought iron legs.”

Giggling, Lumina covered her mouth. “Back to business then, Mr. Morgan. Harder to break wrought iron.”

Exactly. Also, I found the most amazing piece of oak. It’s from the old Merriweather Hotel downtown.”

Wasn’t that a saloon, or something?”

Saloon, brothel, hotel. During Prohibition, it was a speakeasy. Upstairs, respectable hotel. In the basement, a somewhat disreputable blind pig. I got the bar.”

No kidding! Aren’t they tearing it down?”

Sadly, yes. It’s been empty for decades, but was slated to be refurbished by Yarrow Enterprises. Unfortunately, the inspection discovered that the foundation is too damaged to handle an upgraded structure. In fact, it’s too expensive, even to try.”

You’d think that Yarrow would have enough money to throw at the project,” she scoffed.

If he’s willing to abandon it, it must be bad. However, they are doing a salvage and haul sale. You can pay a couple hundred dollars for the day, and haul away whatever you can carry. I’ve done it all week, and have some amazing pieces.”

Are you done?”

For today. It will still be going on for a few more weeks. I’m running out of space. I had to hire a POD to store things. The stuff I take, it’s unlikely anyone else wants. Most folks are going for the copper pipe and wire. I’m taking the bar and old toilets.”

She burst out laughing. “You’re kidding!”

He put his hand on his chest. “Hand to God, I’m telling the truth. Decorators love them. It doesn’t take much to get them refitted with the proper plumbing, and they sell for a bunch. If the tank or bowl is damaged, I can make them into fancy planters. Look.” He held up his phone and accessed the gallery. The image he showed her was of an elevated tank toilet in a sunny yard. The top was full of ferns, the bowl was full of a plant she didn’t recognize right away.

Oh, my god, is that—pot?”

His laugh was loud and carefree. “Pot in the pot. The male variety. It was a commission piece.”

I love this! Show me the oak?”

He led her to his pickup truck, parked in the lot outside her fence. Excitedly, he lowered the tailgate. Reaching in, he carefully pulled out a canvas wrapped bundle. Tossing the flaps back, he revealed a golden brown piece of wood. Nearly three inches thick, it curved in a graceful arc. Rounded lips ran down each side. Asking permission with a glance, she caressed the old, smooth surface.

This is magnificent!” she sighed. “Did you get more?”

Yes. I got the entire thing. But I thought this would make the most interesting table. I’m going to copy the lip, putting it around the ends. I got more of the same wood, but the sections were too damaged to use as they are. I can salvage what I need.”

And keep it all period! That’s so cool!” She smoothed the surface again. “Are you thinking traditional legs?”

Yes. I don’t want to take away from the beauty of the wood. I thought either the typical curls, or maybe spiral?” He shrugged, deferring to her.

Spirals, I think. Curve at the bottom, or straight?”

Which do you think?”

Lumina leaned over, looking at the bottom and sides. “Straight. No. A slight curl at the end, just enough for the leg to rest on.” Nodding, she straightened. “Let’s make a template….”

I’m way ahead of you. I made one before I came over.”

That’s so thoughtful!”

He grinned. “Anything to make your job easier. Also, I can use it for something else later, so it’s not wasted.

Thank you. When I have the legs crafted, do you want me to drill the holes, so you can use it for this piece? You don’t want to mess it up.”

Excellent idea. Thanks. Got an idea on budget?”

Let’s have a look, and I’ll draw up an estimate. Probably going to be about two hundred.”

I can live with that. I set a budget of three.”

It will be under three, might be slightly over two.”

I should be able to sell it for at least three fifty, maybe four.”

No kidding! Where?”

I’ve got a guy,” he chuckled.

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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