It’s late and night and something strange is happening. Has Orchid found them?
“What’s wrong?” He said in a normal tone of voice.
“I don’t know. I woke up suddenly. It was weird. I thought I heard someone’s voice.”
“Me too. Moments ago. I thought it was you.”
“You’re freaking me out, Jason. I thought it was you.”
“Could Orchid already know I’m out?”
“Possible. We didn’t make a big show of it, but it’s not like the press was unaware. If she’s around, she heard.”
“Great. She could already know where I am.”
This room had been made to look like a 1950’s living room. Even in a panic room, he had a theme. The mini kitchen on the end sported a full bar, refrigerator and an array of soda spigots. Since he liked to work in here, he’d stocked the refrigerator with a variety of soft drinks, but not much else. He grabbed a couple of sodas for them, handing her one. He collapsed on the couch.
“That’s kind of the point, isn’t it? Her finding you?”
“I’d rather have it the other way round,” he said more calmly than he felt. “Then I’d feel as if I had the upper hand. I don’t like the feeling that the bitch is ahead of me again.”
“How could she project her voice into the house?”
“Who knows? I very much doubt she could get in. The place is a ruddy fortress. But there’s all kinds of things you can do with electronics if you know what you’re doing.”
“Me, perhaps. But you? She doesn’t even know you. Let’s hope it stays that way.”
“Because I like you. I don’t want you a target. More to the point, I don’t want you to kill her. I want that opportunity myself—and you’d be better at it than me.” He flashed his winning smile at her, making her weak.
Taylor’s heart fluttered. She wanted so badly for him to kiss her she could hardly stand it. She’d never been so incredibly attracted to anyone as she was to Jason. However, she had a rule that she wouldn’t go to bed with a man she barely knew. Hell, she’d known Greg nearly two years and hadn’t gone to bed with him either! After a particularly horrible relationship crashed and burned a few years ago, she’d made a promise to herself that she’d be more careful. That vow got hard to keep when he looked at her like that.
Her phone rang. “Yes? Oh, thank God, Greg. What’s going on?”
There was a rumble of his voice on the other end. Jason couldn’t make out the words.
“Okay. We’re coming out. Thanks.” She hung up. “All clear. False alarm.”
“Did they figure out what it was?”
“He’ll explain when they get back up here.”
“I’m adding a peephole to my door tomorrow. I don’t like not being able to see out.”
“Good idea. We should all have them.”
“Get me some, I can put them in. I’m good with tools.” He gave her another amazing grin.
“All kinds, I bet.” Her smile and tone turned seductive.
“Oh, God, love! You’ve no idea what that does to me!”
She did, he could tell. She knew exactly where that smile had hit him and she loved it. He watched her ass all the way to the door of the panic room. She made him stay in there until she checked to be sure the men were back in the house and at his bedroom door. She let them in while Jason waited in the other room.
“Does that stair from the gym seal off?” Greg asked.
“Yes. If you remember, it’s in a tube at the bottom. And has a thing like a sub door on this end. It’s been sealed since we came up. The tube is coded, so’s the hatch.”
“Good. I was having a paranoid moment.”
“All ready had them, mate. Hence the hatch.”
“I like how you think,” Greg said, accepting a soda.
“So, what was it?”
“Someone’s baby monitor,” Tim said.
“What?” Jason was incredulous.
“They don’t shield those things worth shit. We traced the signal to the house next door. Scared the crap outta them showing up at two o’clock in the morning with guns.”
“Why did it sound like someone saying my name?”
“His name’s Jason too. I saw his license myself, no joke. We caught some of their kinky foreplay on the security feed,” Alex replied with a laugh.
“She talks dirty to him over the baby monitor.”
“Do they even have a kid?”
“No. It’s some game they play. Don’t ask….” Greg cautioned.
“Why’d we hear it?”
“That’ amazing sound system you’ve got. I’m not sure how it works, but that’s the gist of it. All safe and sound. Go back to sleep.”
“Yeah, that’s gonna happen,” Jason complained. “Maybe if I was stone drunk or sexually satiated after a few hours debauch with a beautiful woman. Clean and sober, no way!”
The men stared at him. He didn’t realize what he’d said right away. Blushing, he covered his head with his hands.
“Don’t kill me, Taylor. Sorry.”
© Dellani Oakes
Writing Comedy vs. Heavy Subjects by Karen Vaughan. Wonderfully funny, deceptively dramatic, eminently delightful.
Her mouth dropped open, her eyes big. “You’re shitting me!”
“Now I feel really old,” Tim said with a groan. “You’ve got millions and I’m watching my retirement dry up to nothing.”
“I can help you invest it. All perfectly legal,” Jason added quickly. “That’s what I do—well, partly. It’s how I built this place. Legit business, nothing shady.”
“Conflict of interest,” Tim said sadly.
“I can give you advice on where to invest then,” Jason said.
The men jumped at the chance to get financial advice. They chatted and yammered for quite awhile while dinner finished cooking.
Taylor said nothing. She sat quietly to the side, not really even listening. She was stunned by Jason’s pronouncement of how old he was—more like how young. She hadn’t realized there was quite such a difference in their ages, and it bothered her a little that he was six years younger than she. Having never dated younger men, she wasn’t sure what she thought of it.
Conversation over dinner was animated, but general. They brought the others in to eat in shifts, spotting them on security so they could enjoy their meal. Jason sat, talking to all of them, getting to know his protectors. He thought that making friends with them was probably a good thing, considering their lives lay between him and potential death or disaster. One thing he made sure to do was thank them for their help.
The agents all thanked him for the meal and put their dirty dishes in the dishwasher. Jason and the others finished cleaning up and moved to the sitting room upstairs between their bedrooms.
“So, what’s on the third floor?” Tim asked.
“Not a lot yet. Still working on it. Couldn’t make up my mind if I wanted work space, bedrooms or a gallery. Maybe I’ll put in a shooting range.”
The agents laughed.
“Speaking of which,” Tim replied. “I’ve got us time at Lloyd’s range tomorrow. He’s away at a gun show, so his place will be empty. Think you can get over your fear of guns in order to learn how to shoot one?”
“I can face anything I have to. I’ll learn,” Jason said.
Taylor firmly believed he could and would overcome any adversity that he encountered. He was the strongest willed, most tenacious man she had ever met. He might not like it, but he’d learn to handle a weapon and, if she was any judge, would be damn good with it too.
Around 10:00, they headed to bed. They planned to get up early the next day so they could take full advantage of the gun range.
Jason indulged in another long, hot, relaxing shower. Dressed only in pajama bottoms, he lay down on the bed to watch some TV. Nothing interested him, not even from his huge DVD collection, most of which had never been opened.
He wanted—needed—a woman. Not just any woman, not since meeting Taylor. Having never been in quite that situation before, he wasn’t sure how to cope.
He had always been able to pick any woman he desired and have her fairly expeditiously. He hadn’t told the judge the truth about that, he thought with a grin. He never struck out. He always got what he set his mind on. The fact that he wanted Taylor and couldn’t have her was making him slightly irritable.
He could have her if he pushed, but he didn’t want to do that either. Forcing the union would drive her away. The only thing worse than not having her at all, would be having and losing her. Greg had told him to let her come to him. If she didn’t, he didn’t know what he would do.
Around midnight, he finally fell asleep. Waking with a lurch, he sat up in bed. He thought he heard someone call his name. It was a woman’s voice, but didn’t sound like Taylor. It sounded like—Orchid. She couldn’t be here. She couldn’t have found him so quickly—could she? No, it was ridiculous even to speculate. It had to be something else.
He heard it again, very distinctly. Looking at the door, he saw light under it. He knew they’d left the hall light off when they went to bed. He went to the door, listening. There was a light tap and someone said his name again.
Wishing he’d put a peephole in, he leaned close. “Taylor?”
“Let me in,” she said quickly—quietly.
He opened the door a crack. It was indeed Taylor, fully dressed as she’d been at dinner. She slipped in urgently, her gun drawn.
“Not sure. We got an alert a moment ago. We’re to head to the panic room, you and I. Hurry.”
He keyed in the code and locked the door behind them. She put her gun away, standing in the center of the room.
© Dellani Oakes
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Keeping It Together. We all need a little help from time to time.
Jason gave directions, helped out when there were problems and kept up an easy flow of chatter while they worked. Soon, the sauce bubbled on the stove, noodles cooked, garlic bread warmed in the oven. The house was full of good smells and laughter. Jason and his security team sat around sipping sodas.
“What made you become an agent?” Jason asked Greg.
Greg smiled, nodding so expansively, he bent nearly from the waist. “Clint Eastwood.”
“What? The actor?”
“Yeah. At first, I thought Dirty Harry, you know? But he’s played cops, agents, Secret Service. They all come across so strong and sexy, I thought That’s what I want to be when I grow up.”
“That was sometime last year,” Alex said with a smirk.
Greg punched him. “What about you, old man?” Greg directed to Alex.
“Who you calling old, boy? I’m not even forty!”
“I’m not even thirty. I’ll call you old if I want.”
“I grew up hard,” Alex replied. “My neighborhood was a war zone. Wasn’t surprising to have police cars all over the place most of the night. If they came when they were called, that is. Most of the cops knew to stay out. Only a handful were brave enough to face the risks. Veterans of Vietnam, mostly. Wasn’t nothin’ those men hadn’t seen. Bunch of street toughs didn’t scare them—not even me.”
“You were a gang banger?” Tim asked him, stunned.
“Was goin’ that way, for sure. I was small, fast, smart…. Lots of those guys needed runners for one thing or another. I was being groomed until I got in too deep. Couple of the cops got me off the street one night when all hell broke loose. Most of the gang I hung with got wiped out that night, the others got arrested. Me, they gave a chance. I was thirteen. I promised to clean up my act and I got to hang out with them at the station. They kept an eye on me, let me ride with them sometimes. Some of them taught me to shoot and others showed me karate and the like. They wanted me on the force, and I did that a few years. Felt like I wasn’t making a big enough difference, so I came here instead.”
“Tim, how about you?” Taylor asked.
“Nothing that dramatic or romantic,” he said quietly. “I bought into the whole make a better America schtick and joined the military. I was in Dessert Storm—sorry assed war. Saw me a little action, but not a lot. Got sent home and realized I had nothing to look forward to. So there I was, an out of work Marine, and got recruited by the feds. Found my niche. How about you, Tay?”
“You all know about my dad.”
“Well, I thought about being a police officer for awhile. I considered the military. Then I was seriously interested in the DEA and the CIA, but my mom talked me out of those. I applied for Secret Service, but declined when Obama was elected. However, I’d been through all the preliminary stuff and cleared, so they offered me this job. I liked what I saw, so I stayed.”
“How did you become a thief?” Tim asked politely of Jason.
“Oh, well… fell into it, really. I was small, fast, smart—much like Alex. I was a born con man. I could charm the wings off bees and tell the sun not to shine. I waxed most poetical, so even the bullies left me alone. Amazing, but I got through school without getting beaten regularly. Pretty soon, I had my own protection racket going. Not of businesses, of other small squirts like me. They paid and I saw they were protected. Worked slick too, ’til the school got wind. Ah well.
“By that time, things were bad at home. Both parents finally left and I was on my own. I needed food, shelter, rent money. I started by shoplifting, then picking pockets. I worked honest jobs for a while, but that didn’t pay as well. Lost the apartment eventually, lived on the streets, in flop houses, cardboard boxes—that was the worst. Then I met up with this fellow who was looking for an apprentice.”
“How did he find you?”
“I found him, more is like. I picked the old boy’s pocket on the train. He slipped his wallet back out of my pocket and slid me a note clipped to some cash. If I showed up at that address, I’d be even better paid. I’m figuring he’s some kind of pervert, but I was hungry and desperate. I went.”
“And he wasn’t?” Taylor pressed.
“Nicest old man I’ve ever met. Treated me well, taught me all he knew and gave me his fortune and property when he passed. That’s how I learned about investments. You can’t believe the portfolio he left me. He was the closest thing I had to a real parent in my entire life. Monty Philips, he went by. Wasn’t his real name, of course.”
“Did you ever think of doing anything else with your life?” Taylor asked quietly.
“Thought about being a chef once. Yeah, didn’t work out.”
“Why not?” She asked.
“Too many homosexuals. I wasn’t about to change my preferences just to get a better job. Mind you, not all of them, but enough to make it mighty uncomfortable. I didn’t really put on any size until I turned twenty.”
“Just how old are you?” Taylor asked, trying to sound casual.
“Sure you really want an answer?” He glanced at her, not quite meeting her eyes.
She smirked. “Why not?”
© Dellani Oakes
Sea of Destiny – Part 10. Kyle has been talking to his travel agent. He told her to find a family friendly cruise for his family and Carmelita, their housekeeper. Angie, the travel agent, calls him with details. They are going to Mexico. She suggests he may find love again, but teases that the name of the boat is not the Love Boat. Curious, Kyle decides to see what the name of the boat really is.
Jason laughed as the men filed out of his room. He really enjoyed these rough and ready FBI men. Never having had many friends, he felt himself lucky to have three—four if he counted Taylor. Could he count her? Or did she fall into another category entirely?
He locked the doors to his suite and threw his dirty clothing in the hamper. The water jets hit him from all sides as well as above his head, beating the soreness from his body.
While he bathed, he worked off the sexual tension the only way he could. It wasn’t ideal, but better than nothing. Maybe, if he did it a few hundred times a day, he could control himself and not act like a teenager when Taylor was around. He was careful to keep images of her from his mind, concentrating instead on actresses and super models.
As he dressed, there was a tap at his door. Thinking it was one of the men, he slipped on his boxers and unlocked it.
“It’s open.” He turned away, padding silently to the dresser.
“You decent?” It was Taylor.
“Much as I’m likely to get.”
“I meant are you dressed?”
The door opened and shut with a furtive click as he bent over to put on his jeans. Glancing over his shoulder, he was surprised to see Taylor in a pair of soft, pink yoga pants and a coordinating sweater. No bra, he noticed, and barefoot.
“Feet’ll get cold on the tile downstairs,” he remarked as he zipped his pants.
She stared at him again. He could feel her eyes follow the movements of his body as he pulled on his shirt.
“I think we need to talk about this,” she said quietly, leaning against the door.
“Guys will be here shortly.”
She nodded. “Greg and I never got very far,” she said suddenly. “And before him, not that many men. I was very focused on my career.”
“Taylor, you don’t owe me an explanation.”
“I know. But I want you to know. I’m not a virgin—not exactly, but….”
“Not exactly?” He held up his hand to stop her babbling. “Do I really want to know this?”
She smiled, shaking her head. “Probably not. It’s been a long time for me and I’m not sure I’m ready to make any kind of commitment….”
She crossed the floor between them in a sudden rush. Her arms were around him, her lips on his. Her kiss had desire and fury burning in it, searing his mouth. Just as suddenly, she stopped.
“I’m sorry! I’m so sorry!”
She ran from the room, nearly knocking Greg over. She headed to her room, slamming the door.
“My advice,” Greg said calmly as he strolled into Jason’s room. “Is to quietly do her, get it out of your system and move on.”
“Jason’s laugh was caustic. “Variety of things wrong with that, mate. Quietly?”
He chuckled. “Get her out of my system and move on? Can you?”
“No. And we never had sex. Not for lack of trying on my part.”
“Why not? Seems to me you’d be well suited.”
Greg shrugged. “Don’t know. Every time we got close, she’d slam on the brakes. Only I don’t think she wants to any more. Got to admit, I’m jealous as hell. But I want her happy. I know I’m not the man to do that. I think you are.”
“Maybe, but do you think we’ve got a chance?”
“Don’t know unless you try. Take it slow. Let her come to you.”
“And if she doesn’t?”
“She will…. Let’s fix dinner.”
Although the agents were dressed casually, they were armed and diligent. More agents patrolled outside and there were now agents in the security office monitoring the screens. All the cameras had been cleared, making Jason happier.
His new friends lined up on the other side of the island, watching Jason expectantly as he checked the refrigerator.
“What’s for supper?” Greg asked for the third time.
“How about spaghetti? It’s quick, easy, goes a long way.”
“Sounds good. Assign us jobs, Chef,” Tim replied.
“Tim, brown the meat.” He handed the older man ground beef. “Greg, open sauce.” He pointed to the bottles neatly arranged on the counter. “Then dump them in the pot. Who can be trusted with a sharp knife?”
Taylor raised her hand.
She grinned, taking the chopping board and vegetables he handed her.
“What about me?” Alex asked.
“You’ll put the salad together and help Taylor with veggies.”
“And you?” Greg asked, licking sauce off his thumb.
“I’m going to sit here and watch you lot make a mess in my kitchen.” He winked, settling down on a bar stool. “Actually, I’ll take over once all the prep work is done.”
© Dellani Oakes