Archive | July 2013

It Takes a Thief – Part 58

It Takes a Thief coverDirector Remington has arranged for Jason to talk over security measures for the fashion show with Bitsy Mitchell, the security head.

The door opened and a tall, striking woman in her mid-thirties walked in. Her dark hair was pulled back in a sleek ponytail at the nape of her neck. Her makeup accentuated her dark almond shaped eyes and olive toned skin. Her suit was cut along the same lines as Taylor’s only black instead of gray. Her tailored silk blouse was melon colored.

The men rose to greet her. She shook hands with Remington and the others, stopping when she got to Jason. She didn’t extend her hand right away, merely eyed him appraisingly.

“You must be Jason Banes,” she said, her voice deep and dusky.

“I am.” He looked cool and calm, but Taylor sensed wariness in him. He was prepared for an attack and wasn’t surprised when it happened.

“I have a bone to pick with you, Banes. Because of you, I’ve had to turn my security plan upside down and inside out—all at the last minute. Do you know how long I’ve been doing security?” She advanced on him rapidly, like a viper.

Jason smiled, not backing down like she expected him to. “If you say longer than I’ve been alive, I might just believe you. Though I doubt it.”

She stopped talking, mouth open. She almost tripped, but he caught her arm, righting her.

“I’m older than I look,” she said, snapping her lips together. “And you’re a cocky little bastard. I had this whole thing worked out perfectly, then I get a call from Gene telling me I needed to redo it and put two of his men into my lineup. I don’t like working with someone breathing over my shoulder. I run a tight ship, Mr. Banes.”

“Yes, and you’ve never dealt with a woman like Orchid, have you? I rather doubt it, or we wouldn’t be having this conversation—she’d have killed you as she tried to kill me. When she sees me, there are several possible reactions. One, she’ll bolt—in which case, she must be apprehended. Two, she’ll attack. I’m fond of my life, Ms. Mitchell. I’d rather not be killed. Three, she’ll do both. You get the idea.

“There are, of course, other permutations. I shan’t bore you. Orchid is as unpredictable as a tornado and just as deadly. She doesn’t play by the rules. I’m sure your security would have been adequate for a normal fashion show. This is not a normal show.”

“What makes you say that?” She didn’t want to listen, but couldn’t stop herself.

He took a step toward her, extending his hand with a tight smile. “Are you in the habit of inviting dangerously unbalanced psychopaths for cocktails, Ms. Mitchell?”

Her expression softened and she started to laugh. “You’re right, Gene,” she said over her shoulder to Director Remington without taking her eyes off Jason. “He’s an infuriating tick, but he knows his shit.”

“You called me an infuriating tick?” Jason didn’t know whether to laugh or have his feelings hurt.

“Not exactly. I said you could be infuriating like a tick that gets under your sack.”

Jason burst out laughing. The other men chuckled, hands dropping protectively to their groins.

“That’s true enough.”

“Good one, boss,” Tim said, offering his knuckles for Remington to tap.

The older man did so with a smart assed grin.

They took their seats and for the next half hour, Ms. Mitchell went over the security plan. It was quite thorough. Jason quizzed her with dozens of questions about this or that eventuality. Some of his scenarios were quite far fetched, which Bitsy Mitchell questioned. For each of her questions, he had a good answer. Not always so when the shoe was on her foot.

“You’re getting ridiculous,” she snapped after the fifth question.

“Ever worked with someone like Orchid before?”

“No. Have you ever been indicted by a grand jury before?”

“Are they merciless psychotics?”

Bitsy raised an eyebrow. “Not usually. Gene, this boy is wasting my time.”

“It’s not a waste of time if you go back and look for the flaws in your plan,” Jason said quietly. “Which I bet you do the second you leave this room. You won’t ever say so, of course, but you know I’m right. You haven’t planned for every contingency, just the most obvious ones.”

“It’s the not so obvious we need to take into account, Bitsy,” Director Remington added.

“You’re letting this kid dictate my job?” Bitsy sputtered.

“I’m letting this security expert give you some damn good advice. Quit looking at how young he is and listen to what he’s saying.”

“I don’t believe he knows what he’s talking about. What assurance do I have that he’s qualified?”

“Ms. Mitchell, I don’t have a resume, I’m a thief. I can, however, tell you a job I pulled. You can check it out. If you don’t believe me after that, fine. I’ll shut my mouth and be on my merry. But if you believe me, then you do this my way.”

“Very well.” She crossed her arms over her ample chest.

“Director Remington, I don’t want this coming back to bite me in the ass. I need your assurance that I won’t be prosecuted for what I’m about to say.”

Remington frowned slightly, bit his lower lip and nodded. “You have my word and the assurance of this group, that you won’t take any extra heat for this.”

Jason nodded. “The Harper Star Diamond.” Jason said politely, eyeing the others. “Moscow, 21st April, 2008. Five minutes before midnight, you received an anonymous tip….”

© Dellani Oakes

To Purchase Dellani’s Books:

Ninja Tattoo

Under the Western Sky

Indian Summer

Lone Wolf

Indian Summer Revisited – by Dellani Oakes

indian summer scanned cover 500 x 750

Indian Summer, Dellani’s Historical Romance

A few years after writing Indian Summer, I decided to write a contemporary romance, also set in St. Augustine. The interesting twist here is that the two many characters, Carina and Malin, are distantly related to Gabriella and Sailfish from Indian Summer.

Though they never consummate their relationship, Gabriella and Sailfish love one another. I got to thinking, “What if they were reincarnated? What if those reincarnations met up and fell in love?” And so Indian Summer Revisited was born.

Malin is a very talented musician, but his father doesn’t approve. Instead, he’s in college studying history. He meets Carina by accident, when they collide on the stairs. Since meeting her, he’s gotten a dream job playing guitar at a restaurant and has been contacted about a record contract. All the pieces of his life are falling into place.

The following is a conversation with his twin sister, Tess, who calls him because she found out, through their father, that he was working as a musician. She is more than a little annoyed with him for not telling her.

His phone vibrated in his pocket. It was his sister, Tess. He’d completely forgotten to tell her about the recording contract and he could only imagine how pissed she was going to be with him.

“Hello, brother,” she said cheerfully.

Sighing, he sat at the table to finish his beer. If Tess started out like that, she was furious and he was in really deep shit before he said a single word.

“I know I should have told you, Tess. But you see, there’s this girl—”

“Yes, I know. The beautiful brunette.” Her voice was swimming in honey.

It was the most lethal sound in the world and his insides knotted up.

“I just got off the phone with someone. I’m sure you can imagine who.”


“Bingo! Right the first time! Give record boy a gold star! He’s rather upset with you. What the hell did you say to him? You didn’t goad him about Nora again, did you?”

“I swear I didn’t. I wanted to, but I thought, What would Tess do? and did the opposite. I was polite, nice, charming.”

“Suck up.”

“Tess, come on.”

“Twisted eel, evil brother, gonad king! You couldn’t tell me? I’m your only sister and you couldn’t reveal this tidbit of news when you called?”

“It just happened last night. I didn’t have this tidbit the last time I called. And I’ve been somewhat busy, Tess. I’m sorry. Didn’t Mom tell you?”

“You told our MOTHER? And you didn’t tell me?”


He knew he couldn’t win. She was in full swing and he was totally screwed. If he thought he was going to get her to understand, he was dead wrong. It was better to ride it out and let her have her fit. Once she was done, then he could get a word or two in. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem like that was going to happen anytime soon.

“Tess, I need to get my stuff packed up.”

“Don’t you have servants for that, Mr. Rock Star?”

“No. I’m not a rock star, I’m just singing at a local restaurant.”

“Why didn’t you tell me, Mal? God, I had to find out from him!”

“Was he mad?” He couldn’t keep the gleeful anticipation from his voice.

“He was livid. I’ve never seen him so angry. He was all red in the face and spitting. It was a beautiful moment.” The anger in her voice subsided, changing to glee.

“He didn’t threaten you with a loaded gun, did he?”

“No. The Nora bitch took them away and locked them up after the time I told him I was pregnant with Clay’s love child.”

“Why would you tell him a thing like that? He hates Clay.”

There was a slight pause and a snort of laughter. Malin gathered up some of his equipment.

“Okay, answered that one myself. I’m sorry I forgot, Tess. The last few days have been completely surreal. I’ve had exams, the new gig and a new girlfriend all since Tuesday.”

“Is she amazing?”

“She bypassed amazing when she rammed me in the gut with her elbow. Honestly, I can’t find words good enough to describe her. She’s symphonic.”

“Oh, I have to forgive you now. You’re in love, you prick. How dare you?”

“Am I? How can you tell?”

She repeated what he said, giving it her own twist. “Gag me now, I might throw up.”

“Wouldn’t you like to be described as symphonic? I think it’s pretty cool.”

“I’d love it, but Gary doesn’t know any words that big. He gets as far as hot and sexy and starts to drool. I’m thinking of breaking up with him.”

“Why’s that? I thought he was great in bed.”

“He’s okay. Clay was better.”


“I’m kidding. We never got that far. Not that I wasn’t interested, but we knew you’d kill us both if we even tried it. He kisses well, though. Is he dating anyone?”

“Yeah, he is,” Malin sounded very annoyed. “I can’t believe you liked Clay.”

“Malin, I know you’re just a guy and all, but Clay is nearly as gorgeous as you. It makes me sick to say that, but my brother is one of the best looking men I know and his dorky friend is pretty damn jacked and hot and I’d do him in a heartbeat.”

“Tess,” Malin was getting uncomfortable. “Remember that conversation where it was way too much information?”

“Yeah, so?”

“So, we’ve reached that point again, only it’s your turn.”

“Grow up, Malin! I like sex just as much as you do.”

“Not listening.”

“I’d venture to say I’m nearly as experienced as you are.”

“Still not listening.”

“I did have a thing with your friend Benji a few months ago. He’s kind of kinky, but the things that man can do with his tongue!”




He hung up, flushed and angry. He really didn’t think Tess had sex with Benji because she was always complaining that he smelled like last week’s dirty laundry. He still didn’t like hearing her talk like that and he certainly hadn’t appreciated what she had to say about Clay.

“Who was that?” Clay asked him in passing.

“That was Tess.”

“Oh, yeah? How’s she doing?”

“She misses you and your tongue.”

Clay wiggled his tongue around, confused. “Me? What for? I thought she hated me.”

“Hell if I know. She’s in one of her moods.”

“Ooh, Evil Tess has come out. Must be a full moon.” He looked up at the sky.

“Clay, did you ever do my sister?”

“Do what? Oh, Do your sister. No. Not that I wouldn’t want to, she’s smoking hot.”

Malin gave him a black look, saying nothing.

“But in a purely virginal and totally untouchable way. I’m going over there now where no one wants to murder me.”

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It Takes a Thief – Part 57

It Takes a Thief coverAfter a long day of makeovers and training, Jason and Taylor have more preparations for their upcoming mission.

They woke the next morning to Tim’s bellowing in the hallway. “Wake up!”

Horrified, Taylor looked at the clock. She jumped out of bed, calling to Jason.

“Get up! We’ll be late. Oh, God! I forgot to set the alarm. Remington’s going to flip!”

She put her hair up in a sloppy bun and hopped in the shower. Jason joined her, rinsing off quickly.

Taylor did her makeup in less than five minutes and dressed in the same suit she’d worn the first day they met. Jason pulled an exquisite suit from the closet and dressed rapidly. He hadn’t shaved, but his hair was so light, it hardly mattered. He was still doing up his tie when Tim tapped on the door. Taylor checked the peephole and answered.

“Did the power go off or something? You’re all lazy this morning.”

Taylor explained what they’d been doing. He nodded, understanding the importance.

“Well, you’re lucky. Remington moved the meeting back about twenty, so you’ve got time to grab coffee and a donut before we jet. The boys are in the hall.”

They joined the others and went down the back stairs. Coffee was just finishing as they walked into the kitchen. The team filled travel mugs, grabbed donuts or bagels and loaded into the SUV’s. Although Jason still felt very conspicuous, he was getting used to this mode of travel. He’d have preferred something less obvious, but it wasn’t his choice.

They arrived at the Bureau office downtown right on time. Remington joined them in the conference room a few minutes later. He looked angry and harassed. Or rather, Taylor amended mentally, more than usual.

“You ready for this cluster fuck of an event?” He asked Taylor as soon as he walked in.

“Yes, sir.” She gave him a brief rundown of the last couple of days.

Remington nodded, lips pursed. “And who paid for all this?”

Jason raised a reluctant hand.

“Don’t expect to be reimbursed. I’m not sure my budget will allow it.”

“Hadn’t crossed my mind. I want Orchid caught as much as you do, sir. It’s a small price to pay.”

He smirked, snorting. “Small, he says. Three tailor made suits and designer dresses, on top of a house call by the top two stylists in the city and it’s small?”

“Don’t forget the limo we discussed,” Jason amended.

Taylor gave him a penetrating look. When had he talked to Director Remington about a limo?

“Oh, that one was easy. We’ve got a customized limo that we impounded from a drug lord a few months ago. New paint job and it’s ready to go. It fits your specifications to the hilt. He must be even more paranoid than you are.”

“Not possible unless you delve into psychosis,” Jason replied with a smirk of his own. “Everything else in place?”

“Absolutely. I won’t have my best people twisting in the wind, kid. Bitsy’s been informed….”

“No offense, sir, to you or Bitsy, but I’d kind of like to talk to her.”

“I anticipated that.” He hit the button to an intercom. “Send in Bitsy Mitchell, please.”

© Dellani Oakes

To Purchase Dellani’s Books:

Ninja Tattoo

Under the Western Sky

Indian Summer

Lone Wolf

It Takes a Thief – Part 56

It Takes a Thief coverTaylor and Jason spend time together, working on their cover story as well as dancing together. On a whim, Jason asks Taylor to marry him when all this unpleasantness is behind them. Equally impulsive, Taylor says yes. Done with their dance session, Jason wants to take Taylor upstairs to make love.

“We need to tell Alex….”

“He’ll figure it out.”

She wanted to go with him, but she couldn’t give up protocol to that extent. She told the men they were going upstairs. They insisted upon seeing them up and checking the room before leaving them alone. Jason made sure the hatch door to the spiral stair was sealed tightly while Taylor put her gun in the drawer.

Their love making was even more enthusiastic. As he climaxed, Jason told her how much he loved her. As they lay in one another’s arms, he held her close, her head on his chest.

“We don’t have to get married right away, Taylor. I’ll need a bit of time to become completely legit with all my finances legal. I won’t put you in that sort of position. But I want to marry you and make beautiful babies inside you….”

“I want that too. A son you can see every day and be part of his life from the beginning. And a daughter to take to dance lessons….” She teared up, sniffling softly. “I never thought I’d ever find a man I wanted to make a family with. I thought I’d be married to my career.”

“I thought I’d be a player forever, flitting from one beautiful flower to the next. There’s only one flower I want now and she’s currently naked and in my bed.” He chuckled, kissing her on the head.

Taylor giggled, playing with the hair on his chest. “Do you really think we can pull this off?”

“Yes. I have every confidence.”

“You’re terrified we’ll mess up. I can hear it in your voice.”

“I’m always keyed up before a job.”

“Is that what this is? A job?”

“That’s what everything is—except you. What we’re trying to pull is among the greatest con jobs that’s ever been attempted. Only this time, if we fail, we die. Orchid’ll kill all of us if we fuck this up.”

“Then we’d better not fuck up,” Taylor said with finality.
She got up, dressing quickly. She tossed his boxers at him, his jeans followed.

“What are you doing? I thought we’d try this again.”

“Tell me everything I need to know to fit perfectly into your world. And we need to come up with a cover story for how we met. We need to know more about one another than the fact that we have earth moving sex.” She grinned at him over her shoulder.

He looked smug. “When we’re done, then what?”

“Then we get to have more earth moving sex.”

“You talked me into it.” He got up and dressed, following her to the kitchen.

They surprised the others by suddenly appearing in the kitchen. Greeted by a wall of weapons, Jason raised his hands and waved at them. Taylor strode into the room, heading for the coffee pot.

“How old is this?”

“Twenty minutes, give or take,” Greg replied.

She poured two mugs and Jason joined her at the table.

“Fun as this is,” Taylor said without preamble. “It doesn’t make us a success. We need to get to work on our covers. Memorize them, like you would any cover assignment. We need to be these people if we’re going to be convincing.”

For several hours, they worked on their stories, quizzing one another with unexpected questions. Jason was best at tripping them up, but Taylor was best at improvising. Fortunately, she was the one most likely to be in the hot seat. As Jason’s companion, she would draw more focus than the others.

Around 2:00, Taylor called it a night. They had an early appointment with their boss at the Bureau, then a full day of fittings and shopping.

“If I don’t look well rested, Celeste will fuss at you,” she told Jason as they went to bed.

“At me? What for?”

“Keeping me up late.”

“Then I guess I’d better let you sleep.” He kissed her on the brow, curling up behind her.

Jason was almost immediately asleep. Taylor lay awake, thinking. Was she making a terrible mistake getting involved with Jason? How could she be sure theirs was a lasting relationship? Come to that, were there ever guarantees in any relationship? Whatever the outcome, she had to admit that this was the best relationship she’d ever had. Even if it ended in a crash and burn, she intended to enjoy what he had to offer—withholding nothing.

Smiling, she snuggled closer to Jason. He caressed her as he slept, his breath warm on her neck.

“I love you,” she whispered.

His only reply was soft, deep breathing. With a happy sigh, she fell asleep.

© Dellani Oakes

To Purchase Dellani’s Books:

Ninja Tattoo

Under the Western Sky

Indian Summer

Lone Wolf

It Takes a Thief – Part 55

It Takes a Thief coverTaylor’s makeover complete, Celeste presents her to the men.

Tim and Alex made similar comments. Taylor wasn’t sure what to think. She stood there looking lost and helpless until Jason stood, taking her beautifully manicured hand.

“What they’re trying to say is that you look stunningly beautiful.”

“Thank you.” She blushed, eyes dropping to the floor.

“Now, you lot. You need haircuts. Henri has graciously agreed to trim and snip as needed. Greg, you’re a mess. You first.” Jason pointed to the bathroom in the master suite. “Meanwhile, you two. Manicures. Line up. Celeste, which is first?”

“Which is worse?” She inspected their hands and led Alex to a table behind the couch in the sitting room. “You bite your nails? For shame! A man as good looking as you should have soft hands, lover’s hands. Your wife will be appreciating this.” She sat him down, shoving his hands into a liquid to soak.

Jason and Taylor sat on the couch, snuggling as they spoke to Tim. When his turn came, he went to the manicure table. Alex changed places with Greg. He came out looking much more stylish.

“He liked my hair,” he said with a smirk as he sat in front of Celeste. “He thought it was cool that it grows sideways on the back. He wants pictures to put in a magazine.”

“It is the front of you he should take, not the back,” Celeste commented “You should look into modeling. What do you do for a living, cherie?”

Greg glanced at Jason, raising an eyebrow.

“He and the others are in security, Celeste. Specifically mine.”

“No wonder you have callouses like a man who holds a weapon.”

He very judiciously chose not to say another word about it. Instead, he changed the subject, encouraging Celeste to talk about herself.
Finally, all the manicures and haircuts were accomplished and Celeste and Henri left with Tim, who headed home after dropping them off. Taylor had an appointment to go shopping with Celeste while the men went for their suit fitting the following day.

At dinner, the team discussed their new looks. After clean up, the men practiced fading into the background as Jason led Taylor into the gym. She thought he wanted to work out, but he shook his head. Taking out a small remote, he started music playing from an unseen sound system. He held out his arms to her. Taylor shook her head, declining. With a slight frown of annoyance, he insisted.

“I love to dance. My ladies dance with me. I never date a non-dancer for long. It’s a pattern I’ve established over the years. Beautiful as you are, the old me would have dumped you in a heartbeat simply for refusing a dance.”

“The old you?” She stepped into the circle of his arms.

“The one who wasn’t passionately in love with you,” he whispered.

His breath shook the hair by her ear making her squirm against him. The music continued and he led her in an easy dance to a beautiful, slow tune. The accompaniment was simple, played on piano and cello. Taylor leaned her head on Jason’s shoulder, eyes closed as the song drew to a close. Her breath was shaky as they stopped dancing. The music had moved her to tears.

“What was that?” She asked, wiping her eyes with her fingers.

Drunkard’s Prayer by Over the Rhine,” he replied.

“It’s so beautiful.”

His lips touched hers. “Glad you liked it. Would you like to hear it again?”

She nodded. He clicked the remote and the song began again. She listened carefully to the words as Jason sang softly to her.

“….Sweet intoxication, When your words, Wash over me.”

“Did you pick that on purpose?” She asked with a sad smile.

“I did. You’re my sweet intoxication, Taylor. I’m addicted and I can’t get enough of you.”

The music changed to something a bit faster and Jason did a different step, slightly more sophisticated than the last. Each song that played had a unique feel and rhythm. He led her through many different dances. She followed well, doing far better than he anticipated. When he commented on how quickly she’d picked it up, she grinned.

“You misunderstood my reluctance. It’s not that I can’t dance but that I only used to dance when my dad was alive. When he died, we couldn’t afford lessons anymore. I didn’t dance again until college. I picked it up as a minor, but it never felt right—until now.”

“I love you,” he whispered. “And I really want to make love to you right now.”

She giggled, tossing her golden tipped hair over her shoulder. “And that’s different—how?”

“Marry me, Taylor. When all this muck is over.”

She didn’t know what to say. Yes and No warred within her. He was a thief, a felon—albeit with no convictions, but one nonetheless. She loved him, she wanted him in her life, but could she make that kind of commitment? He was waiting for an answer. If she said no, what would it do to him? Did she want to? If she said yes, it opened up a whole new world of possibilities.

“Yes,” she whispered.

He kissed her, whirling her in a tight spin. He lifted her, swinging her around happily. His kiss carried great promise as he held her several inches off the floor. His embrace was strong and sure and he held her a long time without wavering. Gradually, he lowered her to the ground. Tugging her hand, he led her toward the stairs.

© Dellani Oakes

To Purchase Dellani’s Books:

Ninja Tattoo

Under the Western Sky

Indian Summer

Lone Wolf

It Takes a Thief – Part 54

It Takes a Thief coverHenri and Celeste arrive to begin the makeover process. After some disagreement, Jason and Henri decide upon what will be done with Taylor’s hair. She and Celeste discuss makeup and Celeste asks if there is a budget for Taylor’s wardrobe.

“No. She’s to be the most beautiful woman there, Celeste. I want all eyes on her when she walks in the room. She is to be the center of attention. Can you do that for me?”

Celeste turned Taylor’s head from side to side, examining her profile. “Mais oui. She is perfection already. Now, has the hair been decided upon?”

“Yes, my sweet,” Henri said, bowing humbly to his wife.

“Excellent. Then I shall let you begin. Jason and I shall discuss wardrobe.”

“As you wish, my sweet.”

Henri led Taylor to the master suite, carrying many cases with him. He shut the door and refused Jason entry.

“An artist does not allow scrutiny of his work until the masterpiece is complete,” he said through the door.

* * *

Downstairs, the men waited impatiently to see the results. They wanted to see Taylor’s new look, half afraid that she was going to kill Henri, Celeste or Jason in the process. After what felt like a slice of forever, Jason called them upstairs. He, Henri and Celeste sat in the center room looking smug. The door to the master suite was closed.

“You can come out now,” Jason called.

The door opened slowly and Taylor emerged. Henri had augmented the existing highlights, adding a secondary lighter tone. The length was essentially the same, but he’d neatened and trimmed it so that the ends curled under, and the sides framed her face. She wore it long, pulled back in elegant combs that looked like real jade.

Her makeup was dusky, subtle, exquisite. Celeste had used a technique that blended the colors so they had a smoky appearance around the eyes. Her lips looked fuller, more sensuous. Her lean curves were accentuated by the clinging black pants and crop top she wore. It might not be a designer dress, but she looked beautiful.

The men stared at her, jaws dropping as they admired her new look. Taylor, not quite certain what to make of it, started to tighten up. Balling her fists, she advanced.

Celeste cleared her throat pointedly. Taylor slowed, relaxing, as she advanced into the room. It took a moment for the men to realize she was wearing high heels. They might not be the six inch ones that Jason wanted, but they still added a tempting curve to her legs.

Greg whistled low, admiring her openly. “Ooh wee, sister, do you clean up good!” He said in a slow Southern drawl. He clutched his chest. “Mercy!”

© Dellani Oakes

To Purchase Dellani’s Books:

Ninja Tattoo

Under the Western Sky

Indian Summer

Lone Wolf

It Takes a Thief – Part 53

It Takes a Thief coverSeriously alienating Taylor by suggesting she needs a makeover, Jason makes his plans anyway. She and the team have to be refined before they will fit into the society he has sought so long to be part of.

Jason gave him a long, withering, patient look and flipped open his phone. He spoke in Italian for several minutes, nodding and gesturing wildly, raising his voice to overcome apparent protests. He waited in silence for a few moments. Tim tried to say something, but Jason held up a finger for silence. Irritated, the FBI man started to go red in the face, opening his mouth once more. Jason clamped his lips shut with his fingers, glaring mutely at the man.

Grazie. Buono. Ciao.” He pointed at Tim with his phone, frowning. Taking a deep breath, he exhaled slowly through his nose. “Don’t. Not a word. You don’t know what I had to promise to accomplish the impossible for the three of you. You’re going in for fittings tomorrow. You’ve no idea what this is costing me.”

“We can pay for the suits,” Alex said.

Greg, who was fluent in Italian smiled, shaking his head. “Dude, not suits like these. These are worth more than we make in a year.”

“Don’t ruin them,” Jason said. “Don’t eat, don’t even sweat. There will also be shoes, because there’s no way you’ll be taken as anything but feds in those bloody awful clodhoppers you wear. And you, love,” he turned politely to Taylor. Celeste will see to kitting you out with the right attire. If you can’t wear six inch heels, we’ll work with four—though I prefer the others.”

“You want me to be able to walk on my own, I can’t wear them. I’ll fall down and break an ankle.”

“Then you’ll practice—a lot.”

She started to protest, but he held up a hand. “This is my world, love. I know what I’m talking about. Do I try to tell you your job?”

“You don’t know beans about my job.”

“Ditto.” He patted her on the cheek. “You lot are stuck with me, let me do what I do best. Meanwhile, something to eat. I’m starved. I hardly ate in jail. The food was atrocious. I’m not a very finicky man, but that wouldn’t suit a buzzard.”

He set about making a light afternoon snack. When it was ready, they sat down to enjoy it while they waited for Henri and Celeste. Rather than trusting rookies to the task, Tim and Alex decided to go themselves. Jason gave them a whispered code word to use so the couple would know who they were, and they set off in one of the black SUV’s.

“They’ll be all right, just the two of them?” Jason gazed out a slit in the drapes, watching the SUV drive off.

“That bit about not telling us how to do our jobs—remember that?”

“Yeah,” he continued to stare after the vehicle, although it was out of sight.

“That would apply,” she said, snapping the drapes shut. “Away from the window, Jason. With the right equipment, a sniper can pick you off.”
He blanched, backing rapidly away.

Henri and Celeste arrived at the house about half an hour later. They pulled into the garage and were ushered upstairs without going through the mass of agents in the living room. Jason didn’t want them to know this was part of something official. It was better that they not know or even suspect that. He met them in the sitting room, introducing them to Taylor.

They spoke rapidly in French as Jason described what he wanted done. He and Henri got into an argument over something about her hair, but Jason finally relented, admitting that Henri was, of course, the expert.

Celeste was a stunning woman in her late fifties. Her blonde hair was beautifully coiffed and looked completely natural in color, until she admitted to Taylor that it was dyed. She spoke with Taylor about her skincare routine and laid out products for her to use, demonstrating and describing them to her.

Eying the younger woman appraisingly, she tilted her head to one side. “You are a size four?”

“Yes.” Taylor blushed slightly, embarrassed by the scrutiny.

“You are very fit. Not much up top. We shall have to compensate. I am surprised. Cher Jason usually prefers a woman with more cleavage.”

Taylor blushed, eyes downcast. “He hasn’t seemed to mind yet,” she said, some of her courage returning. “In fact, he told me my breasts are beautiful.”

Blue fire leaped from her eyes and Celeste smiled.

“Now I see why he admires you. You have spirit. He loves a woman with fire. I do not mean to be insulting, cherie. Of all his women, you are the best. She’s magnificent,” she said over her shoulder. “You did well for yourself this time, my lad. Do you intend to keep her?”

“I’m thinking about it, Celeste. Why?”

“Because you finally struck upon perfection. A bit rough, as you say, but oh, the potential…. She will be our finest work. Now, my dear, let’s talk about your makeup.”

She brought out a case of samples and showed Taylor so many colors, she couldn’t keep track of them all. Keeping some out, discarding others, she finally chose what she thought would work best.

“The dress we will choose later. I have several in mind. We shall go shopping, you and I. Do we have a budget, cherie?” She asked Jason.

© Dellani Oakes

To Purchase Dellani’s Books:

Ninja Tattoo

Under the Western Sky

Indian Summer

Lone Wolf