Archive | June 2016

Sexy Without the Sex from Driving Blind

sexy without the sex bannerZenobia Vlachos works as a computer tech at a big electronics store in Daytona. She meets Ax Kazan, a police officer, when he pulls her over in traffic. There is an immediate connection between them, but Zenobia isn’t about to rush to bed with him. Ax makes the excuse that he needs computer work done, to see her at work, and takes her to lunch.

After eating, Zenobia still had some time before going back to work. They took a short walk around the plaza before dropping by his car. It wasn’t so much that Ax wanted to put his computer away, though that was his excuse. He really wanted to get her somewhere more private so he could kiss her.

Keeping his distance with most of his body, he brushed her ear and neck with his nose and lips. His lips tingled, wanting to kiss her, but this was an exercise in control for him—and a way to make himself irresistible.

Ax’s hot breath on her skin made Zenobia shiver with desire. Her nipples stiffened and she felt uncomfortably warm in places she shouldn’t be thinking about in public. Ax continued his seductive journey and she continued to shiver delightfully.

I—uuuhh….. I put—um—oh, fuck,” she whispered.

Ax laughed. “Now, now, such language from a lady,” he whispered.

You bastard, you’re doing that on purpose.”

Uh huh.” He tilted his head, concentrating on the nape of her neck. He breathed on her again, his mouth less than an inch from her skin.

Oh, God,” she squeaked softly. She felt a gush of moisture in her panties.

Eyes closed, she waited for him to continue. His prominent nose tickled the hairs on the back of her neck. His hot breath puffed across her skin like a warm, sultry breeze.

How could he be making her so hot without even touching her? Zenobia didn’t understand it. Usually, men couldn’t keep their hands off her and tried every way they could to excite her. Ax had her ready to cum and he’d done it with his breath. She pressed her lips together to rid them of the tingling his erotic ministrations had prompted. She had to distract him, or she’d embarrass herself by dragging him into the comfortable back seat of his Impala.

Over seven hundred items showed up on your computer,” she whispered at him.

It took Ax a moment to put the words together. He heard her, but he certainly wasn’t listening. “What does that mean?”

It means quit cruising porn sites.”

Ax chuckled, his breath caressing her throat in little puffs. “Well, now that I’ve got you, I will.”

Eyes narrowed as she turned to face him. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

That means,” he murmured seductively, his voice dropping an octave, “that I don’t need porn when I can think about you.”

The blood rushed to her face and her jaw dropped. “Oh, my God!” she said in a shocked whisper.

Is it so hard to conceive?” he murmured against her neck, fingertips lightly touching her.

No man ever said he was going to—do that—by thinking of me.”

Why are you any less exciting than a porn star? You’re beautiful, Zenobia. You have great curves in all the right places. You should be flattered.”

Zenobia pressed her lips together, considering what he said. “Strangely, I am,” she admitted with a grin. “You would really—thinking about me?”

Ax leaned closer, his mouth right by her ear. “What makes you think I haven’t already?”

© 2016 Dellani Oakes

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First Love – Part 64

First Love coverClayton and Maddie go to the basement to look for the fuse box, only to find it high on the wall. She sits on his shoulders in order to reach it.

“Careful, Mads. We’re kind of precarious here. I can’t see what I’m standing on, but it feels like loose tiles.”

“One second. I think I see the switch. It’s a breaker box. I’m gonna need both hands. Hold this.” She handed him the flashlight, but he fumbled and dropped it.

“Hurry, Mads. I can’t hold you much longer.”

“It’s really stiff.” With great effort, she threw the switch.

The lights blazed on. Maddie dropped from Clayton’s shoulders. He pressed her behind him, suddenly tense.

“Clayton, what’s—”

Two men stood opposite them, about fifteen feet away. They flanked Gabe, who was tied to a chair.

Ramon’s goon held a gun, leveled at them. Ramon’s pistol pressed to Gabe’s temple. Gabe’s face was bruised and bloody. One cheek was laid open to the bone. Blood oozed down his face. He forced a smile, trying to appear brave. It pained him and he winced. He sat in a battered chair, secured with duct tape.

“Get over here,” Ramon gestured to Maddie with his pistol.

Clayton cleared his throat. “Let the girl go, Ramon.”

“You call me Jefe!” he yelled. “She’s my insurance you won’t do something stupid. Once we tie you up, we’re gonna have some fun with her. You can watch if you want.” He leered dangerously.

A scream rose in Maddie’s throat. She tried to contain it by clamping her hands over her mouth, but she couldn’t. It burst forth as Ramon pointed the gun at Clayton.

“Get the damn girl,” Ramon ordered his flunky. “Tie them up. We’ll have some fun later.”

“You won’t!” Maddie yelled, taking a fighting stance. “I’ll bite off your balls, cabrón!”

Ramon yanked Gabe’s head back. The gun pressed into his neck, just below the ear.

“Maddie, not helping,” Clayton muttered.

“He’s gonna kill us all anyway,” she yelled. “But first, he’s going to rape me. You think I’m going to stand here and let him?”

The goon moved toward her. Clayton shielded her with his body, but she moved to his side, wielding the flashlight like a billy club.

“Try it, perro. You’ll be missing your teeth.”

“Maddie, no,” Gabe groaned.

Ramon cuffed him. “Shut up, or the girl dies.”

“Better death than sex with you,” Maddie spit at him. “Is that the only way you get a woman? Threats and violence? I bet that turns you on. Or are you gay lovers with your butt buddy over here? You did prison time. Maybe you found a special someone there?”

The goon glanced at Ramon uncertainly.

“Oh, my God, I’m right!” Maddie laughed.


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Quote from One Night in Daytona Beach by Dellani Oakes

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One_Night_in_Daytona_Beach_by_Dellani_Oakes - 200Long, dangerous legs, an ass that wouldn’t quit, lush curves clad in skimpy black leather. Flaming red hair that wafted on the breeze the rumble of a thousand Harleys filled the air. Draven couldn’t draw his eyes from the gorgeous redhead whose hair reminded him of the flames on the side of his bike.

© 2015 Dellani Oakes

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First Love – Part 63

First Love coverSurprised when the lights go out, the teens quickly regroup and find candles and a flashlight. Half the teens are upstairs with Les, who is resting after a cardiac episode. Maddie, Clayton, Patti and Daniel are downstairs looking for a fuse box. They decide they have to go to the basement.

“Being quiet might be good?” Clayton said.


Maddie stopped him before he moved away. “If this is our last moment before we die—” She crushed him to her, kissing him deeply.

Clayton nearly dropped the lantern. Maddie’s body melded to his, filling in the contours with her soft, feminine parts.

“Promise me,” he gasped afterward. “When this is over, we’ll find a quiet spot and you can fuck me stupid.”

Maddie smirked, shoving him away. “That won’t take long. You’re over halfway there.” Swishing her hips, she sashayed off.

“Smooth,” Daniel mumbled. “Very.”

“Smooth flew out the window with that kiss.”

“Who’s going downstairs?” Daniel asked.

Patti clung to him. “I can’t go into that creepy, spider ridden basement. Not at night. Not in the dark.”

“We’ll be together,” Daniel soothed.

“Have I mentioned an irrational fear of the dark?”

“It’s okay. The dark can’t hurt you.”

“It’s—Irrational!” She shook him off.

“Okay, Clayton. Let’s do this,” Daniel said. “The girls can stay here.”

“No! It’s no better up here!”

“Sorry, dude. You’re on your own.”

“I’ll go,” Maddie whispered.

“We’ll be okay.” Clayton kissed her. “Nothing to be scared of.”

“Sure. Perfectly safe. I’m beyond terrified, but I have a lifetime invested in you.”

They left the lantern with Patti to make her feel better. She and Daniel huddled in corner furthest from the basement steps, between the dishwasher and the stove, the wall at their backs. Maddie let Clayton go first with a flashlight, but kept one hand on his shoulder, the other gripped the railing.

“I think I see it,” Clayton whispered. “Jesus, could they make this any harder to get to?” He examined the box that was nearly eight feet off the floor.

“Maybe there’s a step ladder or something.”

They examined the immediate area, too nervous to move far apart.

“There’s nothing,” Clayton said. “Get on my shoulders.”


“Like water polo. Climb up.” He crouched so she could sit on his shoulders.

Holding the light, Maddie mounted his broad shoulders. He stood slowly, gripping her legs. She was high enough to reach the fuse box if she rose up slightly and leaned well forward.

“This must have been installed by a giant,” she complained. She leaned further, fully extending her body to reach the panel.


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I Love Dialogue from Call Me

doodle banner I love dialogueDistraught over its loss of her cellphone, (the case held sentimental value) Moira Crane goes to the police station to report the theft. Detective Rhys Fletcher ushers her into his office and it becomes more of a flirtatious conversation than a police interview.

“Sorry for the mess. They’re repairing my usual office. Had a waterpipe burst. So I’m stuck in the file room. They’re in the process of converting to paperless.” He held up a file, pulling a silly, sad-clown face.

Moira smiled. “I thought maybe you were just incredibly busy and awfully disorganized.”

“Me?” Fletcher tossed his hat on a rack near the desk. “Neat as a pin. Ask Sue.” He nodded to the woman outside.

“Don’t listen to him, he’s a slob. They’re all slobs,” the older woman laughed.

“Thanks. Make me look bad in front of the lady.” He invited Moira to take the only chair in the office. He perched on the edge of his desk, one well sculpted thigh slung over the corner.

In the small, windowless room, Moira could smell his cologne. It was dusky, spicy and tingled her nostrils. An uncomfortable warmth filled her. She shifted in the chair.

“I know it’s a little cozy in here. I’m sorry.” He shifted too.

Moira got the strong impression she had the same effect on him that he had on her.

“So, tell me what’s wrong, Miss Crane.”

Moira told him about what had happened in class and her actions afterward. Fletcher nodded, pressing his lips together.

“So, you don’t think any of your students could have done this?”

“Maybe, as a joke. None would do it seriously—at least I hope not.”

“Could it have been taken by mistake?”

Moira shook her head. “I doubt it. My phone case is very distinctive and childish. My ex-boyfriend’s daughter gave it to me for my birthday. She’s five.”

Moira gulped, her eyes watering again. She pulled out a crumpled tissue from the stack Sue had given her, smiling when Fletcher’s handkerchief appeared in front of her. Laughing, she took the handkerchief.

“I’m sorry, I got mascara on it.” She handed it back to him.

Fletcher tossed it aside. “That’s what I pay the maid for.” He smiled down at her. “I can’t guarantee we’ll get the phone back. If it was stolen, it’s probably been sold off by now. But you did the right thing by contacting the phone company.”

“It’s the pictures,” she wailed. “I don’t have copies of them. I know I should have saved them—”

“But you don’t think about that,” he said quietly. “Not with something as precious and spontaneous.”

He sounded so subdued, Moira stared at him. She never tried to read people she’d just met. Sometimes, their emotions were so obvious, she couldn’t help it. The pain radiating off him was intense. He’d lost someone he loved dearly—and the pain was recent. Moira’s fingers brushed his hand before she could stop it. She got a flash of a grave—no, two. One adult sized and one very small one.

“I’m so sorry,” she whispered. “It must be quite awful to lose your family.”

Rhys Fletcher recoiled from her touch, jumping off the edge of the desk. He knocked his lamp to the floor in his attempt to get away. The bulb shattered on the tile floor.

“Who are you? Did he send you?”

“What are you doing in there, Rhys Fletcher?” Sue called from her desk. “If you break another lamp. . . .”

“Sorry. My fault,” Moira called.

Moira stooped to pick up the lamp. Her long, sable hair cascaded over her shoulder. Their eyes met when she stood up. Fletcher’s were dark, penetrating, glaring at her.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered. “I didn’t mean to pry. It’s just—I sense things. I know it sounds all freakish, but when I touched you, I saw graves. Your wife and child?”

“Who are you, Miss Crane?”

“I’m an English teacher at the high school.”

Fletcher sighed, running his hands over his close cropped hair. “I’m sorry, Miss Crane.” He adjusted his shirt sleeves, tugging at the cuffs. “It wasn’t my wife and child. It was my sister and her daughter.” He set the lamp well out of his way and sat on the desk once more. “I apologize. I’m naturally suspicious.”

“You asked if he sent me. No one sent me, Detective Fletcher. I’m here about my phone.”

“Of course. If I haven’t completely blown any chance in hell I had of getting to know you better, would you like to go to dinner?”

Moira’s eyes widened. “What?”

“Dinner.” He eyed her calmly, smiling.

“Like a date?”

“Yes.” He folded his hands in his lap, waiting.

Moira crossed her legs, twitching hair behind her ear. She couldn’t read any deception in his face. He really wanted to ask her out. If the feelings she got from him early on were any indication, he was genuinely interested in her. In fact, she suspected this conversation was brought on less by him being a police officer and more about being a man.

“Are you married?” Her eyes narrowed.

“Sue, am I married?”

The older woman didn’t even look up from what she was typing. “Nope, more’s the pity.”

“Am I dating anyone?” He winked at Moira, knowing that would be her next question.

“There’s not a woman alive who would put up with you long enough.” She smiled up at him. “Is that young whelp asking you out?” she directed at Moira.

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Well, he’s not completely untrainable, but you’ll have your hands full. He’s better than most and not as bad as some others. Go for it.” She waved at them. “With my blessing. Now, leave me be. I have work.”

“You have the Sue Seal of Approval,” Fletcher said. “What more can you ask for?”

Moira laughed. “I guess I can’t ask for anything more. Okay, I’d love to have dinner. I need to go home and fix my face.”

“I’ll pick you up at seven.”

“Don’t you need my address for that?”

He picked up her paperwork, grinning as he waved it at her. “I’ve got it right here. All your most intimate details.”

“If you weren’t a cop, that would be a really pervy thing to admit,” Moira said, her lips twitching as she tried to hide a smile.

“Moi?” He pointed to himself with both index fingers. “Not a perverted bone in my body,” he said as he walked her out.

“You’re a man, aren’t you?” Sue said, without looking up. “You’re all perverts.”

“Well. Put that way. . . . At seven?”

“Yes. And thank you, Detective Fletcher.”

He kissed her hand. “Rhys, please. I promise that dinner isn’t part of our usual customer service.”

Giggling, Moira walked out to her car. Fletcher accompanied her,closing her door when she was settled. She turned the key and opened the window.

“I’ll run over your foot if you keep standing there.”

Taking a couple steps back, he put his hands in his pockets, squinting against the sunshine. “See you at seven, Moira.”

© 2016 Dellani Oakes

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First Love – Part 62

First Love coverThe teens are worried about Gabe, but have been ordered to stay inside while the police look for him. They are talking quietly when the lights go out.

“There are some candles in the kitchen. I saw them in a cupboard,” Maddie said. “Maybe there’s a flashlight too. Can you see well enough to find them?”

“I’m not going alone,” Richard said. “I’ve seen enough horror movies. It never ends well for the guy who goes looking for candles.”

“Oh, for heaven’s sake! I’ll go,” Maddie said.

“And me,” Clayton added. “Not letting you out of my sight.”

“Someone should stay with Bev,” Patti said.

“Brad’s there. What about Denise?” Clayton asked.

“You stay with her, Richard. We’ll borrow the lighter and go get candles,” Maddie decided.

“We’ll come with you,” Patti said. “I’m not staying up here in the dark. If I’m gonna get hacked to pieces, I want a running start.”

“I’ll protect you,” Daniel said, putting his arm around her.

“Be glad it’s not me,” Richard said. “I’d trip your ass so they got you first.”

“And yet you wonder why you have no girlfriend,” Patti countered.

Richard chuckled. He handed Clayton his lighter and walked into the room with Denise. There was a little light from the outside.

“We’ll find candles or something,” Clayton promised. “Just stay put.”

“I assure you, I’m not going anywhere,” Denise said.

“I’m here for the duration,” Richard replied. “So, you still wanna make out?” he asked Denise as the others left.

“Are you serious?” They heard her say as they closed the door.

With some difficulty, they arrived at the kitchen. Emergency lights illuminated the door, which aided them in their search. One cupboard produced a flashlight, another a camping lantern. Finally, they came across six glass restaurant style candles and a box of wooden matches.

Daniel tried the flashlight. “Dead.”

“There’s a spare battery in the fridge,” Maddie told him.

“Crazy place for a battery.”

“Supposed to keep them fresher.”

A quick search of the refrigerator revealed a new battery. This one worked. Daniel and Patti took the candles and matches upstairs, finding Denise and Richard in with Brad and Beverly. Fortunately, Leslie was asleep.

Downstairs, Clayton and Maddie did a search of all the spooky cupboards and closets they could find. There wasn’t a fuse box anywhere. Daniel and Patti came back, joining in the search.

“At home, our fuse box is in the basement,” Patti said with a shudder.

Daniel moved a few steps toward the basement door. She grabbed his sleeve.

“We all go together. I don’t want to die a virgin, so I’m protecting my asset.”

Daniel grinned, pulling her close. “We can take care of that right now, if you like. Then if the big, scary man grabs one of us, it’s a done deal.”

“You wish, rock star.”

“I offered,” Daniel said with a shrug.


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Red River Radio Presents What’s Write for Me with Janet Morris and Chris Morris

red river radio logoDellani and Christina are delighted to welcome back Janet and Chris Morris for another lively talk about their work as authors, their love of horses, music, mayhem and anything else that strikes the fancy. 

Janet has more books and short stories than can be easily counted. Well known for her fantasy and sci-fi work, she has also written historical fiction and any number of other genres. We’re thrilled to have her back!

Chris is not only an author, he also is a talented musician and has an amazing speaking voice. He has read several of Janet’s works for audiobooks.

It’s always fun with the Morrises around. Join us for a lively and entertaining show.

Listen Live Wednesday, June 22 at 4 PM EDT, 3 CDT, 2 MDT, 1 PDT

Or Follow Link for Podcast at your convenience.


janet morrisJanet Morris


chris morrisChris Morris


First Love – Part 61

First Love coverThe teens have been ordered to bed, but no one feels like sleeping. Instead, they stay together in the girls’ room and talk.

“Claire could die,” Denise said, sniffling. “And Jane. And Gabe’s probably being tortured—”

“Don’t say that!” Maddie screeched. “Don’t say that. He’s fine. He has to be.”

“Oh, stop freaking out,” Denise snapped. “Just because he’s your boyfriend doesn’t give you the right to scream at me.”

“He’s not my boyfriend,” Maddie hurled back. “Clayton is. Gabe is my friend, which is more than I can say for you.”

“Enough,” Daniel said in a commanding tone, worthy of his father. “We shouldn’t fight. This trip was supposed to bring us closer together. We aren’t friends, but we should be. Clayton can’t stand Claire, but he helped find her. She may be a bitch, but she’s one of us. Gabe’s one of us too and I hope like hell he’s okay. Because if he’s not, it’s Claire’s fault. All she’s done is cause trouble. I’ve tried to be nice and Christian about this, but I’m done.”

Daniel got up and went back to the boys’ room. No one was sure if they should follow him or not. Finally, Patti got up and went after him. Clayton and Maddie decided to join them, leaving Richard with Denise. He trailed in a few minutes later.

“Jeesh, please don’t leave me with her ever again. She wanted to make out. Huhhh.” He shuddered.

“She’s nearly as insufferable as Claire,” Daniel said. “The only one of them who came out of this a better person, is Beverly.”

“At least she’s calm enough to sit with Les. I’m a wreck. I’m worried sick about Gabe,” Maddie said quietly.

Clayton’s face clouded. Maddie touched his hand.

“He’s my friend. At one point, I kind of hoped he might be more, but I’m delighted with my choice. I would be more worried about you.”

They kissed lightly on the lips, as did Daniel and Patti.

“I’m gonna go check on Beverly and Les,” Richard said, rising quickly. He stumbled out the door.

“I’m going with,” Brad mumbled as he backed toward the door.

The boys laughed.

“Way to clear a room, bro,” Daniel teased. “If we want privacy, we have a sure fire method. Shall we?” He opened his arms, grinning at Patti.

“Don’t be getting ideas with all the sleeping bags around,” Patti chided.

“What ideas?” Daniel tried to look innocent. “—that we haven’t already had a million times over. Give us some credit, huh? Kissing. I promise. I’ll sit on my hands.” He did so.

Patti leaned over to kiss him and the lights went out. Denise screamed from the girls’ room. Richard stumbled to the door, a lighter in one hand.

“What the fuck, dude?” He looked scared. “Anyone got flashlights?”

“I have a flashlight,” Patti said. “A little one on my keyring.” She dug through her purse, dropping it in disgust. “Which I left at home because I don’t need my keys in New Mexico!”


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First Meeting from Brick

doodle banner I love dialogueI’m all for change and trying new things. That in mind, I decided to share some of my former posts from my other blog, here. I started using I Love Dialogue, Sexy Without the Sex and First Meetings a couple years ago and it’s a lot of fun for me. I choose scenes that I enjoy and share them with my readers. Not all the stories are published, or even finished, but I hope that it will whet your reading appetites. Hungry for more? Check out the buy link below.

Every Thursday, I will share something here, or on one of my other sites (linked back and shared here) for your enjoyment. Today’s scene is from a romantic suspense still in progress. It hasn’t got a title yet, but I’m toying with Spy in the House of Love.

Brick McMillan is back home in Florida for a funeral—his younger brother’s. There have been a lot of deaths in his family lately, his father, his wife and now his brother Stony. However, the night he got home, he was using Stony’s computer and got a mysterious Instant Message from a woman calling herself XYZ. She arranges a meeting with him at the Panera in Daytona.

The morning rush at Panera was tapering off when he ordered his coffee and pastry. Finding a table wasn’t hard. He sat in the main room, over to one side, near the partition. From here, he could see the back door, but not the front. He suspected that XYZ was a backdoor user. As it happened, he was right.

Brick spotted the tall, trim figured woman as soon as she walked in. Her honey colored hair was pulled back in a loose chignon. She scanned the restaurant, dark glasses raised to her forehead with one hand. She wore a slate gray suit and low heeled black shoes. Her jacket was buttoned, but there was a slight bulge under her left arm. She spotted him on her second pass. Brick held up his coffee, saluting her. Frowning, she strutted across the room, taking a seat across from him at the table.

You need to work on your entrance,” he said after taking a sip. “I knew it was you the second you walked in.”

Do you know who I am?”

By name? No. But my guess is you’re a fed, not a cop.” He leaned forward, forearms on the table, the cup between his hands.

Her frown deepened. Her silence demanded an explanation.

You don’t move like a cop. You move like a soldier. In plain clothes, those glasses, shoes you can run in—Fed.”

She flashed a wary smile. Her eyes were a vivid aquamarine. There was a scattering of freckles across her pert nose.

So, this begs the questions—Why is a federal agent so anxious to talk to my bother? And why does she sound so unconvinced that he’s dead?”

Mr. McMillan….”

He held up a finger, waving it at her as if chastising a spoiled child for bad manners. “The way this works, you introduce yourself. Then we chat.”

Call me Agent X.” She grinned and a hint of a twinkle lit up her eyes.

I’d rather not. I quit reading comic books thirty years ago.”

Colleen,” she told him.

No last name. So, like Pink or Seal….”

Something like that.” The smile faded. “Look, Brick, we can tease and flirt all day—”

Is that what this is?” He leaned forward aggressively. “I thought this was you telling me about your relationship with Stony.”

It’s not an affair.”

That much I know. My brother’s not a cheater. I figure it’s business related, but that’s a puzzler. My brother was an engineer.”

She sighed, leaning back. “May we start over?”

Sure.” He wiped his hand on his napkin before holding it out. “Brick McMillan.”

She shook it. Her grip was firm, her palm calloused. She spent a lot of time with that handgun. “Colleen Underwood.”

Federal agent.”




I don’t know that one—Oh! Rather Not Say,” he chuckled as he translated her acronym. “Gotcha.”

Her lips twitched into a half smile. “Yes, I know your brother. Yes, it’s business related. No, I don’t think he’s dead. If I’m right, he’s gone to ground and will contact me soon. He’s in danger.”

How do you know?”

Because, your brother works for us. He’s a spy.”

© 2016 Dellani Oakes

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First Love – Part 60

First Love coverTed takes the teens to the common room and talks to them, trying to cheer them up. Soon, Maddie asks if they can all say prayers for their friends.

Each of the girls added their prayers. When it got around the circle to Ted, he led them in an Our Father.

“I was raised Catholic,” he said. “I know you kids aren’t Catholic, but there are a couple prayers I think might make us all feel better.” He taught them a Hail Mary and a prayer to Guardian Angels.

As she spoke the words, Maddie felt comfort flow through her. Sitting with their heads bowed, they were silent a long time, each lost in thought.

Clayton burst into the room, gasping. “They got Jane and Claire out. They’re hurt, but alive!”

The girls cheered.

“Any word on Gabe?”

Clayton’s face clouded. “No. Why? What’s wrong?”

Maddie burst into tears. Clayton raced to her side, taking her in his arms. She buried her face in his chest. Ted tried to explain, but Maddie’s tears distracted Clayton. All the got was that Gabe was missing.

“Polly and Caroline are going to the hospital with the girls,” Clayton said. “They have a dog out to see if they find anyone else in the blast zone.”

“What caused it? Could they tell?”

“Looked like dynamite,” Clayton said. “It was rigged with a timer. The girls were lucky they came up on that side of the torreón. If they’d come from the other direction, they would have caught the full blast. The structure actually protected them.”

“If the old girl had to die, I’m glad she saved them,” Ted said sadly. “We’ve been working on that project for three years. It would have been done in a few days.” He shook his head. “I’m going to join the search party. You stay here. No one goes anywhere, got me?”

“Yes, sir,” they all replied.

“You’re a good man, Clayton.” Ted shook his hand.

“Thank you, sir. That means a lot coming from you.”

Ted left and Craig came in a few minutes later. “I’m driving the women to the hospital. No one leaves.”

“We know, Dad,” Daniel said from behind him. “Ted told us and so did the police.”

“Lock up tight. Les is lying down. He was having chest pains. In fact, Maddie, would—Are you okay?”

“She’s worried about Gabe.”

“I was going to ask her to sit with Les.”

“I’ll do it,” Beverly said. “I’ve had some Candy Striper training.”

“Thanks. Everyone needs to go to bed,” Craig ordered. “Go. Scoot.”

The teens reluctantly wandered up to their rooms. None of them intended to sleep. They met up in the girl’s room, bringing beanbag chairs from the nursery. The boys had brought up food and sodas. Soon, they were eating and talking quietly.

“How did this all fall apart so fast?” Brad asked. “It was supposed to be fun. Now, it’s all gone to hell.”

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