Archive | November 2017

When Tis Done – Part 12

When Tis Done cover

Fair Warning: When Tis Done is more mature than the prior two books. I have toned it down, but it still may not be appropriate for readers under 17.

Neil and Cynthia eat their ice cream, then things progress. Strangely, when they kiss for the first time, both of them start to glow.

“What the hell is going on?” he asked, hopping up.

“I don’t know!”

“Do you suppose we’re doing this—everywhere?”

Cynthia looked at her breasts, they were certainly shining brightly. “Drop your pants.”

“Excuse me?”

“Let’s see if it’s everywhere.”

He stopped moving, eyeing her dubiously. Moving jerkily, he undid his pants, pulling out the waistband of his boxers enough that he could see. His eyes grew wide and his face glowed bright pink.

“That shit’s not right!”

“Lit up?”

“Like a neon undercarriage,” he breathed.

Cynthia grinned, peeping down her jeans. “Day-glow here too.”

“What’s in that ice cream?”

“I don’t think it’s the ice cream and neither do you.”

“What’s going on, Cynthia? What haven’t y’all told me?”

“I think we need a pot of coffee.”

She got up and put on her shirt, much to Neil’s distress. He certainly hadn’t seen the evening going quite this way. Following her to the kitchen, he pulled his own shirt on, then washed the bowls and spoons as she set up coffee.

“We were the odd ones out,” Cynthia said. “The cast offs, if you will.”

“The bad penny.”

“Yeah. All my life, I felt left out, like I was missing out on something special.”

“Me too.”

“And then Cliff died. I felt it happen, down in my soul. It ripped me in two. I was at work, and I fell down, sobbing and throwing up. I didn’t know why, until I got the call, that he was gone.”

“I’m so sorry, Cynthia. That would be the worst thing in the world.”

“It was horrible. And I knew it was my turn. I got here as fast as I could, only to get thrown into the kind of craziness I’d never dreamed of. Swear to God, I thought we were gonna die. I’ll tell you about that in a minute.”

They went through the brief ritual of fixing their coffee, taking it back to the living room. Foot to foot once more, Cynthia told them about fighting Opal Cayce. Had he not been raised to believe, he wouldn’t have. To him, it made sense, although it was fantastical just the same.

“So, that kid…Brian. He and his girlfriend duked it out as Opal and Luminous? Far out.”

“You wouldn’t think so if you’d seen it. I was scared spitless. Our Circle was weakened because Cliff was gone. It’s out of balance now, with me and Dora in it. We need a man to make us whole.” She set her cup down on the table beside her. “We need you, Neil. I need you.”

“I—you—what?”

“You need to take Dora’s place in the Circle, just like I took Cliff’s. There has to be a balance of male to female. With Cliff gone, the balance is out of whack. I firmly believe that Opal was able to use that imbalance against us. She almost won. If it hadn’t been for Dr. Meru, she would have.”

“All my life, I knew that one of us would grow up to be the chosen one for our Circle. I always assumed, because I was older by five minutes, that it would be me. Then we turned fifteen—and I knew…. Dora was the golden grain and I was the chaff. For three years, I watched as she grew closer to our friends, learned things I could never do, and fulfilled some ages old prophecy.”

“That’s why you left when you graduated. And why you haven’t been back since.”

His eyes held deep abiding pain. “Yes. I couldn’t stand it. There was one thing I missed about Miracle, Mississippi, though.”

“What’s that?”

He leaned forward, crawling toward her again. “I missed the girl who set my soul on fire. The one who woke feelings in me that no one else has ever done. You were a scraggly-assed little girl, with no tits, braces and straw colored hair, and I loved you more than my own life. Cliff and Dora sent me pictures of you and I watched you grow up from that little girl, to the most beautiful woman in the world.”

His kiss was powerful, barely controlled. His skin was hot, and he could see the glow of them even with his eyes closed. Pressing her body against his, he deepened the kiss. The light between them flared, making shadows dance in the far corners. Lifting her in his arms, Neil carried her upstairs to her room. He knew this house as well as his own, having spent nearly as much time here as he had at home. Setting her in the middle of the bed, he pulled off his shirt before taking hers off once more.

© 2017 Dellani Oakes

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When Tis Done – Part 11

When Tis Done coverWhile talking to Heath, Neil spots a woman he’d never expected to see again—Cynthia Finley, Cliff’s younger sister. Feeling the years drop away, he finds himself drawn to her again, stronger than ever. They decide to do get supplies for banana splits before going to her house to eat.

“I used to go camping here,” he said as they walked into the Wal-Mart. “Over there, near aisle ten, is where I lost my virginity.” He chuckled. “Nothing like sex in a tent….”

“Better than the flatbed of a truck.”

“Is that how you…? Naw, you’re kidding.”

“Totally exaggerating. It was in the comfort of my boyfriend’s dorm room at college.”

“I did it all wrong, Cynthia. That should have been you and me in that tent.”

“I was fifteen when you left, Neil.”

“I know, but I loved you ever since you were twelve and shoved me off the dock.”

“You almost drowned, Neil Braxton! How could you love a woman who almost killed you?”

“Cause you jumped in to save me. Then you went under and Cliff saved us both. Jesus, I miss him. I didn’t even know how much he was in my heart, until I got home. How do you stand it?”

She blinked hard, shaking her head. “I try not to think.” Hugging him fiercely, she wiped her eyes. “Look at me. Having an emotional breakdown in the frozen foods aisle. You always did bring out the worst in me, Neil.”

“I never did. I brought out only the best, Cindy Lou.”

She tapped him with the shopping cart, knocking him sideways. Laughing, he righted himself and grabbed the door to the freezer. Fortunately, it held and he got his balance. Standing close, he touched her hair.

“If I promise not to call you Cindy Lou again, can we get the damn ice cream and go?”

“Yeah,” she sighed.

They made their purchases quickly, heading back out to her car. She drove to her home, on the edge of the swamp, where her brother and sister-in-law had lived since they were married. It was the Finley ancestral home, going back to a time when Miracle was a fly speck on a map. It was lit up by brass lamps on each porch post. Two carriage lanterns flanked the door. The stairway was long and steep, leading to the front porch, since this part of the house was on stilts. The lower part, which they called the basement, was really at ground level.

“Old place is still the same,” Neil said, smiling sadly. “We had some good times here.”

Cynthia unlocked the door, ushering him in. “Yep. You gave me my first ever kiss right over there,” she teased, pointing to the darker end of the porch.

“Was it your first? Aren’t I the lucky man.”

“Wasn’t your first, though.”

“I’m three years older, course it wasn’t. But how I wished you were older, because I wanted it to be.” His fingers wound in her hair as the door drifted shut. “I wanted all my firsts to be with you, Cynthia. I’m sorry that it didn’t work out that way.” His lips touched hers, brushing gently across them.

Her arms went around him, pulling him close. He held her around the waist with one hand, the other still wound in her hair. They kissed a long time, until they remembered the ice cream. Laughing, they went to the kitchen and got out bowls. Preparing the banana splits didn’t take long. They took their dessert to the living room, sitting together on the huge, white couch, foot to foot, like the old days.

When they were done, they set their bowls aside and stared at one another for a long minute. Neil’s eyes drooped a little, making him look sleepy, his arms crossed behind his head. Cynthia knew that expression. He always looked at her that way when he wanted a kiss. No longer a teenager, she suspected he wanted something more. She hadn’t quite made up her mind until he leaned forward. Crawling over to her, he knelt between her knees, his lips less than half an inch from hers.

“I really wanna kiss you, Cindy Lou.”

For once, the silly nickname didn’t earn him a smack or a shove. Instead, Cynthia wound her arms around his neck, pulling him to her. Touching her only with his lips, he loomed over her, kissing her deeply. Cynthia could smell his desire, it coursed through him like white heat. Hers rose to meet his, setting her veins sizzling. She pulled his shirt over his head as he reached for hers. His body felt hot, more than feverish, as if he had a fire burning under his skin. Each muscle stood out in sharp contrast, the grooves and ridges of his superb body seeming to glow from within. It took a moment to penetrate her lust induced haze, he really was glowing!

Neil stopped, staring at her body. He’d just taken off her shirt and he could swear her body shone with a pinkish-golden light—like holding your hand in front of a candle. It wasn’t his imagination.

“You’re glowing,” he gasped, his voice very nearly betraying him.

“So are you.”

He stared at his hands, shocked by what he saw. It looked like some sort of weird special effects were at work here. Both of them shone brighter than the carriage lights outside.

© 2017 Dellani Oakes

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Character Quotes from Undiscovered by Dellani

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There was no identifying serial number on the weapon.

What a surprise.

“Interesting choice,” Scott said as he eyed the weapon. MSSR with a suppressor. Nice sniper weapon, used by the Philippine Marines, among others. Uses 5.56mm shells, roughly 10 pounds in weight, nice scope. . . .”

“Why would this one have a suppressor and not the one upstairs?” Geraci asked.

“No idea,” Scott replied.

“Why have two gunmen?”

“This guy’s a decoy. Put him where he’s gonna get seen, the real shooter goes up topside, makes the kill, and gets away clean. If this guy’s seen, he takes the fall. But he didn’t even get a shot off,” the detective mused.

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When Tis Done – Part 10

When Tis Done coverNeil reconnects with his friends. Closest to Heath Barrett, he sits with the other man, talking and sipping a beer.

“I’m planning on staying, my friend. I’m finally home. Just came by it the long way.”

A pretty blonde woman walked into the clearing. She carried a big, heavy bowl. Neil who was nearby, hopped up, taking it from her. She smiled, her blue eyes meeting his and she laughed. His heart seemed to skip a beat as he took in details. She was tall, for a woman, slender and athletic, with short blonde hair that was cut and styled in a casual, wispy way. Her full lips parted and she smiled.

“Neil Braxton, swear to God, you don’t recognize me!”

He peered at her, holding the heavy bowl in his arms. He set it on the nearby table, taking her hands. “Not little Cynthia Finley?”

“Not so little anymore,” she teased.

“No, ma’am. You filled out some. You were a scrawny twelve year old when I left.”

“I was fifteen.”

“Okay, you looked like a scrawny twelve year old.”

“That does not earn you any Brownie points, Mr. Braxton,” she teased.

Neil kissed her hand, his lips lingering on the knuckles and he smiled. “Well, what if I say you aren’t scrawny anymore, Miss Finley. You became a very fine lady, indeed.”

“I’d say, if you get me a drink, I’ll think about forgiving you for the scrawny remark.”

“I’d consider that an honor.” He held out his arm, leading her to the lawn chairs, grouped not far away.

Stopping along the way, he got a beer for each of them, popping it open before handing it to her with a flourish. Cynthia giggled when his sprayed him in the face. He laughed, wiping his face with his shirt, while his mother scolded him for not getting a towel. Cynthia examined the very fine abs he revealed when his shirt was over his face.

“You filled out a little, too, Mr. Braxton. When you left, you were kinda scrawny yourself. To what do you attribute this amazing change?”

“Being a Marine and clean living.”

“Clean living? You?” She laughed, tossing her head.

“Well, as clean as possible, Miss Finley. You weren’t around to corrupt me. I was only ever in trouble when it was you got me in it.”

“I did not! Okay, maybe once or twice….”

They continued chatting, not noticing that everyone else was watching them interact. They seemed oblivious to the fact that they were the center of attention. Jordan watched them, noting how Cynthia Finley smiled and posed as she talked to Neil Braxton. Something had gone on between the two of them, back in the day. Not sexual…but she’d be willing to bet they dated. Barring that, they’d been interested in one another.

Brian came over, handing her a Dr. Pepper. “Whatcha doing?”

“Watching Chase’s aunt and uncle flirt. It’s pretty eye opening.”

“He’s totally eye humping her,” he said, sipping his own Dr. Pepper.

“Oh, hell, yeah.”

The party went well. Everyone had a relaxed, good time. Heath and Miles had more to drink than their wives liked, but not so much that they couldn’t get themselves into the cars. Brian drove his family home, and Jackie got behind the wheel of her car. They said their farewells and headed home. Neil and Cynthia helped clean up, enjoying one another’s company very much.

“Would you like to see how the town’s changed?” Cynthia offered.

“I believe I’d like that, if Mama doesn’t object.”

“It’s late for me, Neil. I start my day at six o’clock. I thought you’d be tired after four days of driving.”

“Caught my second wind, Mama.”

Her eyes flickered between Neil and Cynthia, not missing how close they were standing. She smiled. “House key’s on the ring next to the door.”

“Since when do you lock up?” he asked, puzzled.

“Cynthia can tell you more about that,” his mother said, evading his question. “I’m for bed. Got to get Daddy settled.” She gave her son a kiss and hug. “It’s good to have you home, my darling boy. I’ve missed you.”

“I’ve missed you, too, Mama.” He kissed her cheek and watched as she climbed the stairs. “Weird to think of my folks as old, but I’m damn near forty.” He chuckled, shuffling his feet. “Is that ice cream place still there?”

“Sweeties? Yeah, but they close at ten. It’s five till.”

“I forget that they roll the sidewalks up around here.”

“There’s a twenty-four hour Wal-Mart. How about we get stuff for banana splits to share?”

“Sounds good.”

They got in her car and drove to an area of town that had been deep woods when he left.

© 2017 Dellani Oakes

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Red River Radio Presents What’s Write for Me with Connie, Elaine and Jo

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Join Us Wednesday at 4:00 PM Eastern time ( 3 Central, 2 Mountain, 1 Pacific) on Red River Radio.

Can you believe Thanksgiving is upon us? Take a break from holiday preparation, and listen while Christina and Dellani meet and greet their three lovely and talented guests.

Connie Herzberg Mayo

First up, alphabetically speaking, is Connie Mayo, author of The Island of Worthy Boys. This is her first time on the show, and we are so delighted! Welcome, Connie.

Elaine Dodge

Second, is Elaine Dodge, author of Harcourt’s Mountain, Bloody Parchment: Blue Honey, and short story, The Man with a House on His Back. This is also her Red River debut. Welcome, Elaine! So happy to have you here.

Jo Ivester

Third, only because of her initial, is Jo Ivester, author of Outskirts of Hope. Jo is also visiting for the fist time. We’re so pleased to have her here, too. Welcome, Jo!

The holiday scramble is just around the corner, and books make lovely gifts for the readers on your gift lists. Pop into the chat room and say hello to your favorite author, or make new friends.

Happy Thanksgiving! Catch Us Live or Listen at Your Convenience

When Tis Done – Part 9

When Tis Done coverNeil is welcomed home by his family. After a long shower to get off the road grit and sweat, he sits with Chase, comforting the boy while he grieves for his father.

“So much pressure,” he gasped. “Expectations…. Man of the House…. I can’t do it all, Neil. I can’t!”

“Shh, shh…. You ought not to have to, boy. But with Daddy so sick, you’ve had it handed to you. I’m here now. Anything you can’t handle, you throw at me. I guarantee it can’t beat us both down.”

“You boys ready to eat?” his mother called from the kitchen.

“Yes, Mama. Be up in a few minutes. We gotta wash.”

“Okay. Don’t you make my food get cold!”

“No, Ma’am!”

Rising, he hugged Chase. “It’s gonna be okay. I’m here now. I can’t take your father’s place, but anything you need from me, I’m here.” He took Chase’s head in his hands. “Anything.”

Nodding, Chase smiled. He washed his face in cold water and they both washed their hands quickly before heading up to the kitchen. Dora and her mother were setting the food out on the table. Chase and Neil joined in, carrying the heavy pans and trays for them.

“We having a party?” Neil asked.

“Yes,” his mother said, her dark eyes twinkling. “Come on out and see. You’ll need shoes. Chase, you should have told him.”

“Slipped my mind. I got a pair of boat shoes that’d fit you,” he told his uncle. “By the back door.”

“Thanks.” Neil slipped them on and followed his mother outside.

Stunned, he stopped at the top of the long steps, staring at the faces. There, below him, were the people he’d most wanted, and dreaded, to see. They looked older, of course, as did he. But still much the same as they had when he’d seen them last. The teenagers and children milling around must be their offspring. He felt cheated. He’d never had the kind of life where he could settle down. Being a Marine, he moved a lot, but he never managed to set down roots or take a relationship to the point of marriage. He’d never missed it—until now. A deep, abiding ache started in his chest and he wanted to sob like Chase had.

Pasting a smile on his face, he descended the stairs, opening his arms to the group. “My God, if it’s not Maribelle Girard!” He gave her a hug and a kiss on the cheek. “I guess you ended up with this goob, huh?” He shook Miles’ hand, grinning. “Which ones are yours?”

Maribelle called to a tall, blue eyed teen with sandy blond hair. He was holding a pretty, dark eyed toddler.

“This is our boy, Brian, and our little girl, Elise.”

The little girl flung herself at Neil, patting his cheeks as he smiled at her. A lump rose in his throat.

“She’s a beauty, for sure. Hey, Sugarbean!”

Elise squeezed his mouth, making a Mwa sound at him, though she didn’t kiss him.

“She just started doing that, but never with a complete stranger. You have a way with children,” Maribelle said as her daughter lunged at her.

“I’m great with little girls, it’s grown women I have trouble with,” he confided to Miles and Brian.

He made the rounds, meeting the children and reconnecting with his old friends. These were the folks he hung out with, mostly because his sister was one of their number. He was close to them, but not part of the Circle. By virtue of some quirk of fate, he’d never been one of them.

“What are you doing with yourself these days?” Heath Barrett asked as they each popped open a beer.

“Just retired from the Marines. I’ve had enough. Only so much death a man can take.” He shook his head. “They wanted to give me another promotion so I could send our boys in to die. I couldn’t do it another day.”

Heath nodded. “I’ve had a sheltered life, Neil. No doubt about it. But I feel your pain, brother.”

Neil’s eyes teared. Of them all, he’d been closest to Heath and Cliff. Cliff was more like a brother than a friend. They’d been inseparable.

“I can’t believe I missed his funeral,” he sighed. “I was deployed and they wouldn’t let me come home. If he’d been my brother…. It’s another reason I left. This is all the family I’ve got.”

“You never married?”

“Never could find a woman who’d put up with me. I sometimes wish I’d chosen another path, but it’s too late now. Got to find a new one to follow.”

Heath nodded, handing him another beer. “I’m not driving. I told Jackie I was going to enjoy myself and spend time with my brother.” He looked like he was going to cry. “It’s been too damn long, Neil.”

© 2017 Dellani Oakes

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Character Quotes from The Ninja Tattoo by Dellani

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The brothers had taken off their uniform shirts, but both still wore their vests and carried their sidearms. Vivica noticed the way they had positioned themselves, they each had a good view of the room, their backs to a wall, not a window or door. Teague smiled, taking the last good seat, leaving Vivica with her back to the living room window. She insisted on closing the drapes before sitting down.

“I’m not entirely helpless, you know,” she told the men without prompting. “I do have six brothers, none of them democrats.” Her eyes twinkled. “I know how to shoot and I venture to say I’m nearly as good a shot as any man in this room.”

© 2017 Dellani Oakes

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Music Behind the Story – Under the Western Sky by Dellani

Under the Western Sky by Dellani Oakes - 500

Quite often, my characters are musicians. A lot of them play guitar because my sons do, and it’s what I’m familiar with. Also, I’m totally hooked on guitarists like Jeff Beck, Joe Satriani, Dave Gilmour and Carlos Santana. Santana’s music features in Under the Western Sky, a romantic suspense novel set in Western Nebraska in 1976. One of the main characters is Bobby Menendez, a young Mexican man who loves to play the guitar. He is always telling his best friend, Danny, that bands like KISS won’t last, but in 30 or 40 years, people will still be listening to Carlos Santana and Led Zeppelin.

At one point during the story, the characters gather at Bobby’s home and have their own version of Name That Tune.

Excerpt from Under the Western Sky

After they ate, Evanston and Bobby got their guitars. Some of the others also had musical instruments and they sat down to play. Rico kept time tapping on the bowls, dishes and table top. Libby and Toni sang. Jim surprised everyone by turning up with a banjo and Toby rushed home for his bass guitar and amp.

Once the improvised band was assembled, they sat down to find a song or two they all knew. Most music they didn’t have in common until Evanston played a very distinctive melody. Laughing, they all joined in playing Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd. Bobby played rhythm and the girls sang, their voices blending beautifully.

With barely a break, Bobby started Free Bird, improvising the solo since he had never stopped to figure it all out. From there, he launched into Europa by Santana. Before he was finished, the others dropped out, listening to him in awe. Realizing that he was playing alone, he came to a halt, looking around him, wondering if he’d done something wrong.

“What?”

Libby leaned over, kissing him lingeringly. “I had no idea you could play that well.”

“Where have you been keeping that, Babu?” Maria asked him breathlessly.

Bobby had trouble focusing, his attention still on the music. “What do you mean? Was it bad?”

“It was so good, I couldn’t even keep up,” Link said with a grin. “Damn, kid. That was something else!”

“Really? I just played.” He shrugged, suddenly embarrassed by their compliments.

“Is the concert over?” Toby sounded disappointed. “I was just getting into it. Come on, let’s keep playing. I’m itching to play something else. See if you can figure this one out.”

Flexing his fingers, he started to play. Although it was an octave lower, he played a melody Libby had loved for years. Evanston joined in with a grin and Rico improvised drums on a plastic container full of potato salad. When it got to the vocal, Bobby started to sing, looking at Libby.

“Well she’s walking through the clouds with a circus mind that’s running around. Butterflies and zebras and moonbeams and fairy tales….”

He knew how much Libby loved Little Wing by Jimi Hendrix. If he could have sung it to her alone, he would have taken that moment to propose because all the love he felt for her washed over him, making him dizzy. When the vocal ended, he joined Link on the guitar, taking melody as the older man slid into harmony. They played several minutes, Link following Bobby’s lead as he improvised an intricate solo.

This time they didn’t stop playing, wanting to listen to the magic that came from his fingers. No one wanted to disturb his focus, causing him to quit. When he stopped, the others were staring at him again and he got very embarrassed. Seeing how he was feeling, Jim hopped in with his banjo.

“I’m feeling left out,” he plucked a few notes. “See if you can follow this one.”

Laughing loudly, Evanston played the same notes, which Jim repeated. The two launched into a lively rendition of Dueling Banjos from Deliverance. When they had finished, Jim went directly to Foggy Mountain Breakdown.

It was getting late and Connie decided they all needed to go to bed if they were going to get to church in the morning. As a finale, the girls sang His Eye is on the Sparrow so perfectly, even the men were near tears.

They parted reluctantly, especially those going back to motel rooms. Bobby walked Libby across the street with Grace and Toby trailing behind them. They went inside, feeling oddly self-conscious with the adults in the living room saying good night.

“I didn’t realize it was so serious between them,” she whispered, smiling happily. “I’m really happy for her.”

“Me too,” Bobby said, not wanting to talk about Libby’s mother.

His lips covered hers before she could speak again, kissing her deeply. His arms wrapped around her, holding her close. He infused his kiss with his love, hearing Little Wing play in his mind as they embraced.

© 2017 Dellani Oakes

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I apologize for not having a link to Little Wing. It’s really hard to find and doesn’t seem to be on You Tube at all. I did find Skid Row’s version of the song, which, while it’s not Hendrix, is still pretty good.

When Tis Done – Part 8

When Tis Done coverNeil, Dora Finley’s brother, has returned after nearly two decades. Could he be the replacement that the Center Circle needs to heal it?

“Yes, the way Mama fixed it. Me, I’d have burnt it to a crisp.”

“Thanks, Peanut. This is great!”

“I’m Lucy, not Peanut!”

“Oh, sorry Lima Bean!”

She stamped her foot, pretending to pout, but the giggle escaped her. “You’re silly, Uncle Neil.”

“I got it from Mommy. She made me silly before we were born.” He stood slowly, rubbing the kinks from his thighs.

“You were twins!”

“Yep, we still are. Me first, Mommy five minutes later.”

She gave him a hug around his knees and ran in the yard after her sister.

“Come in and have a bite,” their mother said, after hugging and kissing him ardently.

“Mama, I could sure use a shower first.”

“Of course! Daddy’s inside. It’s hard for him to get around these days. His C.O.P.D. is real bad, Sugarbean.”

Neil followed his mother, shuffling his feet. It was hard enough coming home after all these years, but to see his formidable, robust father reduced to a tired, old man, was almost more than he could bear. His father sat in his comfortable, blue recliner, feet up, watching TV top volume. He looked up and grinned at his son. Releasing the lever, he lowered his feet and stood.

Neil held his father gently, afraid he’d bruise him, or worse. His father’s embrace was a shadow of what it had been, but the strength was there—briefly.

“Damn good to see you, son. Been too long since you were home.”

“Way too long, Daddy. I’m sorry….”

“Nonsense. You did what you had to. But you’re home now. By God, boy, you stink!”

“My air went out around Memphis.”

“No wonder, evil old place, Memphis.” He winked. A native of Tennessee, he enjoyed poking fun. No one else had better do it in his hearing, though. In his younger days, he’d been in more than one fight because of it. “Let this boy have a shower, Mama,” he said to his wife. “He reeks to hell and back.”

“That I do.”

“Go on up. You’re in the guest room. The girls are sharing your old room. Chase is in the basement.”

“There’s two rooms down there, you in both, boy?”

“No, sir.”

“I’d as soon be down there, Mom. Suits me to be underground.”

“Whatever you want, Sugar. There’s fresh towels and sheets on the bed.”

He gave her a kiss. Chase showed him to the basement. It looked much as it had in his youth. It was freshly painted and the pattern of the bedspread had changed, but the overall feel of it said home to him. He’d always liked the basement rooms. Built into the side of a steep hill, the back of the house was exposed, with a beautiful view of the woods. As a child, he’d spent as much time here as he could, reading, working on his school projects and daydreaming about his life to come. On cool days, he’d fling the French doors open to the outside, lie on his belly and watch the trees move, their leaves singing in the breeze.

“Takes me back a piece,” he told Chase. “Which you in?”

Chase pointed to the left. Neil nodded, heading to the room on the right. He put his bags in the floor and headed directly to the small, interconnecting bathroom. His shower was long and as hot as he could get it. It felt so good to get the road grit and sweat off his body, he indulged himself. Once he felt cleaner, he made sure to shave before getting dressed in jeans and a T-shirt. His mother insisted that they go without shoes in the house, to save the carpets. He didn’t mind, preferring going barefoot to wearing socks and shoes. His dirty clothing, accumulated over the last few days, went in the washer and he started a load. His mother might object, but his clothing reeked of sweat. He hardly wanted to touch it himself, let alone make his delicate mother do it.

Waiting in the sitting area, he found Chase. His nephew looked old beyond his years, care worn and down trodden. The emotions radiating off him were enough to make Neil gasp and take a step back. He’d always been empathic, but now—something was new here. Something had changed. Or maybe it was he who had changed? He didn’t know. Crossing the room, he sat by the boy, putting his arms around him as he drew him close.

“Let it out, son. If you can’t cry in front of me, who can you? I’ve been in your shoes, boy. Let it out.”

Chase sobbed, his body shaking with the horrendous emotions he’d tried so hard to contain. He wept for his father, and for his mother having to go on without him. He cried for himself, missing his father so much it hurt, and for his sisters, who would grow up without their daddy. He also wept for his grandparents, who missed their son.

© 2017 Dellani Oakes

Dellani Oakes

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Misfortune of Vision – Book 4 in The Druid’s Broach Series Now On Pre-Order

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Misfortune of Vision, book #4 in The Druid’s Brooch Series, by Christy Nicholas is on pre-order NOW! Just 99 cents until release date on January 10, 2018. Get your copy now!

~ Prophecy can be dangerous ~

In 12th century Ireland, Orlagh has been Seer to her king for forty years. He doesn’t want to hear her prophecies of war and destruction, and dismisses her efforts to warn him. Therefore, she is determined to fulfill her own quest: to find a worthy heir for her magical brooch.

In the course of events, she must pass judgment on a thief, escape a Norman war camp, and battle wits with a Fae lord. She receives some prophecy of her own and enlists the help of a grizzled old warrior, who happens to be a long–time friend.

Excerpt:

January 24, 1177 AD Dún Dá Leathghlas (Downpatrick), Ulster, Ireland

Clodagh, do pay attention. Someday your woolgathering will get you in trouble. What happens if you forget you’re making a tincture? Some of these herbs will burn and turn to poison if you aren’t careful.”

The girl hung her head. “Yes, mistress.”

And don’t ‘yes, mistress’ me so meekly! I won’t bite your head off child. But if you’re meek, the world will treat you like a slave. You must be strong to survive. Have you learned nothing from me?”

Yes, mistress.”

Orlagh sighed. She despaired of ever making something of this sweet child. Ever since that incident at the market, she’d watched the girl closely, but nothing else happened. Perhaps it had been an isolated incident. With a growl, she measured more celandine into the concoction she was making. A little more hemp nettle? Not too much. It was poisonous in great quantities. Just a little helped soothe the stomach. Speaking of soothing the stomach, she needed another drink. She took a long swig on her meadskin.

Go on, then. Clean those bowls and then pull down the herbs. Check each one for mildew. You know the signs to look for, yes?”

Yes, m—”

Call me mistress again in that tiny voice and you’ll feel my hand, child.”

Yes… Orlagh.”

That’s better. Now go, do your work. Ask if you have questions.”

With Clodagh appropriately occupied, Orlagh turned to her tincture. The tincture was an excuse. She could make this compound in her sleep if she must. What she needed was quiet time to concentrate. She’d had a troubling dream the night before, and many years of prophecy had taught her not to ignore her dreams. It had been chaotic and confusing. There was fighting, but not with Gaelic soldiers. Could they have been Normans? She had a flash of short hair and odd helmets. Not the Ostmen, then. Their hair and beards were longer and wilder than the Gaels. No, it must be the Normans. Unless there was a yet unknown threat. But the Norman army was only in the southeast of Ireland. They had never ventured north of Dublin, and that was far to the south.

Never say never, she reminded herself. There was always a first time, and for something disastrous, that first time always came when you could deal with it least. Normans, then. Normans coming north for the tuath of Ulaidh.

© 2017 Christy Nicholas

To Pre-Order Misfortune of Vision, book,4 in The Druid’s Brooch Series