Archive | May 2020

Love Takes a Swim Part 62 by Dellani Oakes

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I do. You’re a good man, Cody.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“He wouldn’t!”

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

“TJ.”

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

“Me.”

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

“TJ.”

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

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

“Why?”

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

“That he got you into?”

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

“Sometimes what?”

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

“Do Mom and Dad know this?”

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

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

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

“We’ll figure it out.”

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

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

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

“I dunno, TJ’s gonna be mad….”

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

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I didn’t know.”

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

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

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

“Umm….”

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

“Did you pay him anything in advance?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Flavor?”

“Lifesaver.”

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

“I dunno, what’s your favorite?”

“I was always partial to butterscotch.”

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

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

“What makes you say that?”

“The silly banter and the wink.”

“Banter? Where’d you hear that?”

“On television. Were you?”

“Was I what?”

“Flirting?”

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

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

“Dear God! What show was this?”

“Something on human behavior.”

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

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

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

“Can I ask her about flirting?”

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

“You didn’t hit her.”

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

“Okay.” That seemed to satisfy his nephew.

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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Love Takes a Swim Part 61 by Dellani Oakes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I like to, Eddie.”

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

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

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

“That would drive me crazy,” Kali said.

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

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

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

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

“Yes, sir. Marianna’s a great girl.”

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

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

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

Cody gulped. Ed laughed loudly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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Love Takes a Swim Part 60 by Dellani Oakes

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

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

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

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

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

“Meet Briar Rose,” Ed said proudly.

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

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

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

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

“Eight, got two more this morning.”

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

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

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

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

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

“He’s gonna behave, right?” Ed asked.

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

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

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

“Kali.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What can I get you to drink?”

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

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

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

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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

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

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

Excuse me?”

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

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

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

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

Lovely to meet you, Miss Hudson.”

You called about a table?”

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

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

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

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

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

Sure. You can’t break it.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You were drunk?”

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

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

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

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

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

Wasn’t that a saloon, or something?”

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

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

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

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

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

Are you done?”

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

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

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

Oh, my god, is that—pot?”

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

I love this! Show me the oak?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which do you think?”

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

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

That’s so thoughtful!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No kidding! Where?”

I’ve got a guy,” he chuckled.

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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Love Takes a Swim Part 59 by Dellani Oakes

Love Takes a Swim cover small“I’ll still be tempted, I just won’t act on it.”

“The power’s back on at my place,” she said casually as she went through her things. “Cody helped me take my food over earlier. We’re going to dinner with Ed, Marianna, Cody and Kali.”

“Who’s Kali?”

“Ed’s girlfriend.” She dug through her bag, picking out her clothing. “Be back in a few.”

“I’d better get up and dressed.”

“You can stay in bed.”

“Um, if I do—you’ll join me and I’ll make my mother very unhappy.”

Paisley smirked. “Well, we can’t have that.” She flounced out.

Kai got up and got dressed. Much as he would have preferred to indulge himself again, he resisted the urge. He headed downstairs for caffeine. His mother had a pot of coffee brewing. He sat and talked to her while they waited for Paisley.

“That’s what you’re wearing to dinner?” Tempest asked when she walked in the kitchen.

“What’s wrong with what I’m wearing?” He’d put on his best pair of jeans and a new T-shirt.

Tempy made a face, wrinkling her nose. “Thought you might want to make a better impression on Mariana’s brother.” Shrugging, she walked out the backdoor onto the patio.

“Do I look okay?” Kai asked his mother.

“You look—fine.”

“You hesitated. What’s wrong with me?”

“A nicer shirt would help. Wear that new one Grandma sent up from Key West.”

“Mom, I’ll look like a tourist.” The shirt in question was a flamboyant Hawaiian print in red, orange and yellow. Kai wouldn’t be caught dead in it, even as a joke.

“Maybe a nice button down? Or that green polo?”

Kai sighed heavily and walked up to his room. He figured if both his mother and sister said something, Paisley would share the opinion. He wasn’t wrong. He met her at the top of the stairs. Paisley was dressed in a bright yellow dress with puffy sleeves and a high waist that was gathered under her breasts. The neckline scooped low, showing more of her chest than he’d seen before. Dark eyes riveted on her breasts making her blush and him quiver. He couldn’t seem to take his eyes off her.

“Is that what you’re wearing?” her tone mimicked Tempy’s exactly.

“Been through this conversation twice. Changing now, ma’am!” He snapped a salute and spun on his heel. Taking his shirt off, he flung it on the bed as he stalked to his closet.

Kai was out of sorts. Too many days of too little sleep, with an elevated level of lust, he wasn’t his usual, pleasant self. Standing in the doorway of his closet, he glared at his shirts, shoving them aside angrily as he cursed under his breath.

Warm, soft hands clasped his chest, cheek pressed to his bare back and he felt her breasts sear indelible impressions on his shoulder blades.

“For Cody,” she whispered. “We want to make a good impression. Ed’s a nice guy, but we don’t know Kali.”

“I thought I looked fine.”

“You did.”

“Then why’s everyone saying I need to change.”

“Because you looked fine, not terrific.” Paisley he kissed him right between the shoulders.

Kai’s knees nearly gave out on him. His insides melted with that one small caress and his testicles constricted making him moan softly. He couldn’t move. Finding it impossible to think, he stood there glaring at his clothing.

Paisley reached past him, taking a hanger out of the closet. The shirt was lightweight cotton that buttoned up the front. Light blue, khaki and white made a wide plaid pattern. She coaxed his arms into it, setting it squarely on his shoulders. Turning him to face her, she buttoned it up, leaving the top two buttons open. Going to his dresser, she took a beaded hemp necklace from the driftwood hanger and put it around the base of his throat. She finished off the process by kissing him lightly on the lips.

“Now, you’re perfect.”

His hands clasped her around the waist as his mouth covered hers. Kai pulled Paisley close purposely rubbing his hips hard against hers. He wanted her to know what she did to him, how she excited him. He wanted her to melt in his embrace, as he did in hers.

Paisley gasped, blushing as she felt him hard and throbbing against her abdomen. Kai cupped her ass, pulling upward as he mauled her face and neck.

“Don’t think she’s on the menu tonight,” Cody said. He stood in the doorway dressed much the same way as Kai, only his shirt was shades of green with a smaller plaid and his pants were olive green.

With a little eep of distress, Paisley backed away from Kai. Scurrying from the room, she went to the bathroom to fix her make up. Kai took a washcloth and wiped the lipgloss from his face.

“Nice entrance, bro.”

“Nice behavior in Mom’s house,” Cody countered. “What if she’d seen you instead of me?”

“Ever knock?”

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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Love Takes a Swim Part 58 by Dellani Oakes

Love Takes a Swim cover smallHe couldn’t relieve himself fast enough. Her words had started his loins burning with desire. He wanted her more than he could possibly say. He imagined her lying with him while he was naked, thought of her writhing in passion with him deep inside her. His release made him yell.

Thad tapped on the door. “You okay in there, kid?”

“I’m okay,” he mumbled. “Yeah,” he said louder. “Be out soon.”

“Okay. You hungry? There’s an all night diner about two blocks down.”

“Starving.”

“We’ll go eat. We don’t have to be back on the job until three p.m.”

“Good. I could sleep for a week, but I’m starving,” Kai said as he opened the bathroom door.

“Feel better?” Thad smirked as Kai dried off and got dressed.

“Sorta. Why the concern?”

“Cause you looked ready to combust there before you hit the shower. What’d you do? Talk dirty to your girl?”

Kai blushed, not answering.

“Big mistake, bro. Good way to make yourself completely miserable.”

“No shit.”

“Still no action?”

“Just enough to make me crazy. Every time I hope it’s going somewhere, I get a call from you.”

Thad held up his hands, laughing helplessly. “Don’t blame me, blame the weather. I’m just the messenger. Look, as a man who’s been there more than a few times, a word of advice. Quit trying to make it happen. Relax and enjoy what you’ve got, a beautiful lady who loves you. I know you’re hurtin’, I sympathize. But the more you will it to happen before its time, the worse you’ll feel. Me, I got this thing I do. I say a little prayer.”

“You say a prayer. Over sex?”

“Not exactly. It’s more of acceptance. I use it whenever something’s getting to me, not just when I’m horny. But I take a deep breath and say to myself, I accept this. I don’t like it, but I accept it. Then things kinda calm down and smooth out. I used it today when we were looking for those teenagers. That was getting to me. I was worried sick that we were gonna find them dead.”

“We didn’t, they were fine.”

“I know, but their grandmother wasn’t. But rather the lady in her sixties than a teenager, right?”

Kai had to agree. He hated it when anyone died, but more when they were young.

“So, you say your little prayer, chant it like a mantra if you have to. And when everything’s right, you’ll get your quiet time with Paisley. Meanwhile, let’s go eat. I’m so hungry, my stomach thinks I don’t love it anymore.”

They walked to the diner not far from their motel. Many of the members of the rescue team were there. Kai and Thad joined them; and ordered their meals. Several of DeBarry’s finest were there as well.

“We couldn’t have done this without your help,” Officer Pati Johnson said. She was an older woman with sleek blonde hair and a petite figure that belied her 47 years. “With luck, we’ll be done by tomorrow evening. Maybe before.”

“It’s going to take a long time to rebuild,” her partner, Joel Davidson said. “But we’ll manage somehow. We always do.”

Search and rescue the next day went smoothly. They found a few more people, all of them in pretty good shape. Fortunately, no more dead. By 5:00, they were finished and heading home. Kai volunteered to drive the van back to the station. They arrived just as the truck was getting back from a call.

“Nothing serious,” Greg told them. “In fact, it’s been blessedly uneventful.”

“Thank God for that. Okay, folks. Go home, get some rest and we’re back to regular shifts.”

Kai headed home. He was dirty, sweaty and suddenly tired. He got home to find a completely empty house and no note. Instead of worrying about it, he threw his dirty clothing in the wash and took a long shower, indulging once again in what had become his daily relaxation routine. He pulled on a pair of boxers and collapsed on his stomach on the bed.

Sometime later, the door eased open and he smelled Paisley’s perfume. Rolling over, he saw her standing there in a sundress and sandals. She looked so beautiful, he could hardly stand it.

“Hey, stranger,” she said softly.

“Hey, gorgeous. Where ya been?”

“Cody took me and Tempy to the beach with JT and TJ. Marianna and her brother met us there. Bunch of folks…. I missed you.”

Kai held out his arms, pursing his lips. Paisley shrank back.

“Not that I don’t want one, but I’m sorta sandy. I came to get my stuff and head to the shower.”

“You can shower in here.”

“You think that’s wise?” She stepped forward apprehensively.

“Not at all. Cause I’d want to join you and my mother would choke me.”

“That would spoil the mood for sure.” She winked. “I’ll shower in my room, to relieve you of the temptation.”

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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First Meeting from Full Measure ~ A Love in the City Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes

First Meeting image smallestDaphne Winstead is new to the city. She’s hired by a psychiatrist’s office to do a full audit of the books, because someone is stealing from them. While there, she’s befriended by Karen, who invites her to join her and her friends for Thanksgiving dinner. She’s been trying to set Daphne up with her older brother, Ralan Hendrix, but he’s been reluctant. However, he’s promised to come to dinner. When he arrives, Daphne can’t believe her eyes.

A tall, broad shouldered, dark haired man stood there with a large, cloth covered basket on one arm. He grinned as Ian ushered him in.

“Ralan, nice you could make it. What did you bring?” He tried to peep under the cloth.

Ralan smacked his hand. “Mom’s meat pies as requested. She won’t give out the recipe to a soul. I’ve got her down to the spices and she won’t divulge them. I put it to Fritz’ expert palette to figure it out. Now, where’s my goddaughter? I’ve got something for her.”

Fanny squealed from her mother’s arms, lunging at her uncle. He set the basket down and caught her, laughing and making funny faces. He pulled a toy out of the pocket of his long leather coat and gave it to her. Baby in one arm, he wandered into the kitchen to greet the others and present Fritz with the basket of four meat pies, still hot from the oven.

He accepted all the hugs and kisses stoically until at last he reached Daphne. He held out his hand. “How do you do. Ralan Hendrix.”

“Hello, Daphne Winstead.” She was a bit formal, stiff.

Ralan wasn’t sure how to approach her. He could hardly kiss her and shaking her hand was too impersonal. Instead, he kissed her hand, dark eyes meeting hers over the top of her bent wrist. His warm lips lingered almost hungrily on her skin. Daphne’s heart fluttered. The picture hadn’t done him justice. He was twice as handsome as his photograph and had a seductive charm that was absolutely deadly. Swallowing hard, she smiled.

“Pleased to finally meet you.”

“You as well. Sis, you didn’t tell me she was devastating.”

“Would it have mattered?” Karen asked archly.

“Not really, but it would have improved the fantasies. I’m a sucker for dark brown eyes.”

Daphne had to admit that she was, too. His held a hunger she’d never seen before and it made her nervous. He was still holding her hand. She withdrew it slowly but decisively. Ralan’s fingers lingered a moment longer as his eyes devoured her. Feeling as if he undressed her with his gaze, Daphne turned away from him so those penetrating dark brown orbs wouldn’t peel away the layers of her soul. She couldn’t conceal a tiny shiver, or was it more of a thrill?

A warm hand caressed her shoulder. “You cold?” his deep, husky voice asked.

Daphne turned, nearly colliding with Ralan. He looked as if he wanted to kiss her. He leaned toward her, mouth mere inches from her neck. And what a mouth! Full lips curved in an almost perfect bow. A dusting of black hair was scattered across his cheeks and upper lip. His scent was a mixture of minty fresh and a dusky cologne that made her nostrils tickle delightedly. Pursing her lips, she kept from attacking him by sheer force of will.

She realized she hadn’t answered his question. “Uh, no. I’m fine. I think I’m a little hung over.”

“Celebrating early?”

“Mourning a missed opportunity.”

“That’s a pity. A pretty girl like you shouldn’t have anything to mourn.”

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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Love Takes a Swim Part 57 by Dellani Oakes

Love Takes a Swim cover smallPaisley laughed loudly. “Trust that to be the one thing you remember about him.”

“It made an impression. We studied that right after my first time. I remember wondering how he could possibly give up something that felt that good.”

Paisley stood on tiptoe, kissing him deeply. “I’m gonna miss you.”

“Me too. I need to run, babe.” He kissed her again, longer. “This sucks! This is me leaving.” He backed out the door, waving as he went.

“Boy, he’s got it bad,” Tempest said as she came to stand by Paisley in the doorway.

“Good. I’d hate to think I was the only one. I can’t tell you how lucky I am to have a man like Kai. I know your brothers drive you nuts, Tempy, but I hope you’re lucky enough to find a guy like them.”

They went to the kitchen and started fixing dinner together.

“What makes Kai so special? He’s such a guy!”

“Does he yell at you?”

“Once in awhile, but only if I really piss him off.”

“Does he hit you?”

“Never!”

“Has he ever been mean, just for the sake of being mean?”

“No, not Kai. He’s not like that at all.”

“My ex was exactly like that, Tempy. He was a seriously bad guy. He hit me, yelled at me, made me feel stupid, he did mean things, and told me I was his possession. No other men would even talk to me once Ralph decided he wanted me. He didn’t even want me around my parents. I think he was behind their deaths. He tried really hard to get me to move in with him after they died.”

“Oh, Paisley, that’s so awful! How did you avoid that?”

“My crazy uncle. He was a pretty cool guy, really. But I think Ralph had something to do with his problems too. Uncle Frank was an occasional drug user. Ralph’s family supplied all the drugs in the county. It would be easy to spike his with something, or give him a stronger dose than he was expecting.”

“He sounds evil.”

“He was rotten. His dad was evil. They’re horrible.”

“Do you think they’ll find you?”

“I hope not. Be glad you have family like this, because your brothers and your dad—they’re the best.” Paisley wiped her eyes on a paper towel. “Okay, kiddo. Time to get cooking!”

Kai spent hours helping dig people out of the rubble where a supermarket collapsed. Fortunately, most of them survived, but there were a couple of mangled bodies uncovered and pronounced dead at the scene. It wasn’t the first time he’d seen death, but it was the worst.

When it was over, he and the rest of the team were given accommodations at a local motel. Kai was sharing with Thad. The older man took a shower first. Kai took the opportunity to call Paisley.

It took several rings for her to answer. When she did, she sounded bleary. Only then did he look at the clock.

“Oh, babe, I’m sorry. It’s like four.”

“It’s okay.” She yawned.

Kai could imagine the movement of her body under the covers, her nightgown clinging to the curves of her body.

“It’s good to hear your voice. How are you?”

“Exhausted. It was brutal.” He told her a little of what he’d been doing, leaving out the grisly details.

“Oh, Kai!”

“We’re gonna be here tomorrow too. They think they’ve found everyone, but who knows, right? They’re checking with dogs, running shifts around the clock. Thad’s in the shower. When it’s my turn, I plan to stay there all night, or until the hot water runs out.”

Paisley sighed and he could hear rustling as she moved in the bed. He thought he was too tired to be aroused, but apparently he was wrong.

“Damn, I miss you! This is killing me—being away from you.”

“You’ll be back soon.”

“Not soon enough. Swear to God, I’m gonna explode.”

“Don’t do that. Think of how messy that would be. Not to mention, so disappointing. I mean, what would I do then? You’ve raised my expectations, made me want you more than any other man alive, then you explode? How’s that get fun?”

“I’m gonna think of you when I’m in the shower,” he murmured.

“While you touch yourself?”

Kai sucked in air, exhaling sharply. “Oh, yeah….”

“Good. Think of me—naked in your bed—all night long…. I’m sleeping in your bed. I had to smell you, be close to you…. I thinking of you, naked beside me. I snuggled close while you slept. I touched you.”

“Holy shit! Pais…!”

She laughed seductively. “Keep that image in your mind while you take your shower. Think of how I’ll feel wrapped around you, my arms and legs holding you tight as you….”

“I gotta go,” he said suddenly.

Thad had just come out of the bathroom, wreathed in steam. Kai hung up. Barreling past him, he slammed the bathroom door as he gasped for breath. He undressed in record time and got in the shower.

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Love Takes a Swim Part 56 by Dellani Oakes

Love Takes a Swim cover small“Kid, I’m sure you knew this was coming.”

“I anticipated it, yes. How soon do you need me? I’m helping Paisley. She hasn’t any power. Got to get her to my folks’ house.”

“When you get done. We’re headed to DeBarry. It was bad over there. They got worse storms than we did. Tornadoes and flash flooding. Teams from all over the county are going over. They’ll keep a skeleton crew here in case of emergency.”

“Would you rather have me here or there? I can do either.”

“Well, come to think, I could sure use your talents here. Up to you.”

“Just give me the order, Thad. I’ll do whatever. You want to be here and I’ll head to DeBarry?”

“Why don’t you go and I’ll keep Greg here. Newlywed shouldn’t be so far from home, huh?”

“Yeah. Us single guys get screwed instead.” He chuckled. “It’s cool. I’ll get my gear as soon as we get her settled. Maybe thirty before I get on the road.”

“Report here first. I’m sending the truck over. We’re leaving in about an hour.”

“I’ll be there.” Kai hung up, sighing heavily. “Save me some lasagna, babe. I gotta go to work.”

Paisley looked ready to cry. “Is life always going to be like this?”

He held her close, kissing her forehead. “I hope not. But this is what I do.”

“And you wouldn’t be the man I love if you didn’t go where you were needed. You haven’t forgotten about Amy?”

“Shit, I had, actually. I’ll call before I head out. We better get going. I need to be at the station in about an hour.”

“Okay.”

They hopped in the Jeep and were just pulling out when a black Ford truck with spinners and a lot of chrome, cut them off. Kai was grateful for good brakes.

Four thugs got out and came over to the Jeep. Kai recognized Brill, TM’s cousin, and some of his heavies.

“Yo, Kai,” Brill said, flashing a bunch of gold teeth. “This your lady?”

“Yeah. TM talked to you?”

“Yeah, man. Listen, reason I’m stopping by, we saw some dude we didn’t know, hanging around. He looked kinda weasely. What’s your ex look like, baby?” He directed at Paisley.

“I’ve got a picture.” She shrugged. “My mom and dad are in it too,” she added. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t have kept it.” She flipped through the pictures on her phone and handed it to Brill.

Brill slid his sunglasses down his nose, looking at the screen. He passed it to his men. One of them pointed to the picture.

“Nope. This wasn’t the guy, but similar build. The guy I saw was a little taller, scrawny, fidgety, like he’s got a snake up his ass. Dark hair—course that means nothing, hair dye, right? But this guy? No.”

“Memorize this face,” Brill said. “If that guy comes back, get us a picture, dig? If they get a shot, we’ll send it to you, baby.”

“Thank you, Brill. Why are you being so helpful? I mean, you don’t even know me.”

He flashed a smile, leaning on the door of the car. “Cause you’re pure, babe. Unspoiled. And you’re a lady. Real men don’t beat their women or try to kill them. My boys know how to treat a woman right. They raise a fist, they answer to me. I may be a criminal, but I’m not a wife beater.”

Paisley smiled, blinking back tears. “I feel like I’ve got my own army of knights protecting me. Thank you. Hey, what’s your favorite kind of cookie?”

“You tell me.” He looked smug, not expecting her to guess.

“Peanut butter chocolate chip.”

He laughed, obviously shocked. “Damn, you’re right!”

“When I’ve got power back, I’ll make you some.”

Brill fiddled a moment with her phone, handing it back to her. “Got my digits. You’ll really bake me cookies?” He looked like he wanted to laugh, but didn’t want to offend her.

“As many as you can eat.”

“Kai, dude, you got a lady of quality there. You take care of her.”

“Will do, Brill. And thanks. I feel better knowing you guys have her back.”

They exchanged a complicated handshake and the gang members left. Kai sat a moment, hunched over the steering wheel, shoulders shaking.

“Kai? Are you okay?”

A stifled snort told her he was fine. He glanced at her tears of humor in his eyes.

“Babe, that guy’s a bona fide bad ass. He’s been in prison for assault and armed robbery, he’s probably killed a few people—and you offered to bake him cookies.” Squealing slightly, he couldn’t contain his laughter.

Paisley crossed her arms, smirking. “And if more people had offered to do that for him when he was a kid, he might not be a bona fide criminal. Everyone likes cookies, even gang leaders, and I have a killer recipe for peanut butter chocolate chip cookies.”

“Baby, I will personally help you bake them.”

Kai drove quickly to the house. Cody and Brad helped her unload while he got his things together. As much as he hated to leave, he couldn’t delay any longer.

When he was ready, he took Paisley in his arms. “I don’t want to go.”

“I know. But you’re like Sir Galahad. Your duty always comes first.”

“Wasn’t he the one who swore he’d never have sex?”

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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