Archive | June 2021

Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 4

Deacon went on in some detail watching Dino’s smile suddenly fade rapidly. Turning around, he saw a petite, auburn haired woman glaring up at him. She held three or four large bags, which she dropped almost on Deacon’s feet.

Dino’s smile was artificial, his tan turned a few shades lighter. “Deacon Stewart, I’d like to introduce you to our lighting designer,” he gulped. “Hillary Du Champs.”

Deacon held out his hand, taking his cap off his head. “Pleased to meet you, Ms. Du Champs.”

She glared at him and didn’t take his proffered hand. “Don’t mind me,” she said with a strong Australian accent, “I’m just a little, old French lady with a bad accent!”

Deacon sighed, realizing he had put his foot in deeply this time. As penance, he picked up three of the bags, Ms. Du Champs snatched the smallest off the floor before he could touch it.

“Who’s the flunky?” she directed impolitely at Dino.

She walked ahead of Deacon, beside Dino who shortened his stride to compensate for her lack of stature. She couldn’t be much over five feet tall, Deacon thought. He’d never gotten along well with little women. They tended to be bossy and arrogant, with something to prove.

Deacon was around six foot three and lanky of build. His dark blond hair was curly, unruly and a constant source of aggravation to him. His blue eyes were rimmed with dark eyelashes, giving him a sleepy look. In high school, he’d been mistakenly accused of being stoned more often than he could count.

In an act of defiance of his military foster father, he’d gotten plugs in his ears and an eyebrow pierced. Several tattoos decorated his arms and another on his right buttock, a challenge from a college roommate, one night when they were too drunk to give a shit. He was sure he presented a bedraggled figure to the compact, attractive and well groomed woman ahead of him. Not quite the picture of a well qualified professional man.

He noted, absently, that she had a great figure and a nice, tight ass, which distracted him so much, he nearly ran into the door jam as the automatic door slid open. He set the bags down as they waited for the elevator, and looked down at Hillary.

“I’m sorry about what I said. I didn’t realize you were there.”

“And that makes it all right to insult me, as I can’t hear you? You’re an uneducated buffoon, Mr. Whatever. I hope to have as little contact with you as possible. So just do your job, tote the bags and don’t talk to me!”

Deacon’s temper nearly got the better of him, but the elevator arrived, giving them a few moments of struggle as they pulled her bags on board. Dino hit the button for the parking garage.

Getting to the car, Dino opened the back, and Deacon loaded the bags into the luggage space. He tried to open the door for Ms. Du Champs, but she walked pointedly away from him. He slid in the front seat himself, shutting the door in her face.

“Now see here,” she reprimanded him. “Since when does the flunky sit in the front seat and the professional woman sit in the back seat with the cooler?”

Deacon rolled his eyes in her direction, giving her a scathing look before lowering the brim of his cap over his eyes, resuming his relaxed travel position. “Since the flunky is the technical director of the theater, and the professional woman is being a snooty bitch.” He said firmly, fastening his seat belt with an abrupt snap.

“Well, that’s some nerve!” She climbed into the back seat, slamming the door louder than was necessary. She muttered incoherently as she fastened her belt and situated herself.

Dino started the car and took off in his usual cavalier style. Ms. Du Champs was silent for some time, just trying to stay in an upright position while Dino drove down the ramps at forty miles an hour. He cut into the outgoing traffic and sped into the night, zipping in and out of traffic seemingly at random.

“Really, Dino, do you have to drive so carelessly?” she griped at him now, letting Deacon off the hook, for the time being.

“It’s better when you don’t look,” Deacon murmured, sliding lower into the seat.

Deacon turned up the CD player, now playing his favorite Kenny Wayne Shepherd song, Electric Lullaby. He liked the guitarist’s smooth, jazzy blues. It was relaxing, something he needed just then.

Ms. Du Champs complained about that, too, so he turned it up some more to drown her out. Dino looked as if he were trying to set a speed record to get home. After a while, Ms. Du Champs decided that bitching was only making him drive faster. She sat back, lips clamped tightly together and made the best of things. When they’d arrived, Deacon got out of the car and walked into the guest house without offering to get Ms. Du Champs’ bags from the back, leaving that dubious honor to Dino.

He walked to the refrigerator, grabbed a bottle of imported Lager, and sat down in front of the TV. Commotion at the door caused him to rise. Walking over, he opened it to see a red faced Dino on the doorstep, bags in hand.

“Move! I think I’m getting a hernia!” he wheezed, shoving by Deacon and dropping the bags on the floor.

“She’s not moving in here, is she?” Deacon was horrified.

Dino’s plaintive look told Deacon the frightening truth.

“Jesus, Dino, she’s a menace! What were you thinking?”

“I was thinking that it’s a big house, and the two of you could share, at least for now.” He looked pained. “I’m sorry, Deacon, I honestly had no idea….”

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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For More About Dellani

Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 4

Deacon went on in some detail watching Dino’s smile suddenly fade rapidly. Turning around, he saw a petite, auburn haired woman glaring up at him. She held three or four large bags, which she dropped almost on Deacon’s feet.

Dino’s smile was artificial, his tan turned a few shades lighter. “Deacon Stewart, I’d like to introduce you to our lighting designer,” he gulped. “Hillary Du Champs.”

Deacon held out his hand, taking his cap off his head. “Pleased to meet you, Ms. Du Champs.”

She glared at him and didn’t take his proffered hand. “Don’t mind me,” she said with a strong Australian accent, “I’m just a little, old French lady with a bad accent!”

Deacon sighed, realizing he had put his foot in deeply this time. As penance, he picked up three of the bags, Ms. Du Champs snatched the smallest off the floor before he could touch it.

“Who’s the flunky?” she directed impolitely at Dino.

She walked ahead of Deacon, beside Dino who shortened his stride to compensate for her lack of stature. She couldn’t be much over five feet tall, Deacon thought. He’d never gotten along well with little women. They tended to be bossy and arrogant, with something to prove.

Deacon was around six foot three and lanky of build. His dark blond hair was curly, unruly and a constant source of aggravation to him. His blue eyes were rimmed with dark eyelashes, giving him a sleepy look. In high school, he’d been mistakenly accused of being stoned more often than he could count.

In an act of defiance of his military foster father, he’d gotten plugs in his ears and an eyebrow pierced. Several tattoos decorated his arms and another on his right buttock, a challenge from a college roommate, one night when they were too drunk to give a shit. He was sure he presented a bedraggled figure to the compact, attractive and well groomed woman ahead of him. Not quite the picture of a well qualified professional man.

He noted, absently, that she had a great figure and a nice, tight ass, which distracted him so much, he nearly ran into the door jam as the automatic door slid open. He set the bags down as they waited for the elevator, and looked down at Hillary.

“I’m sorry about what I said. I didn’t realize you were there.”

“And that makes it all right to insult me, as I can’t hear you? You’re an uneducated buffoon, Mr. Whatever. I hope to have as little contact with you as possible. So just do your job, tote the bags and don’t talk to me!”

Deacon’s temper nearly got the better of him, but the elevator arrived, giving them a few moments of struggle as they pulled her bags on board. Dino hit the button for the parking garage.

Getting to the car, Dino opened the back, and Deacon loaded the bags into the luggage space. He tried to open the door for Ms. Du Champs, but she walked pointedly away from him. He slid in the front seat himself, shutting the door in her face.

“Now see here,” she reprimanded him. “Since when does the flunky sit in the front seat and the professional woman sit in the back seat with the cooler?”

Deacon rolled his eyes in her direction, giving her a scathing look before lowering the brim of his cap over his eyes, resuming his relaxed travel position. “Since the flunky is the technical director of the theater, and the professional woman is being a snooty bitch.” He said firmly, fastening his seat belt with an abrupt snap.

“Well, that’s some nerve!” She climbed into the back seat, slamming the door louder than was necessary. She muttered incoherently as she fastened her belt and situated herself.

Dino started the car and took off in his usual cavalier style. Ms. Du Champs was silent for some time, just trying to stay in an upright position while Dino drove down the ramps at forty miles an hour. He cut into the outgoing traffic and sped into the night, zipping in and out of traffic seemingly at random.

“Really, Dino, do you have to drive so carelessly?” she griped at him now, letting Deacon off the hook, for the time being.

“It’s better when you don’t look,” Deacon murmured, sliding lower into the seat.

Deacon turned up the CD player, now playing his favorite Kenny Wayne Shepherd song, Electric Lullaby. He liked the guitarist’s smooth, jazzy blues. It was relaxing, something he needed just then.

Ms. Du Champs complained about that, too, so he turned it up some more to drown her out. Dino looked as if he were trying to set a speed record to get home. After a while, Ms. Du Champs decided that bitching was only making him drive faster. She sat back, lips clamped tightly together and made the best of things. When they’d arrived, Deacon got out of the car and walked into the guest house without offering to get Ms. Du Champs’ bags from the back, leaving that dubious honor to Dino.

He walked to the refrigerator, grabbed a bottle of imported Lager, and sat down in front of the TV. Commotion at the door caused him to rise. Walking over, he opened it to see a red faced Dino on the doorstep, bags in hand.

“Move! I think I’m getting a hernia!” he wheezed, shoving by Deacon and dropping the bags on the floor.

“She’s not moving in here, is she?” Deacon was horrified.

Dino’s plaintive look told Deacon the frightening truth.

“Jesus, Dino, she’s a menace! What were you thinking?”

“I was thinking that it’s a big house, and the two of you could share, at least for now.” He looked pained. “I’m sorry, Deacon, I honestly had no idea….”

©2021 Dellani Oakes

To Buy Dellani’s Books

For More About Dellani

Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 3

Deacon popped the can open and set it in the cup holder between the seats. Before opening his own, he held it against his forehead, letting the condensed water on the outside pool on his forehead and run down his nose.

“You okay, Deac?”

“Yeah, just looking over everything that has to be done. It’s a hell of a job, Dino. I’m not sure we’ll make opening. Are you sure you want to try for that?”

“Well, it’s keeping in the whole rebuilding the theater thing, Deacon. That was the original show date six years ago. I’d like to keep to that. We can get more men, got to be plenty of out of work construction people around.”

“We need some experienced set painters, lighting and sound techs. Construction guys can’t do that. They’ll do fine with the actual construction, but not the decoration.”

“I’ve got a deal with the local college. They’ll be sending over their junior and senior students, who need some practical experience. They are working for a minimal stipend, and the glitz on their resumes.” He flashed a five star smile.

Dino would spend money like water, but if he could get something cheap, he took it. Deacon laughed. The alternative wasn’t pretty. He didn’t want an argument with his new boss.

“Okay, so you have me a tech crew of green kids, a set crew of construction workers and a professional lighting designer. Is this another case of sympathy, or did you really snag some talent this time?”

Dino chuckled, checking his mirrors before merging onto I-95 South. “Just wait, you’ll be surprised.”

“Is it someone I know?”

“I doubt it. Been in the field quite a while, done some work with Theater Works and the like. Just looking for a change of scene I guess. Florida does have some small appeal, after all.”

Dino was being cagey and wanted to surprise Deacon, causing a shiver of apprehension to run down his spine. Anytime anyone had ever said to him, you’ll be surprised, he usually was, and unpleasantly.

Tipping his Metallica hat over his eyes, Deacon leaned back, folding his hands on his broad chest to rest for the remainder of the trip. He didn’t really like the way Dino drove, and the less he saw of the actual trip to the Orlando airport at rush hour, the better he felt. Dino didn’t seem to mind, just turned up his music and sang along.

He had decent taste in music, anyway and not a bad voice. Soon, Deacon was falling asleep with the eerie lyrics of Bodies Like Sheep by A Perfect Circle, fluttering around in his mind. Go back to sleep, go back to sleep….

He dozed without dreaming, waking when he felt the car come to a lurching stop outside a restaurant. It was one of the many Dino owned, a casual place which wouldn’t mind the fact that Deacon wasn’t dressed for a night on the town. He got the impression his new boss didn’t want to drag his grubby ass to the nicer spots. Deacon didn’t care, to be honest. He didn’t like fancy places, and wasn’t comfortable in them.

They were led to the best table in the house and relaxed, listening to the band. Dino always had live music, and gave local bands a chance. Several had gotten recording contracts because of his sponsorship. This band didn’t really suit Deacon’s taste, being of the hard core genre. It wasn’t exactly good dinner music, but since the meal was free, he wasn’t arguing. He ordered a Philly Steak platter and a Coke, in deference to his employer. He’d rather have had a beer, but didn’t think it was polite. He could wait until he got home, and pop open a few. He intended to spend another night in front of the TV in Dino’s well appointed guest house. The fridge was constantly restocked, by some unseen worker, with the best beers in the world. He could have whatever he wanted and more magically appeared.

The band switched to some mellower music as the dinner crowd dribbled in around six. He and Dino sat around, talking, making plans. At seven o’clock, they left the restaurant and drove to the airport. Dino found a spot to park in the large parking garage and slid into it, barely missing the Mercedes on his left and the minivan on his right.

The the two men went to the luggage pick up and waited for the lighting designer. Deacon looked around at the long room blankly. He hated airports, and he detested waiting for people in them.

“Want to give me a description, so I can help look?”

“Not to worry, I’ll know.”

“Mind telling me the name?”

Dino looked at his watch, checked the arrival board and started down the long expanse of luggage pick up.

“Wouldn’t you know, the last one on this end? Isn’t it always like that?”

“The name, Dino?” He wasn’t so much curious as he was just annoyed with the secrecy.

Dino chuckled, enjoying Deacon’s frustration too much. “I guess it’s fine to tell you now. I was able to get Hillary K. Du Champs.”

The name was not unknown to Deacon, he had heard it often enough in theater circles up north.

“Hillary Du Champs? Sounds like a little, old French lady with a bad accent.”

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 2

Deacon shuddered again, this time from cold. It was about forty degrees in there. Even with his heavy pants, boots and sweater, he was chilly. It was colder back home, but there was something to be said about the difference in humidity. He had located the heating and air conditioning unit, and had someone work on it; weekend overtime, he sighed. He was competent with a lot of things, but he wasn’t secure with electricity. He left that to the experts.

He found a light switch, flicked it on and the dressing room blazed with dozens of light bulbs. There were cobwebs in the wigs which had been left out on the counter. Boxes of theater makeup were open and about a ton of dust covered the tubes. The floor was also thick with sand drifting in through the cracks in the walls and foundation, around windows and under doors. It was a petrified wasteland.

I’m never gonna get this ready in time. Some low stress.

He was going to end up half killing himself on late nights and early mornings. At least coffee was cheaper than cocaine, and caffeine wouldn’t bring on a psychotic episode. He had to thank heaven for his blessings, no matter how small.

The opening play Dino had chosen to present was the ill fated show which had been slated to go up six years ago. It was a who-done-it spoof called Any Number Can Die. The set was already designed and partially built. Deacon had to see how much of the lumber, canvas and paint needed replacing. He didn’t hold out much hope of salvaging anything. Florida weather was pretty harsh on building materials, even if they were under cover. What the heat and humidity hadn’t destroyed, he was afraid the bugs had.

Sunday, was scheduled for stage clean up. La Petite Theater Society, who had been the backbone of the theater in the old days, had volunteered to come in and clear the stage and dressing rooms so that auditions could commence on Monday.

Deacon thought that having the technicians and construction people there, at the same time actors were going to be wandering about, was a serious judgment error. Dino insisted, he wanted the cast to get the feel for their environment. Deacon wasn’t in a position to argue, so he said what he thought, and closed his mouth. He’d learned the futility of arguing with directors a long time ago.

Making a mental list of all the tasks to be done, he decided that was not only pointless, it was foolish. Surely there would be paper in the office. He never went anywhere without a pen and pencil, but paper wasn’t included in his pocket inventory. This particular implement was left from a set Frieda had given him on their first anniversary. He used it, hoping it would run out of ink so he would have the excuse to throw it away. Unlike their relationship, it kept going interminably.

The office was locked, but he had a huge ring of keys Dino had given him. Each was carefully marked. Choosing the one marked technical director, he opened the door and searched until he found a stack of typing paper. He sat in the rather dubious chair, that looked like it was WW II Army surplus, and started his list. Each entry sparked a new idea and soon he had three handwritten pages. His printing was precise, having drawn set designs for so many years. He was getting a cramp in his left hand and put his pen down to massage it thoughtfully.

The phone next to his elbow rang, startling him so much, he jumped away as if it were a snake. Tentatively, he picked it up and spoke softly, the sound of his own voice echoing in the silent building, making him think he was waking old ghosts.

“Seaside Little Theater, may I help you?”

Dino’s familiar baritone shout greeted him. He was the singularly loudest man Deacon had ever met. He meant well and was sparing no expense getting the place up and running. He could afford it, being the third richest man in the entire state.

“Deac! How are you! They got the phone connected, that’s super! Did you get the power on?”

“Yeah, I found the breaker switches about thirty minutes ago. The heat’s on and warming up nicely in here.”

“Excellent! Listen, why don’t you call it a day, for now. You can’t do any of the cleanup solo. Besides, I have to pick up the lighting designer in Orlando. You fancy a drive down? I hate making that trip alone. The company would be welcome. We’ll catch dinner downtown and head to the airport. The plane is in around seven forty-five.”

“Sure, sounds good. I’ll lock up and turn off the lights and see you when you get here.”

Deacon hung up and made the rounds checking doors, windows and lights, bidding a goodnight to the ghosts. He shut and locked the front door behind him, just as Dino drove up in his bright yellow SUV.

Hopping into the front seat, Deacon stretched out his long legs, relaxing in the luxury of the dark leather interior. Dino spared no expense on anything he owned. This was maxed out, complete with a DVD player and video game hook up in the back. Not that Dino had any kids, he just wanted the whole package, and paid cash for it. They threw in spinners, mud flaps, and chrome wheel rims for free.

“There’s some drinks in the back, grab one. You must be thirsty after being in all that dust.”

Dino was fastidious, but didn’t even blink at all the dust and cobwebs Deacon dragged into his car. He’d pay someone to clean it out later.

There was an electric cooler in the back. Deacon reached into it, finding a selection of soft drinks. Dino was a recovering alcoholic, he had nothing stronger than root beer. Grabbing a Coke, he asked Dino what he’d have.

“Vanilla Coke, thanks.”

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 1

In the semi-dark of the old building, its musty smell strong in his nostrils, Deacon Stewart shuddered away the story that the place was haunted. Theater people tended to be somewhat superstitious and melodramatic, creating tales of deaths in the theater, accidents which befell the unwary and unbelievers. Anything from decapitation by a piece of falling scenery, to suicide pacts between love struck actors and actresses. Deacon made his way carefully through the clutter of the back storage room carrying a flashlight. The main circuit breaker had to be here somewhere. The power had been turned on the day before, and he still couldn’t find the damn breaker box in the cold darkness.

What made the stories stronger and more alarming, in this case, some of them were true. There were documented deaths associated with this place. Nothing sensational, just a few freaky accidents that had caused it to be shut down about six years ago.

One such accident was that involving an electrician who was hanging lights. He had a Leko in need of repairs already on the baton. He should have brought it down to fix it, but instead had simply unplugged it, leaving the cable hanging near the ladder. Someone had come along, not realizing what he was doing up on the ladder and plugged it in. Instant, crispy fried techie.

That was the most recent in a long history of such incidents. The theater closed the same day, and had not reopened until Deacon Stewart was hired to run it for the winter snowbird season, in a small, seaside town in Florida.

Having finally located the circuit breakers behind a pile of empty boxes, he examined the panel, the wires, and the immediate area carefully before hitting the main switch. Without a spark, the panel clicked and the dim backstage lights came on, glimmering merrily, teasing him with their cheerfulness.

Breathing a sigh of relief, he took off the protective rubber gloves he wore, thanking God for a small favor. This was one thing, at least, that did not require his immediate attention. He couldn’t say the same thing for the rest of the place. They’d brought in an exterminator to rid them of the carpenter ants and palmetto bugs infesting the attic and walls of the old wooden structure. Once the fumes cleared, the renovations started, beginning with the power being restored.

The building itself dated back to the early forties when the area was used by the military. It looked every bit its age. It needed a major overhaul if it was to be ready on time for its grand re-opening on January Twenty-seventh. Deacon hoped he could find competent people to help him. He had taken the job mostly because it was supposed to be a low stress environment. The doctors had told him he had to avoid stress. Being lead designer in a major theater scenery company in New York City, wasn’t conducive to low stress levels.

After an episode, as it was so tactfully diagnosed by the psychiatrists, he had been put on forced leave of absence, and told to get his shit together before coming back to work. They couldn’t fire him, he was part owner of the company, but they could make him take a vacation.

The episode was brought on by a combination of stress and cocaine, not a period of his life that he was proud of. Also adding to the problem was the recent break up with his long time girlfriend, Frieda Massey. She was an actress who worked mostly off-off Broadway; second rate at best. She had finally landed a good job as a minor character on a new sitcom filming in LA. She hadn’t hesitated to take the job, and flew out of his life, as if he never existed.

Two weeks later, he’d gone wild in the shop, shooting the nail gun into a piece of plywood, screaming and crying hysterically. Then he tried to kill himself with the radial arm saw. He’d intended to cut his own head off, but that wasn’t a terribly easy thing to accomplish. Some fast thinking tech pulled the plug on the saw before he even had his head all the way on the table. Several months and extensive therapy later, the episode behind him, he was told by his two partners he needed a break.

“Go south, young man,” Bernie said. “Florida is nice this time of year. Not too cold, not too hot. I have a friend who owns a small place down there, he’s looking for a Technical Director to open it back up. I put a word in for you. You’re hired.”

Deacon’s protests were ignored. Bernie helped him pack. Maxine, Bernie’s wife, and the other partner, drove him to the airport. If she could have put him on the plane personally, she would have. She stayed by the security gate until his plane took off. He arrived in Orlando three hours later and was picked up by Bernie’s friend Dino.

Dino’s parents must have had a sick sense of humor. Their last name was Sawyer. Despite growing up a living parody, he was a nice guy. Big, blond, darkly tanned, he had inherited the theater from his great uncle. Having always loved acting and directing, he decided to open the theater for the winter season. It was Deacon’s job to whip it into shape.

“I’ve hired a crew to come in starting early Monday morning. Bunch of guys I know who work construction. Not too many jobs in the winter, even here, so they agreed eagerly.”

Today was Saturday, and Deacon had come in late Thursday afternoon, to find the tents just being taken off the building. They left it open to air out all day Friday, and the power was turned on by three o’clock. It took hours to find the circuit breakers in the dim recesses of the building. Having very few windows, all of which were filthy, Deacon could hardly see, even with a high powered flashlight.

Scenery and building supplies littered the entire backstage area. All the supplies had been delivered for the show when the electrician died. Pieces of set were already in place, one dark spot on the floor bore grim testimony to his untimely passing.

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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Raven Willoughby is Over. What’s Next?

I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did sharing it with you. I decided to change it up a little, and share one of my first romances with you. I wrote this back in 2006. Set here in Florida, it incorporates my love of theatre, romance, and some tasty suspense.

Deacon Steward suffered an emotional breakdown a few months ago, at his job in New York. Feeling better now, he’s taken a job at a small theatre in Florida. It’s supposed to be restful, but suddenly, things take a turn. Instead of relaxing, he’s running for his life.

Join me next time for Crime Make and Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes.

Teaser from Crime Makes an Entrance Chapter One

In the semi-dark of the old building, its musty smell strong in his nostrils, Deacon Stewart shuddered away the story that the place was haunted. Theater people tended to be somewhat superstitious and melodramatic, creating tales of deaths in the theater, accidents which befell the unwary and unbelievers. Anything from decapitation by a piece of falling scenery, to suicide pacts between love struck actors and actresses. Deacon made his way carefully through the clutter of the back storage room carrying a flashlight. The main circuit breaker had to be here somewhere. The power had been turned on the day before, and he still couldn’t find the damn breaker box in the cold darkness.

What made the stories stronger and more alarming, in this case, some of them were true. There were documented deaths associated with this place. Nothing sensational, just a few freaky accidents that had caused it to be shut down about six years ago.

One such accident was that involving an electrician who was hanging lights. He had a Leko in need of repairs already on the baton. He should have brought it down to fix it, but instead had simply unplugged it, leaving the cable hanging near the ladder. Someone had come along, not realizing what he was doing up on the ladder and plugged it in. Instant, crispy fried techie.

That was the most recent in a long history of such incidents. The theater closed the same day, and had not reopened until Deacon Stewart was hired to run it for the winter snowbird season, in a small, seaside town in Florida.

Having finally located the circuit breakers behind a pile of empty boxes, he examined the panel, the wires, and the immediate area carefully before hitting the main switch. Without a spark, the panel clicked and the dim backstage lights came on, glimmering merrily, teasing him with their cheerfulness.

Breathing a sigh of relief, he took off the protective rubber gloves he wore, thanking God for a small favor. This was one thing, at least, that did not require his immediate attention. He couldn’t say the same thing for the rest of the place. They’d brought in an exterminator to rid them of the carpenter ants and palmetto bugs infesting the attic and walls of the old wooden structure. Once the fumes cleared, the renovations started, beginning with the power being restored.

The building itself dated back to the early forties when the area was used by the military. It looked every bit its age. It needed a major overhaul if it was to be ready on time for its grand re-opening on January Twenty-seventh. Deacon hoped he could find competent people to help him. He had taken the job mostly because it was supposed to be a low stress environment. The doctors had told him he had to avoid stress. Being lead designer in a major theater scenery company in New York City, wasn’t conducive to low stress levels.

After an episode, as it was so tactfully diagnosed by the psychiatrists, he had been put on forced leave of absence, and told to get his shit together before coming back to work. They couldn’t fire him, he was part owner of the company, but they could make him take a vacation.

The episode was brought on by a combination of stress and cocaine, not a period of his life that he was proud of. Also adding to the problem was the recent break up with his long time girlfriend, Frieda Massey. She was an actress who worked mostly off-off Broadway; second rate at best. She had finally landed a good job as a minor character on a new sitcom filming in LA. She hadn’t hesitated to take the job, and flew out of his life, as if he never existed.

Two weeks later, he’d gone wild in the shop, shooting the nail gun into a piece of plywood, screaming and crying hysterically. Then he tried to kill himself with the radial arm saw. He’d intended to cut his own head off, but that wasn’t a terribly easy thing to accomplish. Some fast thinking tech pulled the plug on the saw before he even had his head all the way on the table. Several months and extensive therapy later, the episode behind him, he was told by his two partners he needed a break.

©2021 Dellani Oakes

Raven Willoughby – Origins ~ A Fantasy by Dellani Oakes – Part 28

“Do you remember anything I said earlier?”

Rose’s face grew stern, and her eyes filled with tears. “Enough to know you’re leaving us.”

“Not by choice. There is nowhere I would rather be, than here with you, raising our son. I love you more than my own life, Rose. I do this to protect you. Please, forgive me for lying with another.”

“I can scarcely condemn you for that. Before we met, I had more than my share. But you come back to me, while our child is still young, do you hear? I won’t have him grow up without his father, as I did.”

“As did I. Now kiss me, my beautiful Rose, and let me hold my son.”

“What shall we name him?”

“After your father?” he took the child in his arms.

“My mother has no idea who that was. After yours?”

Smiling, he gazed into his son’s disconcerting golden eyes. Louis Willoughby,” he made a sign of the cross on the small forehead. “You look a bit like my father, from the portrait I’ve seen.”

“In my eyes, he looks exactly like his own. See, even the honey colored eyes….” She sobbed, looking over Raven’s shoulder.

Without turning around, he knew that Osceola had appeared. He felt her presence like a surge of lightning in the room.

“This is the lad?” she stepped close, leaning over the baby.

Raven didn’t want her to touch his child, but knew he shouldn’t stop her.

“He is a fine, handsome boy.”

“Thank you,” Rose said faintly. “You won’t take him from us?”

Osceola shook her head. “I am ages old, set in my ways. What would I do with a child?”

“But you said—” Raven protested.

“My sweet Raven.” She touched his cheek tenderly. “What would I do with an infant? Though I’ve lived hundreds of years, I know nothing about raising a child. And honestly, my love, I am not the nurturing type.”

“You wanted to test him,” Rose said, a faint smile on her lips.

“Yes, gentle Rose. If he gave the child freely to me, he had no right to keep either of you. If he refused outright, then he was no better a man. But if he was willing to sacrifice, to save the two of you….”

“Then he was well and truly in love,” Rose said, her soft gaze focused on her husband.

“Yes. So, now, I give you a gift.”

“You’ve given the greatest gift of all, my dark and chaotic beauty,” Raven began.

“But I choose to give this one to your son. May I?” She held out her arms.

With a nod from Rose, he handed the child to the vampire witch. “His name?”

“Louis, after my father.”

“A second name, I think. We shall name him Louis Osceola Willoughby, and he shall be the greatest warlock the world has known. He has the blood of magical royalty in his veins, for I made you, and you gave him life. Don’t be afraid, precious Rose. Your son will use his powers for good.”

“Thank you,” Rose said. “This is quite a gift you bestow upon him. When it comes time for him to be trained, may we count on you to help him find his way?”

“Yes. It would be my greatest joy. And visit, if you would, from time to time?”

“As you wish.”

Osceola handed the baby back to Rose. Beckoning to Raven, she led him outside. “I know you think of me as evil.”

“Not entirely, but there is certainly chaos in your soul.”

Osceola laughed. “Yes, that’s true. But it is calmer now, since knowing you, and sharing your blood. You stand poised to do great things, Raven Willoughby. And if you ever have need of me, cast my name upon the wind, and I shall come. Now, one last kiss before I leave.”

He kissed both her cheeks before placing a chaste kiss on her lips. Osceola sighed, smiling.

“Your wife is a truly fortunate lady.”

“Thank you. And I am a fortunate man to have loved two such wonderful women in my life. If you have need of me, I shall come.”

“You must visit on his first birthday.”

“We will.”

The air parted and she was gone.

Louis grew quickly, able to do more as a toddler, than some children twice his age. As his first birthday approached, Raven took Louis and Rose on his ship, up to see Osceola. Her home had changed. No longer a blackened cove, it was ringed sunshine drenched beaches. A cozy cottage had been built near the beach, overlooking the cove.

Osceola greeted them, not dressed in a beautiful, ocean-blue gown. Her hair swept away from her face, held with combs made from seashells. Louis threw himself into her arms, and she carried him as she showed them around.

“This is your second home,” she said with a smile. “I ask that you visit at least once a year, on his birthday, until he is fifteen. When that time comes, he will stay with me, and I will begin his training. Can you do that for me, Rose?”

“Yes, Osceola. It will be hard to be parted from my son, but I can do that.”

“It is time for you to go now,” the witch said, giving each a kiss. “Raise him well.”

With that, she disappeared. They sailed back home, delighted, and surprised, to find that they hadn’t even been gone the full day. It was still Louis’ first birthday, and the town held a party in his honor.

Each year, they did as promised, taking Louis to see Osceola. As time passed, more children came along, and all were welcome in the sunny cove. When Louis reached fifteen, he stayed behind, and they sailed home without him. Though it was difficult to say goodbye, Rose had promised.

As they cuddled in their bed, Rose laid her head upon Raven’s chest. “He’ll be all right, won’t he?”

“Yes, my sweet. He’ll be home in no time. In the meantime, you can love and spoil the rest.”

“Will they go, too?”

“If you and Osceola want them to. That is not my decision.”

“If we had not met, where would you have gone?”

“In truth, I don’t know. I suppose I would have gone to Maine, and settled there. My place of birth held nothing for me. My aunt is long dead, my parents…. No one to care if I live or die.”

“I’d have stayed here, working until I was too old to be of interest.”

“My love, you may be assured, you will always be of interest to me.”

Kissing her goodnight, he settled to sleep. In his dreams, he saw his son, grown to a man, laughing in the ocean’s surf as he conjured water sprites. With a smile on his lips, he slept deeply, dreaming of summer winds and sunshine.

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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THE END

Raven Willoughby – Origins ~ A Fantasy by Dellani Oakes – Part 27

Everyone thought that a splendid idea, and they set about planning the festivities. Uriah sighed, glad he’d removed his meager belongings long ago. Once the embers cooled, he walked around, searching for anything which might have escaped the purging fire. A glint of silver caught his eye. Stooping over, he found a pair of silver daggers. He retrieved them from the ruins.

Of the bodies, nothing was left. The wreckage was cleared out that day and taken out of town to hallowed ground, to be buried. Every holy man in town was out there to add his blessings to the burial grounds. All this, and Raven slept.

Weeks passed and Raven’s ships were restored to him. The Governor was jailed in disgrace, and he was asked to take his place. He turned it down, suggesting Mr. Sterner in his stead. A unanimous vote put the solicitor into office. The former governor’s belongings were sold and the proceeds put into the town and its environs. Raven used the private docks for his fleet. The first journey his new flagship made, was to Maine to clear up the issues there. He returned to Labrador a few weeks later, to find Rose waiting for him.

She seemed thicker around the middle. It was with joy that he heard her news—she was with child. His child. A whirlwind wedding followed, and they moved into a house by the private harbor.

Months passed and her time grew near. One night, Raven had an awful dream about Osceola. She stepped from the air as she had before, snatching his newborn child from his mother’s arms. Stricken with grief, Rose flung herself in the sea. Waking with a stifled cry, he remembered Osceola’s condition for helping him.

“My son,” he whispered. “Please, my beautiful, dark temptress, do not take my son. I’ll come back to you. Father your own child. Just please. Please….”

Unable to sleep, he dressed, and kissed his bride upon the brow. Taking himself to the dock, he stood alone by the water. All the ships were out to sea, so he was alone. Standing there, he felt a presence beside him. Turning he saw the awesomely beautiful Osceola. Walking close, she took his hands, bringing them to her lips.

Raven fell to his knees, clutching her hands. “My love, you honor me with your presence.”

“I’m no longer your love,” she whispered, insisting that he rise. “You have given that to another.”

“No, I’m fond of Rose….”

Her finger touched his lips. “I do not fool myself into thinking that’s true. If you believe it, you’re a fool.” She gazed at him a long time. “Would you really come with me, give me a child?”

“If that’s what you wish. If it will keep you from taking this child.”

“Why is this child so special?”

“He is my first. My only.”

“He is the fruit of your union with the woman you love.”

He hesitated.

“You may say it.” Her face grew soft. “Say it.”

“Yes. The woman I love, had never hoped to love. This son….” He sobbed, nearly falling once more. “I will give you what I can, but I beg you, do not take my son, or my wife will surely kill herself. I cannot lose her, Osceola, or I will lose myself.”

“Would you lie with me for a year?”

“A year is a long time.”

“In my cove, a year is minutes. Will you?”

“May I see my son born? May I hold him first?”

“As you wish. And tell your wife, if you dare, what you do to save them.”

Unable to answer her, he watched as she glided back through the air. It shimmered and twinkled around her, and she was gone.

As he walked up to the house, he heard Rose scream. Mrs. Renard came out of the room, flushed and bothered.

“There you are! She’s asking for you. Don’t be long, it will be a while until you meet your son.”

Raven did as he was told. Seeing Rose’s face contorted in pain, he took her hand. Speaking gently, he told her about meeting Osceola, and the deal he’d struck with her. He wasn’t sure how much of it Rose took in, but the words spilled out.

Mrs. Renard returned with a midwife, and they shooed him out of the room. Hours passed and the screams continued. Raven paced and listened, hearing an increase in activity in the room. After a nearly deafening scream, there was silence, punctuated with the plaintive wail of a babe.

Rushing to the door, he pulled it open, nearly colliding with the startled form of Mrs. Renard. She smiled up at him.

“Come meet your son,” she said.

“It’s a boy? In truth?”

“Yes. A fine, beautiful boy, who looks just like his father.”

Raven sat on the edge of the bed, gazing at his son and his exhausted wife. Giving her a sweet kiss, he peeped around the corner of the blanket, at his little, mottled son.

“Do you wish to hold him?”

“In a moment. Give us a minute, if you would?” he asked the women.

Nodding, the went out.

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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Raven Willoughby – Origins ~ A Fantasy by Dellani Oakes – Part 26

Zulimara encouraged the dead to walk toward him. Closer they came, and closer still. Lunging at them, he struck down two before they reached him. Whirling and slashing, he continued to lay waste, but the stream of bodies was never ending. How many of the creatures were there?

Then, as if a message came to him on the wind, he knew what he had to do. Standing his ground, naked as the day he was born, he took careful aim, hurling one dagger at Zulimara. It struck her in the throat. A scream drowned in her blood, as it sprayed from the wound. As one, the zombies fell, shriveling to nothing as the blood poured out of Zulimara’s body.

Raven dressed hurriedly, cursing his stupidity. He’d let a woman get the better of him. Rather than dwelling on it, he found the lamps and candles in the place. Dousing Zulimara, he saw her body was showing signs of decay. Though not as advanced as the zombies, she was still far more than a newly dead corpse. Some dark magic surely lingered. Making his way out the front door, he left a trail of lamp oil. Striking a match, he lit the oil, watching the flames scurry toward Zulimara’s body. When it reached her, it sputtered with a sickly, putrid green flame, before rushing to consume the others.

Glad that there were few buildings beside his own, Raven watched the flames curl around the wood, the inky black smoke swirling upward. Did he see faces in the fire? He couldn’t be sure. Standing alone, he waited until the building was consumed, the bodies with it. No one came to put the fire out, too afraid of the zombies. He couldn’t blame them. They had no way of knowing he had brought an end to it. Or had he?

A part of him remembered that the Annabelle had not yet made port. Was she out upon the water, spawning another shipload of these creatures?

“Osceola, my sweet, will you help me?”

The air shimmered, shifted and split in front of him. Osceola stepped through, the air shifting like water around her.

“What need have you now? Did I not just help enough?”

“It was you who told me to kill Zulimara.”

“Of course, my love. What need have you of me now?”

“My ship. Is it cursed? Does it even now bring yet another load of monsters to land?”

She cast forth, breathing deeply of the wind. Dark hair coiling around her like living serpents, she rose from the ground. “Come.” Grabbing Raven’s arm, she pulled him close.

Horror replaced shock as she flew straight up, then out over the water. Below him, Raven saw the wine dark depths of the sea. The waves rolled and tumbled beneath them, splashing upward, trying to clutch him and draw him under. Not far away, he spied a ship. By the way she sat the water, he knew it was his beloved Annabelle and she was in distress. Listing to starboard, she canted sideways, nearly consumed by the trough, as the sea toyed with her. Not a sailor walked her deck, nor light graced her bow. She was lost, and alone at sea. It was then he saw them, the cold, heartless undead, stumbling up from the hold.

“Do you wish to land?” Osceola asked.

“No! Dear gods, no. Can we do something?”

“What something to you wish?”

“Set it on fire. Keep it from port. Let these people find their rest.”

“As you wish, my love.” Raising the arm which did not hold him, she conjured a flaming globe of purple fire. “This is what you desire, my sweet Raven?”

“Yes.”

Casting it downward, she watched it spiral toward the ship. Landing amidships, it burst into a blaze of red and purple, setting fire to anything which came near. Leaping and biting like a living thing, it set the ship and its unholy occupants on fire. The water of the sea closed over it, yet still it burned, sinking to the depths.

“Thank you, my beautiful, bestial love.” He kissed her longingly.

Suddenly, he was falling. Still over the sea, he prayed he would survive. His body reacted quite apart from him, and just as suddenly, he was flying. He couldn’t describe how it came about, and was sure he’d never again be able to repeat it, but there it was. He landed on the quayside, as if he were falling onto a feather bed.

“Thank you, my love,” he whispered to the wind. “Thank you.”

Stumbling with fatigue, he made his way back to the brothel, where he collapsed on the steps. They found him there at sunrise, sound asleep.

Smoke lingered and hot spots still burned in the wreckage of his office building. The townsfolk gathered, wondering what had happened to Raven. Uriah arrived a few minutes later, reporting that their hero was alive and safe.

“He’ll sleep the day away, no doubt,” Uriah said. “But if he’s right, this marks the end.”

“This is cause for celebration,” the dockside mayor said loudly. “When he wakes, we will have a party that has been unequaled in these parts!”

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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Raven Willoughby – Origins ~ A Fantasy by Dellani Oakes – Part 25

Lightning flashed, thunder roared, and the front door burst open. Pieces of wood flew in all directions. Raven ducked, throwing his arms across his face. He felt splinters sting him, like bullets. They drew blood, but nothing that wouldn’t heal quickly, given his nature. Despite the entry point, the zombies didn’t move. Instead, a tall, lean figure walked in.

Shrouded in billowing black, her hair snapping and snarling around her, stood Zulimara. Shoulders erect, chin raised defiantly, she strode into the room. Though her minions gathered outside, they did not come in, for which Raven was grateful.

“You could have stopped this, so easily,” she said, her voice rasping and low.

“How? This is not my doing. This began before I arrived.”

“The locket, you fool. You knew it possessed special qualities, but you kept it. Did you give it to your whore?”

Raven frowned. “How do you even know about that?”

“Not denying it, hm? That’s a unique approach. A man who doesn’t lie!”

The zombies trembled, shuddered. One put a toe through the door. With a wave of her hand, Zulimara shut the door on them.

“Well?”

“Well, what?”

“The locket! Give it to me!”

“I no longer have it.”

“What have you done, you fool?”

He said nothing. Crossing his arms, he glared at her. They stared at one another for a full minute before she advanced. He could hear her terrifying hoard outside.

“You brought this on us.” She pointed at the door.

“I did nothing of the kind. These are not my beasts, but yours.”

“The thing you met on board your vessel, the one that bit you. He killed the rest.”

Raven was still, wondering how she knew this.

“You threw their bodies overboard, didn’t give them a proper burial. Selfish bastard.”

“What would you have me do, Zulimara? Whisper prayers and set the ship on fire? I was nowhere near land, and loathe to drown.”

“Another ship picked up the bodies, taking them from the water. They intended to bring them here to bury them. Instead, they turned into those—things!” She flung her arm out. The hammering and pounding increased.

“I didn’t do that! It was not my magic, you must believe that.”

“The locket, you found it on board.”

“Yes. On one of the bodies.”

“And inside, was there a picture?”

“If there was, it was too damaged to see. Why?”

“My parents were on that ship. They were torn asunder by the beast.”

“How can you know that?”

“Because, I was there, too.”

“There was no other person on that ship! I searched every inch. No one was aboard her.”

“I hid well.”

“How did you get here?”

“I don’t know. I found myself here the night I came to your room.” She stepped closer, her hand resting on his chest. “You wanted me then, desired me.” Her fingers dropped, massaging his manhood. “Do you still want me, Raven Willoughby?”

“In case it has escaped your notice, madam, there is a hoard—” he gasped, biting his lip as her exploring got the required response. “…of zombies…just outside.”

“Charming, aren’t they? They want your blood. They want the gold you stole from them.”

“I didn’t steal it. They were dead. I gave them the burial I could, and saved myself. If that makes me a bad man….” He gasped as she grasped him, her hand working inside his breeks.

“Do you still want me, Raven Willoughby?”

Zombies be damned, he couldn’t stop himself. She knew just what to do to make him wild with desire. Grabbing her arms, he dragged her to him, divesting her of her garments. Determined to have her, regardless of the cost, he ripped her dress as she pleasured him with her hands. Soon, she had his clothing off, and she led him to the cot in back.

The banging and moaning grew louder, more insistent, as their passion raged. Wanting her more than any woman he’d ever met, he had the fleeting suspicion, she had him under a spell. He couldn’t find that he cared, when she grasped him, opening to him as she did.

The front door burst open once more. This time, the zombies struggled to get through. Naked, his knives nowhere near, Raven leaped up. Zulimara laughed nastily, as she stood and joined the zombie hoard. The first were halfway across the front room, when he remembered he had two more knives in his bag. They had been used and battered the night before, but he was not unarmed. Facing them, inside, with nothing but air surrounding him, he stood his ground.

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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