Archive | October 2021

Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 39

Deacon frowned, staring at her. “Kacy, whoa.” He put his hands up as if she held him at gunpoint.

Blinking, she realized what she had just said. “Oh, God, Deacon. I’m so sorry. I’m being an idiot again.”

“It’s all right, Kacy. I should just have told you. I didn’t want to alarm you.”

“Tell me what, Deacon?”

“Detective Reyes called about that envelope we found. There were pictures of the theater and a typed note in it. That’s all.”

“What else are you not telling me?”

He looked her in the eye. He was a pretty good actor, he hoped he could pull off the denial. “Nothing, Kacy, I swear.”

“Don’t lie to me, Deacon. I could always tell when Pete was lying.”

“I’m not Pete, and I’m not lying.” His stomach growled. “But I am hungry, let’s go eat.”

They drove in silence to a small restaurant on the beach strand and took a table on the deck, facing the water. It was high tide and the waves broke against the retaining wall below. Deacon lit a cigarette, smoking was allowed on the deck, and watched her profile in silence.

“Do you not trust me?” She didn’t look at him, but stared out at the breakers.

“Sure I do, Kacy.”

“Then why don’t you tell me?” Her head suddenly snapped back, her expression accusatory.

“Nothing to tell. Three pictures, a note. No leads. End of story.”

“Pictures of what?”

“I dunno, the theater covered with paint…”

“What did the note say?”

“Reyes didn’t mention.”

“Deacon!” the tone was unmistakable. Anger and misery welled up inside her as she fought for control. “Do you think I can’t handle the full story? Do you think I’m a baby, or something?”

“No, I don’t.”

“To which question?”

He paused, then spoke one word with finality. “Both.”

“Well thank you very much! I’ll call Reyes myself then, shall I?”

“I doubt he’s going to tell you, or he’d have given the information to me to share.”

Fuming, she reached for her cell phone, dialing rapidly. He didn’t try to stop her, simply sat quietly, smoking. Reyes was out, so Kacy left a message for him and hung up.

“Let’s eat, shall we?” she feigned happiness as their food arrived.

Deacon ate mechanically, in silence. The food was probably delicious, but he hardly tasted it. She was furious with him. How did things always manage to go from fine to horrible in moments? She overreacted to everything. He was unsure how to gauge her reception of the news from Reyes and suspected the policeman was, too. Based on her emotional outbursts prior to now, he had visions of histrionics. He was unsure how to handle that and rather unwilling to find out if he could cope. He preferred not to have his emotional inadequacies handed to him on a silver tea tray.

“Let’s get along to the bank,” her words came out more of a demand than a request.

Deacon paid the bill though she insisted upon leaving the tip. It was rather larger than necessary, but he didn’t argue.

The bank had just opened and was virtually empty, when they went in and spoke to the receptionist. She took their names, writing a brief message about what they wanted. The account officer ushered them into a cramped, austerely decorated office, complete with pictures of her husband and children on the desk. Her name was Sandy, and she was a prettily tanned, relatively intelligent, bleach blonde, a little on the chubby side.

“Now then, will this be a joint account?” Her smile was genuine.

“No,” they answered rather abruptly, in unison.

The smile faded slightly. “Oh, usually couples do that. I apologize.”

Kacy opened her mouth to say something caustic, but Deacon intervened. She was already angry with him, more wouldn’t matter. But there was no need to draw this nice, mild mannered lady into their argument.

“No apology necessary, it’s a logical assumption. We’re not married, and prefer having our funds separate,” Deacon explained.

Sandy’s smile was fixed and slightly inflexible, but she carried out her duties, filling out the paperwork expeditiously. She didn’t even blink when Deacon handed her nearly five thousand dollars in cash.

“The account process takes a few minutes. I’ll take care of your deposits and be right back so you can sign the final copies of everything, and get your signature cards.”

The silence weighed heavily upon Deacon after Sandy left, a trail of her perfume lingering in the air. Kacy tapped her foot in an agitated manner, refusing to look at him. His phone rang and he stepped outside to answer, catching Sandy’s eye as he did so. She nodded, continuing her transactions.

Deacon lit a cigarette, checked the caller ID and answered. It was Reyes. “Yes, Detective, how can I help you?”

“I got a message that Ms. Du Champs called. Did you tell her anything?”

“Only there were pictures and a note. Nothing specific. You got me in a heap of trouble. She got mad when I didn’t tell her everything, and isn’t speaking to me as a result.”

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 38

“Maybe I should open a bank account while I’m here. I feel strange having this much cash around.”

“After breakfast, we can buzz over to Dino’s bank and open an account.”

“Excellent plan, Kacy, my sweet. In fact, get dressed. We’re going out to eat. I saw a cute little eatery a few blocks from the theater I’ve been wanting to try.”

“Excellent plan, Deacon, my love.” She winked and went into the shower.

Deacon couldn’t understand the need for another one. They had bathed late last night. He found clean clothing, including socks and some new boxers. Wondering where these came from, he put them on.

“Do you like them?”

Her habit of dropping the inflection at the end of her questions amused him. He had always been told British people did that, but hadn’t ever heard it until now.

“Yeah, they’re great! Nice fit. Thank you.”

“You didn’t have many, and most of them were pretty worn out. No worries,” she held up her hands to still his protests. “I know how attached you lads are to your knickers. They’re still in there, just at the bottom of the drawer.

He kissed her soundly, smacking her on the bottom. “You’re something else, you know that?”

“What’s that then?” She raised a curious eyebrow.

“What’s what?” Her question caught Deacon up short.

“The something else that I am.” She waited patiently for him to answer.

His puzzled frown set her laughing loudly.

“You should see your face! You don’t know whether to take that seriously or not.” Giggling, she patted him on the ass. As quickly as she had started to laugh, she made her face solemn. “But seriously, what else?”

Deacon raised an eyebrow. “You really want an answer?” Apparently she did. “What else, besides warm, friendly, loving, creative, intelligent, sexy as hell….”

“Okay, okay! Too many compliments make a girl conceited.”

“I can never compliment you too much.” He kissed her gently, taking her carefully in his embrace. “Let’s go eat, I’m starving! If we don’t leave this second, we might not go for at least another hour, maybe two.”

“Oh, all right. I’m rather hungry myself.”

“To the Bat Mobile, Robin!”

“Holy Crumb Cake, Batman!”

Locking the door, Deacon pulled it shut, car keys in hand. He was always very careful about his keys, having locked himself out many times in the past.

Kacy was sliding into the passenger seat when Deacon’s phone rang. Taking it from his pocket, he glanced at it before he answered. It was a local number he didn’t recognize.

“Deacon Stewart, how can I help you?”

“Mr. Stewart, this is Detective Reyes. I’m calling regarding that envelope you found in the car.”

“Yes, glad you got that all right.”

“Did you open it?”

“No, should I have?”

“It was very disturbing.”

“Oh? How so?”

Deacon turned away from the car, dropping his voice a little, urged by Reyes’ quietly emphatic tone. Kacy watched him with concern.

“There were two pictures and a newspaper clipping with a typed note, printed off a computer. The note said, It was no accident.

“What about the rest?”

“An obituary of the previous owner of the theater, the graffiti on the playhouse and a photograph of the incident which killed Peter Du Champs.”

“Oh, my God. How could his death in any way be connected with this?”

“We’re working on it. Meanwhile, stay close to the Du Champs woman. We’ll be around, only a call away.”

“If I stay any closer to Kacy, I’ll be sharing her clothes.”

There was a suppressed guffaw and a sneeze at the other end, followed by sounds of the phone being rubbed with a cloth.

“Sorry about that, Mr. Stewart. Spewed my coffee. It’s probably better you not tell her precisely what’s in there, given her recent loss.”

“I agree with that,” Deacon said casually.

“Don’t worry, Deacon. We’ll track this kook down. I’ll be in touch.”

“What was that about?” Kacy asked as he ducked into the VW.

“Nothing special.”

Her gaze turned from curious to steely in a heartbeat. “Why are you lying to me? Don’t lie to me, Pete!”

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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Books and Entertainment Radio Presents What’s Write for Me with Christine and Karen!

Books & Entertainment Network

It’s almost Halloween, good thing our guests authors have some books to thrill and excite you! Be sure to tune in to What’s Write for Me November 27, 2021 from 4-6 PM EST on Blog Talk Radio! Our scary guests will be Christine Husom and Karen Vaughan!

Christine Husom is a national best-selling author from Minnesota. She pens the suspenseful Winnebago County Mysteries, and the cozy, but not too cozy, Snow Globe Shop Mysteries where bad guys demonstrate not everyone is “Minnesota Nice.” She has stories in six anthologies and co-edited one. Her latest titles are Remains In Coyote Bog and Frosty The Dead Man. Husom served with the Wright County Sheriff. She’s a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime, and active with the Twin Cities chapter. She loves meeting readers at a variety of venues and events.

Karen Vaughan is a proud Canadian living in…

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Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 37

“Hi, Deacon! Bernie’s indisposed at the moment. Picked up a stomach thing. What you need?”

He told her his problem in detail. “I’ll pay you back, Maxie, I swear. Will you please pay the rent for this month? When this play opens, I’m coming up to clear it out.”

“You’re moving? Since when?”

“I’m toying with the idea of moving down here. I like it, it’s peaceful.”

“You’re sure? If you want out of the business, Bernie and I will borrow the money to buy you out….”

“Listen, what I wanted to mention, maybe I could do some of the work down here. I can set up a studio and you send me what you want done. I do the basic design, you or Bernie revise it. We work like that anyway.”

He could almost hear her smile on the other end. “You got all the angles covered, don’t you?”

“Like a fall spot, Max.”

“I’ll have Bernie call you when he’s not so much in the john. You can iron out details. I’ll get that rent paid tomorrow. Don’t you worry!”

“Thanks, love ya, Maxie!” He hung up.

Kacy’s expression was hard to read. “You really mean it, don’t you?” She seemed genuinely surprised.

“There’s nothing to hold me there.”

“I might not be staying after the show opens.”

Deacon looked disappointed, but not despondent. “That’s your choice. But I hope wherever you go, you’ll have room for me in your life. I know I want you in mine.”

“Deacon, I want that very much.”

To say their embrace was highly charged and passionate, would not begin to describe its intensity. Neither of them had ever experienced anything like it before. Later, after a long, hot shower, they lay side by side.

“Wherever you are, Deacon, that is where I want to be.” She cuddled next to him, her hair tickling his chest. “I love you, Deacon,” she whispered.

“I love you too, Kacy.”

They slept peacefully until the phone rang the next morning, startling them both. Deacon answered it, since it was on his side of the bed. Dino’s cheerful voice greeted him, far too loud for the early hour.

“Did I wake you? Sorry about that! Listen, take the day off. No power until the company comes out and fixes that pole. Might not be done until tomorrow.”

“Wow! I don’t know what we’ll do with ourselves! You can’t take a couple workaholics, and cut us loose!”

Dino’s laugh was so loud, Kacy could here it three feet away. “Go to Orlando to a theme park. Catch a movie, go to a museum! There’s plenty to do!”

“Dino, let me ask you something real quick. My ex had my assets frozen, palimony suit, some such shit. Can I get a small advance on my pay?” He was terribly embarrassed, but Dino laughed sardonically.

“Been there and feel for you, buddy. No problem. I’ll drop by before I leave for practice. See you kids in a few.” He hung up with an audible click.

“That was embarrassing,” Deacon rubbed his eyes with one hand, leaning on his side. “I feel like a dead beat. I shall gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.

“Deacon?”

“Hm?”

“Dino’s been through three palimony suits. Nearly every woman he has ever dated has been after his money. None of them have won, of course, but still…. He needs a nice woman, someone who isn’t a gold digger.”

“He needs someone like you.”

Her blush went far down her chest and all the way up to her scalp. “I’m not perfect, Deacon.”

He touched her hair softly, pushing it back from her forehead. “You are for me.” His lips had hardly touched hers when there was a loud knocking at the door.

“That’ll be Dino,” he said, looking for his boxers. He couldn’t find them, so put on his jeans, zipping them with care, thankful he wore them loose.

“Ewg, I don’t know how men can stand that,” Kacy said, rolling over and sitting up on the edge of the bed.

“I don’t usually go commando,” he said, hurrying to the front door. “Too great a risk to Mr. Sparky.” With a wink, he walked rapidly to the front door.

Dino was standing there in his director’s togs, holding an envelope bulging with money. Handing it to Deacon he said, “I was going to write you a check this week anyway, but thought given the circumstances, you’d prefer it all in cash. Kacy’s is there too. I also gave you the name of my lawyer, give her a call, she’s great. And if you need a hand with the retainer, let me know.”

“Thanks, Dino. Much appreciated!”

“Later, Deac!” Grinning, he waved goodbye and left.

Deacon’s eyes grew wide in amazement as he counted the hundreds in the envelope. Dino had thoughtfully put in a few smaller bills, too. Kacy’s check was just as handsomely padded.

“Wow!” she said, staring in amazement when he handed it to her. “When he said a little something, I wasn’t thinking this much!”

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 36

“You have a point.”

“So far, nothing that’s happened has hurt or killed anyone. Although, what happened this afternoon could have been very serious. How the hell could a power pole fall down like that?”

“Termites?” It wasn’t a serious suggestion, of course.

“It was deliberate. I just couldn’t begin to tell you how it was done.”

“I’m going to fix some dinner, you stay off that leg. I want you completely back to par.” A quick kiss and she walked to the kitchen and began banging around.

Deacon flipped through the channels and found a movie on HBO an action flick, lots of dangerous looking stunts. He heard the movement in the kitchen stop and a suppressed sniffle.

“Turn it off, please.” Kacy whispered plaintively.

Deacon did so without being asked twice and went to her in the kitchen. Taking her in his arms, he held her closely as she wept again.

“That was the movie, the one where Pete got hurt.”

“I’m so sorry, Kacy, I didn’t know.”

She sniffled, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand. “Nor could you have, I didn’t ever say. I can’t bear to speak the name. They used some of the footage of the accident. Not him actually getting hurt, but the approach. I tried to keep them from using it, but the director said he had every right, and the stunt was too expensive to re-shoot. I did get a court order to stop him from using the explosion.”

“What a heartless bastard.”

“You know what he told me at Pete’s funeral? He said, I’m sorry to see him go, Kacy. He was the best in the biz. Then had the gall to come to the reception, and get roaring drunk, telling everyone how close they’d been. I had him thrown out.”

“Let’s order out Chinese,” he said, changing the subject abruptly as his stomach growled. “I seem to be starving.”

She grinned a little damply. “You men, think with your stomachs.”

“No, ma’am, my brain is lower down. I just can’t function, in any capacity, without food.”

He picked up the phone and dialed the local Chinese restaurant. The number was on a magnet stuck on the fridge.

“I’m in the mood for Moo Goo Gai Pan. How about you?”

“I don’t care, Deacon. I’m not really hungry now.”

Deacon placed the order, getting two combination dinners and then hung up, looking at Kacy worriedly.

“Penny for your thoughts?”

Blinking rapidly, she looked up at him. “Nothing really. Trying not to think.”

She was hugging herself as if cold. It was a warm evening, so it was something else. Deacon put his arms around her, hugging her gently.

“I don’t begin to be an expert on love, relationships or loss. Hell, my one major loss, and I ended up in the nut house. But I’m here, and I’ll listen any time you want. I have broad shoulders and plenty of dry shirts.”

Kacy’s smile was tenuous, but better than the tears threatening to fall. The doorbell rang and he went to answer it, digging his wallet out of his pocket. The cost of the food and a generous tip left him around three dollars.

“How do you like that, not even enough for a pack of cigarettes. I’d go to the ATM, but Frieda froze my assets. I didn’t have a chance to talk to He of the Abominable Ties.

“Mr. Stevens, he wasn’t about today anyway. Just give him a call tomorrow.”

He nodded, taking a bite of his moo goo gai pan, sighing contentedly. “Damn, this is good! You know how long it’s been since I had Chinese? I can’t even remember.”

His enthusiasm for his meal finally transferred itself to her, and she managed to eat almost half her food. After she declared herself stuffed, Deacon took the rest, eating happily, even though it was cold. Stifling a belch, he leaned back in his chair, arms folded behind his head, gazing out the window at the beach.

“I’m thinking about pulling out of the business up North,” he said without preamble. “Maybe I’ll move here permanently, get a job at the college or something.”

Kacy gazed at him, studying his profile critically. “Are you sure of that? Wouldn’t you eventually miss the hectic pace of the city? Surely you’d want more excitement than this little town has to offer?”

Shaking his head, he continued to gaze out the windows. “You know, I hate the big city? I’m a small town boy from a little, tiny place in Alabama. You know how big my apartment is in the City? You could take my place and put it in this house easy and have over half left over.”

“Wow, that’s awful. I can’t imagine living like that.”

“You have a home, right? A place in California?”

“We had a ranch house out in the Valley. Pretty place. I’m selling it though, too many memories.”

“You know what just occurred to me? I don’t know how my rent up there is going to get paid, it’s done by debit. If Frieda’s put a hold on my accounts, I’ll be homeless!”

Whipping out his cell phone, he called Bernie. Maxine answered.

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 35

“Oh, that nice young man who’s working with Mr. Sawyer to restore that theater? I’m so glad that old place is getting a face lift. It’s such an eyesore.”

Merle’s daughter, Milly, was very talkative. Unfortunately, it was all rather train of thought. It took all Deacon’s debate skills to keep her on the subject.

“Offers to buy? Oh my, yes. Mom had at least three offers a year. Since I took over, we’ve had how many Obi?”

Her twenty-something son looked up thoughtfully, pulling at the gold hoop in his left ear. Smoothing his neatly trimmed goatee, he considered a moment longer.

“There have been eight offers in the last three years since we took over.”

“Do you remember their names?”

Obi considered again, more quickly. “Well, we didn’t ever figure to sell, this is too good a location. But I kept records of them all, in case we ever wanted to. I have all their names on file.” He walked quickly to a laptop computer on a table behind the counter, and typed quickly, leaning over the back of the chair.

“Here we go. What a copy?”

“That would be great, thanks.”

“I didn’t think Mr. Sawyer was going to sell.” Obi said thoughtfully as he handed Deacon the list.

“He’s not. Listen, I need you to call this police detective he’s handling the graffiti thing. We think there is a connection between what happened to Madame’s place, and what happened to us. I don’t want to alarm you folks, but you could be next.”

Milly looked horrified. “Do you think so? Oh, my! Why would anyone do such a thing?”

Deacon looked at the two florists, speaking quickly and earnestly, he outlined his thoughts on the matter.

“So with us all being approached, you think maybe the same person is trying to make us all leave?” Obi asked pointedly.

Deacon nodded.

Obi stroked his beard again. “We have to all stick together, don’t you think?”

“Exactly what Mr. Sawyer and I thought.”

The young man paused, cogitating again. “You count us in, Mr. Stewart. Dino is a good man, he’s helped us out a lot, especially after my dad left us a few years ago.”

“Obi, Mr. Stewart doesn’t want to hear about that.” His mother looked flustered.

“Dino is a fine man,” Deacon said sincerely. “That’s why Kacy and I hate to see this happening to him. It’s really eating him up.”

“You tell him Mom and I are behind him one hundred percent, and we won’t back down.”

Deacon felt compelled to buy something and chose a large bouquet of red roses. “Do you have a special sweetheart, Mr. Stewart?” Obi was looking at Kacy pointedly. “Would you like them in a box to be delivered?”

“No, I’ll take them with me, thanks.”

He paid the outrageous amount for the roses and carried them carefully in the car, laying them on the back seat. Kacy’s eye rolled back, ogling the roses.

“Pretty,” she said simply.

“Mm hm,” was Deacon’s only reply.

He said nothing more until they drove up to the garage and got out. He carried the roses and she unlocked the door. Closing it behind them, he swept her into his arms, holding the bouquet out to the side so it wouldn’t be crushed between them.

“I hope you like red roses, Kacy.”

Her eyes were brimming again, falling gently onto his shirt as she leaned her head against his chest. “They’re lovely. Thank you. I can’t remember the last time I got flowers.”

“You know the implication of red roses?”

She shook her head, holding the large bouquet with awe.

“In the language of flowers, they mean true love. I never thought I’d fall in love—until I met you.”

Deacon called Dino’s house around six, hoping to catch him at home. He got the answering machine. They had not seen Dino all day and both were getting concerned.

“I’m going to go leave this at his house.” Deacon folded the list from Obi, writing a short note on the outside. “He’ll get back to us when he can.”

He had made a copy of the list to keep for himself, on the copy machine in the office. He took Dino’s copy and slipped it through the mail slot on the door.

“Do you really think someone is after the land?” Kacy still found it hard to believe.

“Kacy, real estate is big business. Anything on the beach, even a crappy little cabana, could go for a mint. This place is prime property since it’s on the main strip, and within easy access from all points of the island. Someone wants it way too much, and seems ruthless enough to go to just about any length to get it.”

“He’s killed for it once already,” Kacy shuddered.

“You mean the electrician? I’m not convinced his death had anything to do with this. I think it was just a horribly stupid, careless accident. How many times have you seen people do dumb things on stage? I’ve seen people trying to hang lights with the batons up in the fly space. I saw two people working on a set once, one guy on the ladder working with a drill and the guy at the bottom, under the ladder, screwing together flats. So don’t write off stupidity and dumb bad luck.”

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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Chaos in a Teacup – Part 3

Dellani's Choice - Books

dellani photo dark red

This series of articles were inspired by several author friends who have expressed awe at my organization (rude snort) or have complained about blogging. Since I’m not one to tell the truth, when fabrication will do, I thought I would throw off the veil of misconception, and reveal my less than stellar organization methods, as well as give a few blogging tips.

One major complaint my author friends have is that blogging is tedious and they don’t have the time. Time is a factor, yes, but with a little imagination, you can work out those issues. You need not do it on the day it’s due. Blog Spot and Word Press allow you to post things well in advance. When you have a few minutes, instead of watching Netflix, or chatting on Facebook or Twitter, go to the blog and cut and paste a few quotes. If you have them…

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Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 34

They heard Dino’s car start up and he stopped beside them.

“Reyes will be contacting Madame Fleur, and I said I would come with him to translate. She understands fine, she refuses to speak English, for some reason.” He shrugged. “I’ll keep you posted.”

“Take it easy, Dino. You watch out for yourself, or I’m going to be beastly and force feed you your medicine.”

“Yes, Ma’am!” He snapped a saucy salute and drove off, nearly having a couple collisions just pulling out of the driveway.

“Well, we have all afternoon off. What shall we do with ourselves?” Deacon looked slyly at Kacy.

“I see that look, you dirty, naughty man! I know what you want to be doing!” She slapped playfully at him.

“I was going to suggest a walk on the beach, maybe dinner and a movie? But if you’d rather hang out at the house and have incredible sex, I think I could arrange that.”

Giggling, she walked to the car and he opened the door for her again. Slipping inside, she fastened her belt as he walked around to the driver’s side.

“Hey, Deacon, did you leave this here?” She was pointing to an envelope on the seat.

Deacon pulled on his work glove before he picked it up. “No, I didn’t. I wonder what it is.”

“Don’t open it! You don’t know what it might be. Here.” She handed him a clean Ziploc bag from her purse.

“You always carry sandwich bags around with you?”

“You’d be surprised at how handy they are, I always have at least one.”

Deacon chuckled, taking the bag, he put the envelope carefully inside, sealing the bag.

“First stop the police station. Don’t suppose you know where it is?”

“Actually, yes. I saw it the other day when I was shopping. Head west till you hit US-1 and it’s north of Canal Street, a few miles. It’s on the highway on your left, you can’t miss it.”

“That’s always the kiss of death. I can’t believe it’s that easy.”

“No, seriously, it’s a piece of cake. You want me to drive?”

“I can manage, thanks.” He started the car and pulled into traffic much more carefully than she and Dino.

“You drive like my grandmum, Deacon.”

“I have to be careful.”

“Well it is Dino’s car, after all.”

“That’s only part of it.” He glanced at her, then back at the road. “I’ve got precious cargo. I’m not going to do anything stupid to risk losing you.”

Kacy sniffled loudly, wiping a tear. “Oh, Deacon, you’re too bloody nice to me.” She rummaged around in her purse, but couldn’t find a tissue.

Chuckling, he handed her his bandanna, it hadn’t been used that day and was still clean. She wiped her eyes, handing it back to him.

“Hang onto it. The way our conversations go, you might need it again.”

“I do get rather emotional, don’t I? I don’t know what’s wrong with me, I’m getting all worked up over this. It’s not like me to carry on so. You’ll want to be getting over soon, it’s just ahead.”

She pointed to the lighted blue plastic sign which said Police and bore the city crest. He slipped quickly into the left lane and made his turn at the next corner.

Their conversation with the desk sergeant was short and to the point. Detective Reyes was interviewing Madame, but they could leave the envelope and its contents with him. He filled out some paperwork, got their signatures, phone numbers and other important information. Driving back to the house, Deacon pulled over in a parking lot, stopping the car.

“What are you doing?” Kacy looked puzzled.

“Madame’s had offers on her property. I wonder if she and Dino compared names, if there are any in common.”

“Deacon, the police will take care of this, why are you worrying about it?”

“I wonder if Uncle Charlie got offers to sell, or Aunt Sophie? I don’t suppose there are any other relatives?”

“We’d have to ask Dino.”

“I keep thinking it’s not the building that he’s after so much as the land. Like Dino said, that is a prime parcel. If someone also had the spots next to it….”

He put the car in gear and pulled into traffic as cavalierly as Kacy. Horns honking followed them down the road. He waved a middle finger out the window as he accelerated.

“Where are we going?”

“To the florist.”

“What? Deacon, what do you want flowers for?”

“Trust me.”

He drove quickly, recklessly and zipped into the driveway of the florist shop next to the theater on the other side. Merle’s Florist was nearly as old a business as the deli, but it was no longer Merle who ran it. She had retired several years ago. It was her daughter and grandson who ran it now. Deacon introduced himself and Kacy.

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Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 33

She came back to Deacon, lowering her head, turning her back to the crowd as they filed into the theater doors. “Did I sound convincing?”

Deacon looked puzzled. “What?”

“I’m scared shitless, but if you think I’m going to show it to that lot, you’re daft. Now let’s get in there and with the stiff upper lip, as my grandmum says.” Plastering a confident look on her face, she walked to the theater, chatting with people as she passed.

“Hell of a girl, isn’t she?” Dino looked after her proudly, admiration in his blue eyes.

“Yeah, she is. I wish I’d met her ten years ago.”

Ducking his head so Dino couldn’t meet his eye, he walked into the building, trying to do this best to follow Kacy’s example and act as if nothing was wrong.

The day went smoothly until shortly after the lunch break. Dino bought them all sandwiches from the deli next door. They ate and chatted happily, seated on the floor of the theater, when the lights went out.

“I’ll check the breaker,” Dexter said, pulling on his heavy rubber gloves. He took a flashlight off his belt and walked to the back room where Deacon told him the box was to be found.

“I’ll look outside,” Deacon said, pushing himself slowly to a standing position, his leg having stiffened on him as he sat on the floor.

Just as he reached the back door, a rending crash echoed through the building, followed by the scream of twisting, crunching metal. Sparks illuminated the interior of the darkened building. Hysterical yelling and screaming echoed from the deli next to them. Deacon rushed to the door, but Dino got to it first, throwing it open. Destruction met their eyes. The electrical pole lay at an odd angle, broken about half way up, the top lay on the trucks and cars in the parking lot next door. Sparks flew wildly as the deli emptied out, people trying to run to their cars.

“Everyone out the front door!” Dino yelled, not waiting for anyone to answer.

His cell phone already in his hand, he furiously dialed the emergency services, and followed the rest of them out. The deli evacuated, and the people stood in the parking lot of the theater. Deacon, Mac and Dexter did their best to get everyone accounted for.

The fire trucks and other emergency vehicles arrived in a flurry, shoving them further back. They were trying to stop the fire licking about the roof and back fence of the deli, encroaching upon the smashed and twisted cars. Deacon could just imagine if those caught fire and started moving the crowd further back, to the far side of the theatre lot.

Police set crowd control barriers in a wide perimeter, keeping idle spectators at bay. “Nothing to see here,” they said. “Please move along.” No one moved on, and the police didn’t really expect them to, but they had to try to do their jobs.

Several tense hours later, the fire chief decided the deli was saved and could rebuild. The cars didn’t blow up as Deacon feared, but the fire cast a pall over the day. Dino told everyone to go home. Meanwhile, he went to the deli’s owner, talking earnestly to her in French. She was the smallest woman Deacon had ever seen. He didn’t know her name. The others all called her Madame, and deferred to her as if she were a goddess. Dino spoke consolingly to her, also to the owners of the damaged cars.

He eventually made his way back to Deacon and Kacy, who were the only ones left in the lot. “I told her I would help pay for the repairs. Her deductibles are outrageous. I also am going to help rent cars for those people, until they can settle with their insurance companies.”

“Dino, that’s so thoughtful of you,” Kacy said quietly, her hand on his shoulder. “You aren’t responsible for that.”

“Madame Fleur told me something interesting. She’s been approached about selling her property as well, in fact for longer than I’ve been. She’s refused like I have. This business is all she has in the world. Her husband and she built it over thirty years ago. He died last year, after a long illness. I paid the medical bill for her, she couldn’t have come up with that kind of cash. Like me, she is holding on for sentimental reasons, although it is a very profitable business. She won’t give it up until she dies.”

“Sort of puts a whole new, spooky spin on things, doesn’t it?” Deacon said what all three of them were thinking.

“Yes, it does,” Dino agreed, taking out his phone. “I think I need to call Detective Reyes immediately, and have him talk to Madame.”

He walked to his car, sitting in the front seat, hunched over his phone, he looked alone and lonely. Kacy could hardly stand to look at him.

“That poor man, he takes everything so to heart. He always has. I worry about him, he has high blood pressure, you know.”

“No, I didn’t. He’s in such good shape, not exactly the kind of person you expect to have that.”

“This father and grandfather and uncle all died of strokes. His dad was only a little older than Dino is now, when he died.” She looked worriedly at Dino and started to take a step toward his car, but Deacon stopped her.

“You can’t be his mother and his friend. You have to choose one, Kacy.”

She smiled sadly. “Pete was always telling me that. I have the same instinct Dino does, I want to take care of everyone.”

Deacon pulled her ever so gently to him their hips touching. “It’s a wonderful characteristic, don’t ever lose it.”

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Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 32

“We can’t repaint if they do it again and again, Dino,” Kacy interjected. “How many times can you pay the crew to paint the same bloody place?”

Dino looked at the old building with something akin to sorrow in his eyes. “I’ll paint it as often as necessary, Kacy. It’s silly of me to be such a sentimental fool, but it is something I really want to do, for Uncle Charlie and Aunt Sophie—and me.” He turned away, calling to the painting crew, giving directions in the same respectful, confident, assured tones he always used.

“Don’t you worry, Mr. Sawyer,” the head of the paint crew said sincerely. “We’ll take care of the old girl for you. She’ll look good as new when we’re done. If anyone messes her up again, me and my crew will take it personal like. We’ll find the culprit and paint him!”

It amazed Deacon how Dino was able to elicit such goodhearted loyalty from his people. Not many men would have gotten the same kind of consideration. Deacon was sure he couldn’t have pulled it off, but Dino had. He didn’t put on airs, didn’t act rich and snooty, and he spent lavishly on everyone, not only himself.

The police detective in charge walked over to Dino and spoke softly. Turning to Deacon and Kacy, Dino beckoned them over to his side.

“Anything you need to say, you can say freely in front of Deacon and Kacy. They’re friends of mine and are working with me on this project.”

The policeman introduced himself as Detective Sergeant Reyes. He, like everyone else, treated Dino with deferential respect, but his was paired with a friendly familiarity. Deacon wouldn’t have been surprised if they had been on the football team in high school, or fraternity brothers in college. As it turned out, they had been both.

“Dino, it’s clean as can be inside. We went over it with the K-9 team and everything. We checked the shed, it was locked up tight. Your foreman says everything is accounted for. He’s well organized. He had an inventory sheet and went over it with us.”

“Thanks, Terry. Tell Phyllis to call me. I still haven’t seen that new baby. I hope she looks like her mother.”

“Exactly like her, just as beautiful!”

A little more chitchat and he and his men departed. Dino watched them go, worry etched on his handsome face.

“I don’t like this, Deacon. This time it was just paint, what will it be next time?” He shook his head, digging his toe into the dirt.

“No one was hurt. So far, it’s been the building alone.”

“What if it doesn’t stop at that? What if someone dies, like last time? I don’t want to be responsible. I should shut this down right now.”

“Dino, if you shut this place down and give up, I’ll kick you just like I did Deacon.” Kacy stood facing him, hands on hips, eyes flashing green fire. “You want this badly, I know you do. Whatever your reasons, you need to follow through. You’ve never been a quitter, and I won’t let you start now!”

Instead of bridling or recoiling from her, he hung his head, leaning back against his car. His gaze met Deacon’s, and a flicker of his familiar smile crossed the handsome, strained face.

“I hate when she’s right.”

“Believe me, I do too.”

They laughed quietly, ending abruptly.

“Why do you want it so, Dino?” Kacy’s tone was soft now, comforting. “Not for the reasons you’ve said. Those are excuses to justify it. Why?”

“It’s going to sound so darn stupid and selfish. I’ve built an extensive financial empire, and I’m damn proud of it. But when someone asks me what I’ve done, what I’ve given to the community, I can’t whip out some receipts and show them how much I gave here or there. This is something tangible, visible. I can point to it and say, I did that and be proud. If I ever have a son, I want him to look at that building and think, My dad built that.

Kacy put her hand on his shoulder, then hugged him closely. “Dino, you have done so much for all of us. I understand why you want this, now. Anything I can do to make it happen, I will do.” Kissing his cheek, she walked over to where the paint crew were setting up their scaffolds again.

The construction workers were standing in a group around Mac, leaning on their trucks, most of them smoking. They watched placidly as Kacy advanced.

“Listen here, mates,” she addressed them briskly, her Australian accent stronger than Deacon had ever heard it. “Mr. Sawyer needs our help to get this place whipped in shape. Do you think we can do it?”

The crew looked at one another, then at Kacy’s confident stance, her hands in her back pockets. She was relaxed and at ease, not the least worried. Cracking a smile, Dexter took a few steps toward her.

“Hell, Ms. Du Champs, I need the money. But I’d do this damn job for free, if I had to. Kind of got my Irish up.”

She shook his hand firmly, smiling. Dexter stood next to her, staring the rest of them down.

Mac walked forward next, “Can’t let Sparky have all the glory, count me in.”

Every one of the construction workers came forward and promised to keep working. Everyone got a firm handshake and a personal thank you from Kacy. Deacon watched, amazed. She had come far from the woman everyone was terrified of, to the woman they could admire. He realized that this was the real Kacy, not the angry, hostile, inflammatory woman she had been a few days ago.

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