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Brand New Day by Dellani Oakes – Part 63

When Janet gets out of the shower, she finds Tex hiding in her closet. He has her gun, and points it at her. Tissue Warning

Tex figured he had the upper hand. He was getting cocky. Janet took a step toward him. She was tired of being afraid, sick of crying, angry with him for being such a damn inconvenience.

“It was all your fault,” said, taking another step. “You cheated on me. You did drugs. You killed our baby, and our marriage. And you killed a part of me too, Teddy.”

He made a funny sound in the back of his throat.

“That sound you just heard, that was the last bit of you dying. You killed us all, Teddy.”

The gun wavered. Biting his lip, he steadied his hand with the other. Janet took another step.

“We used to laugh at you after we made love,” she lied convincingly. “I’d compliment him on his performance, and laugh at yours. You can’t compare, you know. I mean, you’re good, but Diego was so much better equipped. He got into all those hard to reach places. I guess that’s why he was able to father a second child, and you weren’t.”

Tex inhaled deeply, pouting, his jaw working rapidly as he tried to contain his anger. “I was a good husband, Janet. I took care of you. I worked hard….”

“You were a drunk, and a drug addict. If I’d had a lick of sense, I never would have married you. So go ahead! I’ve got nothing to lose! Go ahead and shoot me!” She rushed him.

The gun wavered as she ran at him. Janet flew sideways, the air knocked out of her. There was a loud bang, the report of a weapon. Searing pain made her scream. She landed on something soft and yielding that smelled like shit. The report of the weapon made her ears ring.

“Get me a towel or something!”

The ringing in her ears became a symphony, her eyes closed and the world went black.

Janet woke a few hours later in the same hospital room she’d just left. She knew it was the same because there was a water stain on the ceiling that looked like an angry rabbit. The clip on her finger pinched, the IV rubbed the inside of her vein. Her head ached, the ringing in her ears was loud, and higher pitched. She was groggy, her eyes refused to focus. Something soft was stuck to the side of her head, and it hurt if she touched it. She hit the button to call the nurse. Flora came running, breathless and worried.

“You’re awake! Oh, thank God! One second.” She went out the door and Janet heard her speaking to someone.

The door opened abruptly and her sister ran in, followed by Danny. Evander and Tim brought up the rear, with Ricky and Sookie’s daughter, Ilene. Janet smiled when she saw them and laughed when Coffey, Tab and Len peeped around the door.

“I’m not supposed to let so many in at once,” Flora said. “But they insisted. See? She’s fine. I told you.”

The boys approached their mother on either side.

“Mommy?” Ricky said. Although he was a big man of twelve, seeing her in the hospital bed for the second time in two days, he lost it.

“I’m okay,” she assured him. “I’m fine.”

“Don’t you dare scare us like that again,” Sookie said. “We thought we’d lost you!”

Flora cleared her throat. “Excuse me. There’s another guest out here. I’ll have to ask you all to leave though. He kind of insisted….”

Everyone gave her kisses and left. When they were gone, the door opened again. Janet gasped, hearing his voice thank Flora.

“Is it really you?” she gasped as the door drifted shut.

He looked like he had when he came in her dream…. Or had it been a dream?

“It’s really me.”

“Where have you been, you bastard? They said….” She held out her arms to him.

Diego rushed to the side of the bed, taking Janet in his embrace. “I was…. At least I might as well have been. I almost died. The villagers hid me, and nursed me back to health. There was a doctor, also in hiding, and he took care of me. I was unconscious for a while, and when I woke up—I couldn’t remember who I was. You don’t wear tags on a job like that.” He sat on the edge of the bed. “It took over a year to find me. I got shipped around from town to town to keep me hidden. Tab and Len brought me back.”

©2020 Dellani Oakes

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Brand New Day by Dellani Oakes – Part 61

Coffey comes to visit Janet in the hospital, telling her that Len and Tab are also coming in to help look for Tex.

The nurse, not Flora, came in. “Hi, Mrs. Macy….”

“Ms. Yarkowsky, please. Make a note. It’s because of Mr. Macy I’m here. I’d really like to pretend that name doesn’t exist.”

The young blonde scribbled a note on the chart. “I sure will. How’s your head?”

“Better, thanks.”

“Your doctor will be in shortly. With luck, you’ll be out of here by this afternoon. He did want to get one or two more tests.”

“Anything, just set me free. I don’t do well being confined.”

The nurse smiled kindly. “Your sister told us that.”

The doctor spoke to Janet, did his own poking and prodding and sent her for an MRI. Once she was back in her room, she fell asleep.

Janet woke when the dinner cart clattered in the hall. Her doctor came in a short time later.

“The MRI looks good. I’m gonna cut you loose. I want you to go home and rest. And don’t take even an aspirin, unless you get my permission.”

“I won’t. I’m not much for pills. Did you figure out what he gave me?”

“Still working on it. His own concoction, I’m afraid. It looks like half a dozen different medications in your blood stream. Glad you’re in such good health. A dose like that could have killed a lesser woman.”

“Constitution like a horse,” she said.

Her doctor laughed. “Okay, well, Secretariat, I’m gonna give the nurse the go. You can call someone to come get you.”

“Thanks, Doctor.”

Janet finished her meal and the nurse came in to take out her IV. Her father planned to pick her up in about half an hour, but Janet was all ready champing at the bit to be gone. She changed into her clothing and lay on her bed. Nothing interesting was on TV, so she closed her eyes and tried to remember more details from the night before. It still was foggy.

Tex had called, wanting to come by. He insisted on seeing her, needed her help—again. Why couldn’t he simply sign the damn divorce papers, and leave her in peace?

“I’ll sign them, baby. I’ll do anything…. Please, Janet. Just see me, let me talk.”

And she’d agreed. Like an idiot, she’d said yes. They’d had a cup of coffee and she started to feel strange. The only thing she remembered after that was Tex waving the shotgun at Danny and Ricky. Danny stood up to Tex, protecting his baby brother, shielding him with his body. He was hardly more than a baby himself, when his father died. He’d had to be a man every since. He took care of her and Ricky.

Her eyes drifted shut and she lingered on the edge of sleep. The door to her room opened and handsome, dark haired man stood there. There was something familiar about him, but he didn’t look quite like himself. A long, jagged scar ran from his right eyebrow, down the side of his face, to his jaw. His dark hair was longer than the last time she’d seen him, the mass of dark curls wild and untamed.

“Baby, is that you?” She held out her hands to him.

“It’s me,” he said, his voice hoarse, gasping like he’d been running.

“I’ve missed you.”

“Me too…. I can’t stay….”

“Don’t leave me!”

“I’ll be back….”

The door closed and she woke with a start. Running to the door, Janet looked around, but there was no sign of him. She hit the call button for the nurse.

“Janet?” The young blonde was back. “You okay?”

“Did you see the man who was in my room?”

“A man? Not your dad?”

“No! A man with black, curly hair. Did you see him?”

“Honey, no one’s been up here—well, no strangers. You’re sure?”

Janet sat on the bed. “It was so real. I really thought…. Did you ever dream something that seemed so real, only to wake up and find out it wasn’t?”

“Yeah. Are you sure you’re okay?”

Janet cried, trying to smile. “I don’t think I ever will be again. I’m sorry I bothered you.”

“No bother, honey. Oh, look. There’s your dad. Let’s get you out of here!”

©2020 Dellani Oakes

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Brand New Day by Dellani Oakes – Part 60

Sookie and Tim are there when Janet wakes. They’ve brought Colonel Coffey with them. Tissue Warning

Coffey slipped in quietly. He was dressed in civilian clothing and looked far older than the last time she’d seen him.

“How are you feeling?” He asked, approaching the bed with caution.

“Better than I should, I expect.”

“I came as soon as I found out,” he said, taking her hand. “I’ve got men out helping the police. We’ll catch him.”

“Why?” she asked, her eyes tearing.

“I owe you that much,” he said. “You deserve closure, and I can help with that.”

For once, she didn’t feel anger toward Coffey. She squeezed his hand. “Thank you. You don’t look well, Colonel.”

He smiled, laughing slightly. “What I always liked about you, Janet, you don’t ever sugar coat a damn thing. I’ve come into your life, like hell in a hurricane, and you’ve always told me exactly what you think. I’m sorry that I always had to be the one to hurt you. I’m actually a pretty nice guy, when you get to know me.”

“Well, have a seat and talk to me.”

“We’ll come back,” Sookie said, kissing her.

Tim kissed her too, and they left.

“That’s another fine young man there. Wish I had me a hundred just like him.” Coffey watched them depart.

“He’s a wonderful man. He’s taken good care of us.”

“Your son’s a hell of a kid too. Don’t suppose I could coerce him into the service?”

“You try, and you’ll wish you hadn’t.” She wasn’t laughing when she said that.

“Sookie told me what he did last night. His father would be proud.”

“I don’t remember much of last night. Tex was waving a gun at my boys. I saw Tim and Sookie and the rest is a blank.”

“I’ll let Danny tell you. He can answer all your questions. He’s talking to my men, coordinating the search. He knows some of Macy’s hangouts. Apparently, he’s kept an eye on him all this time.”

“On Tex? Whatever for?”

“He took Diego’s directive to heart. He told him to look after his mama, he’s been doing that.”

Janet blinked back tears. “I was dreaming about that when you came to see me…. How are Len and Tab?”

“Doing well. They sent their greetings. They’re due in about three.”

“Them too? I don’t know how to thank you, Lane. I’ve been so horrid….”

“I did what I had to, you did, too. I never wanted to take him from you.”

“You’re a good man, despite that one character flaw,” she said with a grin.

“I’m a very bad man, but a very good friend,” he replied. “Diego inspired the kind of loyalty I’ve never seen in another human being.”

“Why does it still hurt so bad to think of him? Why do I still feel that horrible, gaping maw where my heart belongs?”

He took her hands, raising them to his lips. “Because when someone that special leaves, the hole is bigger,” he said. “Now, I need to let you get some rest, or your doctor’s going to skewer me.”

“You’ll let me know about Tex?”

“I’ll keep you posted. It’s a big city, lots of wide open space around it, but I’ve got my best people on this.”

“Thank you.”

He saluted her as he left.

©2020 Dellani Oakes

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Brand New Day by Dellani Oakes – Part 59

Coffey, Len and Tab have breakfast with the family, and explain what happened to Diego.

“So, this perfect mission. What happened?” Sookie asked quietly.

“The captors held a small village. The people there didn’t want to be part of it, but when fifty armed men come into a place half that size, that might have a few pistols and an old AK-47, what are they going to do?” Tab said.

“They got the women out safely, freed some others who were also being held, and got as far as the marketplace.” Len picked up the thread of the narrative. “Diego was bringing up the rear, helping one of the prisoners, a teenage boy who’d stood up to the men when they arrived—the son of the chief. He was in bad shape. One of the guards caught up to them and opened fire. Diego protected the boy, taking the bullets himself. He shot the terrorist, the last one, as it happened.”

“But he didn’t make it,” Janet said. “And the boy?”

“Took a couple minor hits. He’ll be fine.”

“I want to see him,” Janet said calmly. “I want to say goodbye.”

Len and Tab looked uncomfortable.

“When the team went in to secure the area, they couldn’t find a body,” Coffey said. “None of the villagers would talk to them, they were terrified. One group of men with guns pretty much looks like another.”

“No body?” Janet was stunned. “You’re telling me, the man I love died in some foreign shit hole and I can’t even bury him?” She stood, screaming at Coffey. “I’ve got two boys who will never see their father again because of you. I want to bury him, say goodbye, have something I can show them when they get older. A place to grieve! I can’t even have that?”

“Janet,” her father spoke sharply. “Sit down and stop that this instant.”

Gulping and sobbing, she sat.

“There will be a ceremony, Janet. He’s due a full military funeral. Even with no body, there will be a headstone. He died a hero, serving his country. He saved many lives during his time of service. He’s received the Congressional Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service….”

“I don’t care about ribbons and medals. I want my husband back. Even if we never had a piece of paper, even without a wedding and a ring, he was my husband….”

“No one’s denying that, Janet,” Tab said softly. “And we’ll do what we can. But chances are good the villagers already disposed of his body.”

“So, he could be buried in some piece of desert somewhere, and no one knows who he is?”

“I’m sorry. I know this is hard,” Tab gave the only comfort he had.

“You don’t know shit,” she flung at him.

“With all due respect, Janet. I do,” Tab replied. “He was a good friend. We’ve worked together nearly ten years. He saved my life twice. I’d have taken a bullet for him, but I wasn’t there. I was running backup, because that’s where he needed me. I turned that place upside down looking for him. After this, Len and I are going back. If there’s a body to find, we’ll find it. You have our word.”

“I’m sorry,” she sobbed.

Tab took her hands. “Me too.”

Lubbock, Texas. 2000

Janet woke up crying. Her sister and brother-in-law were in the room, talking quietly. Sookie walked over, sitting on the side of the bed.

“Hey, Sleeping Beauty. Nice to have you back.” She smoothed her sister’s hair. “How are you feeling?”

“Better. But still like I’d been hit by a truck. Did they figure out what he gave me yet?”

“Something like roofies,” Tim told her, coming up on the other side. “But he’d mixed it with a bunch of other shit. They’re still picking it apart.”

“Tell me the bastard’s in jail and never getting out.”

Tim and Sookie exchanged a look.

“What?”

“He got away before the cops arrived. Danny and I chased after him, but damn that bastard is fast,” Tim told her sadly.

“You’re telling me that he drugged me, threatened my sons, and got away? I’ll kill him myself, if I ever find him.”

“They’re looking for him,” Tim said angrily. “Your dad called in for backup.”

“There’s someone here to see you, Janet. But I don’t know if you’ll want to see him or not,” Sookie said.

“You can come in, Colonel Coffey,” Janet said, figuring he was listening at the door.

“How did you know?” Tim asked.

“He’s the last person I ever want to see,” Janet replied.

©2020 Dellani Oakes

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Brand New Day by Dellani Oakes – Part 58

Coffey comes once more, this time to tell her that Diego is dead. Tissue Warning

“Hi,” she said softly. “I won’t ask how you are…. Do you want something to eat?”

Janet shrugged, shaking her head.

“You have to eat, Jan. You have to keep your strength up.”

“Why?”

“Because, like it or not, there are two little boys who need their mother. You might want to give in to your grief, but you can’t stop, because he’s gone.”

“How can you sit there and say that to me? You’ve got your husband!”

Sookie took her hand. “That’s why I know. If I lost him, I’d be a wreck. But I’ve got a child to think of, too. I’d be torn up plenty, but for her, I’d keep going. And you will, too. I know you’ve had more shit happen in your life than any one person deserves, and you’ve lost the man you love more times than you can count. I don’t pretend to understand that, but I know the only way past this is to get through it.”

Janet knew she was right. As much as she might want to give in and cry, she couldn’t. She didn’t have that luxury. She got up and had a shower. Sookie helped her dress and do her makeup and they went out to the kitchen for breakfast.

Evander had prepared a feast. He always cooked when he was upset. He had enough food for a small army. Three extra men sat at the table with Sookie’s husband, Tim. Janet stopped just inside the kitchen door. The men stood. They were dressed in casual clothing, no uniforms today. You might put a soldier in jeans and a polo shirt, but they were still soldiers through and through. They saluted her as she walked in.

“Why are they here?” she asked her father.

“Because I asked them to stay. You need to know,” said firmly. “You need to hear what happened, so you can understand.”

“I don’t want to know.”

“But you will,” her father replied. “Because one day, your boys will ask what happened to their father, and you need to be able to tell them.”

Coffey stood once more, holding a chair for her. Janet took it reluctantly.

“I’d like you to meet my companions,” he said. “I don’t believe you’ve ever been properly introduced.”

Janet realized that they were the same men who had come to the house before. Slightly older versions of themselves, but the same.

“This is Tab Granger,” Coffey said, indicting the sandy haired man to his right. “And Len Evanston.” The dark haired man to his left, nodded. “I brought them, because they were good friends of Diego’s.”

“Were you with him? When—when it happened?”

“We were on the extraction team,” Tab replied. “We went in and got them out.”

“But not him?”

“No, ma’am.” His ears reddened, and his jaw clenched, as he fought down his emotions.

Janet could tell that these men were not only Diego’s friends, they held him in very high regard.

“Don’t call me ma’am. I’m not my mother,” she snapped. She apologized with a smile.

“Not sure what else to call you,” Tab said with a smile. “You don’t use your married name, do we call you Ms. Yarkowsky?”

“How about just Janet?” She burst into tears. That brought back the memory of meeting Tex. “Oh, God,” she wailed. “I can’t do this. I can’t sit here and be civil and friendly. I hate you all, and I don’t even know you….”

Sookie held her, letting her cry. The men looked uncomfortable. Coffey cleared his throat.

“The mission was flawless,” he said quietly. “Diego’s plan was perfect.”

“And yet, he died,” Evander said from the stove.

“We had bad intel,” Tab said. “More men were in the camp than anticipated. They got in without us catching them on satellite. The people watching the camp didn’t report them.”

“We’ve reason to believe that team was compromised,” Coffey said.

“What does that mean? Bribed? Dead? Infiltrated?” Evander asked.

“We’re debriefing them now.”

“Let me do it. I guarantee I’ll get the answers,” Janet snarled.

The three men, who had faced down more than one enemy, were terrified of the woman with dark, dangerous eyes. Coffey fully believed if she led the interrogation, they’d have the information they craved.

“I believe you could,” Coffey said in awe. “And if I can’t get any answers my way, I damn well might let you.”

©2020 Dellani Oakes

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Brand New Day by Dellani Oakes – Part 57

Coffey has interrupted their lives yet again. This time, he can’t give Diego extra time, only enough to say goodbye to his sons. Tissue Warning

The tears Janet had fought so hard, poured from her eyes when he asked that simple, every day question.

“Pumpkin?” Evander took her in his arms, asking Diego for explanation.

Diego squatted by his sons, taking them in his arms. “I’ve got to go for a while,” he said quietly. “See the man in the car?” Danny nodded. “He’s a friend of mine, and he needs my help. He’s got some more friends who are in trouble, and Daddy needs to help them. I’ll be back soon, and we’ll go see the prairie dogs, okay?”

The prairie dog village was Danny’s favorite place to go. He could watch them for hours. He nodded happily. Diego hugged them close, kissing them.

“Don’t forget, Daddy loves you very much. And no matter what, I’ll always be with you. Don’t ever forget that. Danny, you need to watch after your brother, and take care of Mommy, okay?”

“Yes, sir.”

Danny hugged his father, kissing his cheek. Ricky gnawed on his fingers, wide eyed. Diego kissed them both again and stood. He held out his hand to Evander.

“I know you’ll watch out for them, Dad.”

“Always, son. You can count on that.” He said nothing, but his eyes held understanding.

Janet went to Diego, holding him close. “Don’t you dare die,” she whispered. “You come back to me, you understand?”

“I promise.”

“Don’t! Don’t promise. Because if something happens…. If you break it…. Just don’t.”

Diego laughed, smoothing her hair. “I’ll do my best. I love you more than my own life.”

“You’re my heart,” she said. “You come back. I can’t live forever without my heart.”

They kissed a long time. Finally, Diego broke their embrace and walked to the car. He turned to wave. Danny clutched his grandfather’s hand. Janet held Ricky in her arms. Diego stood there, memorizing that picture of them, before getting in the car.

Janet watched the car drive off, feeling like someone had punched her in the chest. She followed her father into the house and flopped on the couch, unable to go another step.

“Boys, come help Popop with dinner,” Evander said, herding his grandsons into the backyard.

Janet let the tears come. She cried until her eyes hurt. Finally, she went into the tiny half bath off the hallway and washed her face with cold water. She redid her makeup and tried to smile. The boys ran at her, hugging her around the legs and she forced herself to greet them without tears. Her father smiled at her, nodding. She knew no matter what, he’d be there for her.

“Sookie called. She and Tim are coming over.”

“It will be good to see them.”

Two weeks passed without a word, but Janet hadn’t expected one. She went through her days on autopilot, teaching her classes and caring for her boys. One evening, the boys were in bed and she was grading papers listening to Prince’s Purple Rain album.

She heard a car pull up outside. Thinking it might be her sister or father, she turned on the outside lights, flinging open the door. She didn’t even dare to hope that it was Diego, but a part of her fluttered at the sound. Three uniformed men walked up her path. The leader was Colonel Coffey. He didn’t have to say a word. His expression was enough. Janet broke down. Her legs giving out, she sank to the floor. She couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think. Numb all over, she gasped for breath, as the impact of their silent message hit her. Blackness surrounded her as her body lost the fight.

Some time later, she woke, finding herself in bed, with her sister lying beside her. It was morning and Sookie was asleep with her head on Janet’s shoulder. She held Janet’s hand. Janet moved and Sookie woke up.

©2020 Dellani Oakes

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Brand New Day by Dellani Oakes – Part 56

Janet and Diego are happy for a time, until Coffey comes back into their lives.

“You—Men! Going off to fight your damn wars! And we stay home….”

“We fight to protect you,” Coffey began.

“We stay home, have babies, raise families, work, keep house, and you think you can waltz in and out of our lives as you please. We’ll be there, breathless sex toys for your hiatus f**king! Well, it doesn’t work like that!” She punched the colonel in the chest.

“Janet….” Coffey tried again.

“You can’t call me that. You come in here and ruin our happiness. I hate you! Get out of my house!” She pulled back with her other hand to hit him.

Diego stepped between them. “Let Lane speak, babe. We really can’t talk about this on the street.”

Shoving past the men, Janet went to the kitchen, leaving them to talk while she made coffee. She might loathe the man, but he was Diego’s guest. Her mother’s training was ingrained, whether she admitted it or not. When she got to the living room, Diego was showing Coffey pictures of their boys. Danny, seven, was identical to Diego at that age. They looked up, smiling. Janet set the coffee things down with a rattle. Diego took her hand, pulling her onto the couch beside him.

“Listen to the job, please. And you decide if it’s important for me to go.”

“Normally, we don’t discuss missions this openly,” Coffey said, reaching into his breast pocket. “But you’ve proven, over the years, that you can keep a secret.”

Janet refused to be flattered, glaring at him.

“A group of doctors with World Health Organization went to a country I’d better not name.”

“On the other side of the world?”

“Pretty much.” He smiled slightly. “They were captured. The men, six of them, were executed right away.” He laid pictures of six smiling men on the table. They ranged in age from thirty to sixty.

“The women are hostages. The people holding them demand ransom from their governments—the US, UK and Japan.” He laid more pictures down. This time of four women in their thirties and forties.

“Policy is not to negotiate with terrorists,” he said quietly. “But we can’t let these women suffer any longer. We need Diego to lead the multinational rescue mission to retrieve them.”

Janet burst into tears. “You unmitigated bastard! You knew I couldn’t tell you no. He has to go, but it’s going to be horribly dangerous.”

Coffey nodded. “I need the best on this. Diego is the best. These women, their husbands and children, need Diego.”

“I need him too,” she whispered. “What about his wife and children?” She couldn’t cry. The tears refused to come. Dry eyed and furious, she glared at Coffey. “I really didn’t think I could possibly hate you more….

“Is that a go?” Coffey asked.

“That’s a go,” Diego replied. “Can I have time to say goodbye to my boys?”

“I can give you an hour. I’m sorry. They’re threatening to kill Dr. Lacy.” He tapped the picture of the youngest woman. “In forty-eight hours if we don’t comply.”

“So soon?” She gazed into Diego’s face. “You knew about this. You knew he was coming.”

“When I heard about it, I suspected.”

“Heard? This hasn’t been in the news!”

Diego eyed her levelly. He didn’t have to say that he had other ways of hearing about things. More reliable ways. He’d probably known about it within hours after it happened.

“You can’t give us a little time—together?”

“It’s a long flight to Langley,” Coffey replied. “But I can give you time for your sons. No father should disappear without a goodbye.”

Janet bit the inside of her cheek, holding in the angry tears. She refused to let Coffey see that kind of weakness.

They drove to her father’s house a few blocks away. Coffey followed in his car. The boys were playing in the yard. Coffey waited in the car while they got out and greeted them. Evander came out in the yard, smiling.

“I was setting up the grill. Can you stay to supper?”

©2020 Dellani Oakes

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Brand New Day by Dellani Oakes – Part 55

Lubbock, Texas. 2000.

“Did he stay that time?”

“He stayed two years. He got a job with the Navy ROTC on campus. In that time, we had another son. Named Ricardo, after Diego’s dad.”

“How did you end up with Tex again?”

“I didn’t.”

“Then why was he at your house?”

“I’m still trying to remember,” Janet replied. “I know it’s late—or early. I’m pretty tired.”

“I’ve kept you talking too long.”

“I kept myself talking.”

“I’ll come back later. I wanna know how this ends,” Flora said. “I’ll see you later, Janet.”

Janet sighed, closing her eyes. She lay in the hospital bed with the beeping and the blood pressure cuff, trying to sort things out. She’d lied to Flora. She did remember how Tex got there, and it sickened her that she’d agreed to have anything to do with him.

He threatened to kill my son! Tears rolled down her face until, eventually, she slept.

Lubbock, Texas. Spring 1990.

Diego and Janet pulled into the driveway of their home, warily. A strange car was parked out front. A man moved slowly from the shadows of the arched front porch. From his bearing, Janet knew he was military. The way Diego stiffened, she knew he recognized the man.

“Babe, why don’t you go pick up the boys at Dad’s?”

“It’s Coffey, isn’t it.”

“Honey….”

Janet leaped from the car, storming the porch like the peasants breaching the Bastille. Not saying a word to the colonel, she unlocked the door, flinging it back with a bang.

Diego ran after her, deeply worried. He shoved past Coffey. The other man tried to stop him. Diego shook him off.

“She’s got a .357 and she knows how to use it. Get in your car.”

Janet didn’t have the gun. He found her in the bedroom standing over the locked drawer where it was kept, weeping.

“Honey, please. We knew this could happen.”

“Is this all there is for us? Little snatches of time together. Is this it?” She spun around, her balled fists pounding his chest. “Tell him you can’t go. You’re not available.”

“It doesn’t work like that, baby. I go where I’m sent. A warrior follows orders.”

“Why you? Why does it have to be you?”

“Janet….”

“No matter what it is. No matter what rat hole he sends you to, you’ll go. You’ll leave your sons and go halfway round the world to do what? Kill someone?”

“That isn’t all I do. You know that.”

“I don’t! I don’t know what you do. You can’t tell me.”

“Mrs. Macy,” Colonel Coffey said from the living room.

“Don’t call me that. Don’t say that name in this house,” she screamed. Pushing past Diego, she confronted Coffey, standing toe to toe with the big man.

“Janet,” Diego said softly, taking her arm.

She jerked her arm away and shoved the Colonel. She was powerful in her rage. The tall, broad shouldered warrior took two unsteady steps back. Janet followed, bumping him back another step with her hip. Her arm came back to slap him, but Diego took it in an unyielding, but gentle, grip.

©2020 Dellani Oakes

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Brand New Day by Dellani Oakes – Part 54

After dinner, Diego and Janet go to the campus, but there are too many memories of Tex.

“He thinks Tex is his dad.”

“He’s five. What was I supposed to tell him? Your father’s an assassin, who left us to hunt down and murder other assassins? It isn’t easy being the son of a jailbird who beat his mother, but it’s easier than the truth.”

Pain contorted his face. “Is that what you think of me? That’s what you think I do?” He turned from her, biting his lip. Hands deep in his pockets, he hung his head.

“I don’t know. I don’t know you anymore! You’ve skipped in and out of my life for twenty years. Every time I think it’s going to last, you get snatched away from me again. I love you so much, but I don’t know how much more of this I have in me. I’m not a yo-yo, Diego. I’m a woman who’s lost without you. So broken and weak, she marries a man like Tex.”

“Why? Why him? You knew I was coming back.”

“But I didn’t! I had no idea where you were. I was alone and pregnant and scared…. And I did love him, once. I was never in love. He wasn’t you…. But he was there. And as flawed as he is, he made me feel alive and sexy and loved. Can you ever understand that?”

“I don’t know.” Diego shrugged, his hands out, palms up, hardly knowing what to do or say.

Janet eyed him carefully, tilting her head to one side. “Will you do something for me?”

“Anything.” He stepped close, winding his fingers in her hair.

“Will you take me back to that damn hotel and fornicate my brains out?”

Diego laughed loudly and abruptly. “That was unexpected.”

“I ache for you, and I can’t breathe right when you’re around. I want to laugh, or cry, or both at once. I haven’t had sex since Danny was born.”

“That’s a long time,” he replied huskily.

Taking her face in his hands, he lowered his mouth to hers. His kiss ignited the old fires. They surged and grew the longer he kissed her. Diego set some sort of speed record back to the hotel. Practically undressing in the elevator, they went to his suite. They didn’t make it as far as the bed the first time. Instead, they fell on the couch and made love there. Eventually, they made it to the bedroom. Janet lost herself in the moment, reveling in the affection, feeling alive for the first time in years.

Early in the morning, they lay cuddled in the middle of the king sized bed. Janet lay with her head on his chest while he wound his fingers in her hair.

“I want to get married,” he murmured. “We’ll find Tex, and get him to sign the papers.”

“I’ve tried. He won’t.”

“With all due respect, baby, you don’t speak persuasion, the same way I do.”

She shivered, imagining how he might coerce Tex. It wouldn’t be pretty, and she strongly suspected she’d end up not needing a divorce, because she’d be a widow.

“In the meantime, Janet Yarkowsky, will you marry me, at some unspecified time in the future? Will you live with me, and let me be father to my son?”

“Yes. Will you quit the agency?”

He exhaled slowly. “I can’t yet.”

She glared at him. “You said…!”

“Don’t start. If I quit, I’m no longer protected. There are still some nasty folks out there who want me dead.”

“And you expect me to marry you? To bring my son into that life?”

Our son.”

“I conceived him. I carried him nine months. I gave birth to him. You notice I did most of it without your help.”

“You had help with the conception part,” he pointed out, tickling her. “And I’d like to try that again. And again…. And again. I love you. And I don’t want to fight. I don’t want to talk about Tex, I don’t want to think about anything hard, or sad, or painful…. I want to make love to you until I can’t walk. I want to live the life we’ve missed out on all these years.”

“Okay. For now, we can do that. Eventually, there are some hard questions we have to answer.”

“But not tonight.” He rolled over, pulling her close, his desire evident.

“Not tonight.”

©2020 Dellani Oakes

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Brand New Day by Dellani Oakes – Part 53

It’s 1988, and Diego finally returns. He meets his son, Danny, for the first time.

Diego crouched on the ground, holding out his hand. “Hi, Danny. Nice to meet you.”

Danny shook his hand solemnly. “Nice to meet you, too.”

“I thought… I kind of hoped we could—we could talk,” Diego said hesitantly.

“Let me tell Dad. He’ll watch Danny for me. Honey, go tell Popop Diego’s here.”

Danny ran in the house. “Popop, Dago’s here!”

Diego laughed loudly, tossing his head back with abandon. He looked years younger when he laughed, like the boy she’d loved 13 years ago.

Evander came to the door, taking off his reading glasses. “Oh, Diego.” He chuckled. “So it’s you. I couldn’t understand why he was telling me there was a dago at the door. Not exactly a word we use around here.” He trotted off the porch, holding out his hand. “Good to see you again, son. We’ve missed you.”

They shook hands. Evander pulled the younger man into a hug.

“Glad you’re back.”

“Thank you, sir. That means a lot to me.”

“Surely after all this time, you can call me Dad?”

Diego nodded, smiling. “I’d like that. My own father passed….” He blinked hard. “I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye.”

“We know,” Janet said. “We all went up for the funeral.”

“And Ilene. I’m so sorry for your loss….”

Evander nodded his thanks. “I have to believe they’re in a better place,” he said in a matter of fact tone. “So, you kids need some time. Do you have a place to stay? You’re welcome with us.”

“I’ve got a room. Thanks. I didn’t want to impose. I thought maybe Janet and I could catch dinner….”

“Sure. I’ll hold down the fort. You take all the time you need.”

“I’ll go in and say goodbye,” Janet said. She went inside to speak to Danny.

“Been a long time,” Evander said sternly. “You couldn’t write? You couldn’t call?” Although older, he was nearly as fit as Diego. His dark eyes registered his disapproval, as did his muscular arms crossing his chest.

“Did Janet tell you what I do?” Diego asked calmly. He kept his body relaxed, casual.

“She was pretty evasive.” Evander shifted his weight, lifting his chin.

“Evander, my job isn’t the kind that lends itself to Christmas cards and snapshots. I’ve tried for five years to get out….”

“But right now, you’re safer in than out?”

“Something like that. I love your daughter. If she’ll have me, I want to marry her.”

“She’s still married to Tex.”

“What? I hoped by this time he’d be out of the picture.”

“He refuses to divorce her. We’ve tried….”

Diego said nothing, lips pursed. Evander watched him sublimate the anger. He could see the younger man put it aside, channeling it into more acceptable emotions.

This is a very dangerous man. That bastard of a son-in-law of mine had better be very careful, or he’s gonna wind up dead.

Janet came out of the house. She had an overnight bag and her purse. Evander gave her a kiss.

“You sure, baby girl?”

“More sure of this than just about anything,” she said. “See you later, Dad.”

They had dinner at her father’s restaurant. Diego was impressed. The food was delicious and reasonably priced. The wait staff were efficient and well mannered. It was the best dining experience he’d had in over five years.

After dinner, they went for a walk on the Texas Tech campus and Janet showed him all her old haunts. More than one statement began with “Tex and I used to go….” The third or fourth one made Diego feel like he’d been slapped in the face. He stopped her, turning her to face him.

“Do you still love him?” He asked adamantly, taking her firmly by the upper arms. “Do you still want him?” He relaxed his grip when she winced, realizing it must bring back bad memories of another man’s violence.

“No!” Janet burst into tears. “How can you even ask me that? Your son is the most important person in the world to me. More than my father, Sookie, or you. That little boy is the best thing I’ve ever done in my life. He’s your son, not his.”

©2020 Dellani Oakes

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