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Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 30

They spoke simultaneously.

“Oh, Deacon! I’ve been such a bloody fool! Can you forgive me?”

“Kacy, I’m an ass, I’m sorry! Can you forgive me?”

Falling into someone’s arms was an expression he had only heard, but never experienced until now. She flung herself at him, forgetting about his sore leg. She unbalanced them both and they fell in a heap on the floor. Deacon managed to land without taking too much of the fall, or her weight, on his damaged leg. He let out a gasp of pain beyond his control.

“Oh, bollocks! I’ve hurt you again!” She blurted out, trying to rise. Sitting astride him, she could feel his body responding to the touch of her flesh against his.

“I’m fine, really.”

She struggled once more to stand, but he held her to him, not letting her go.

“You stay right there, don’t move, not ever. I don’t want you to go away again. I promise I won’t say anything, or do anything purposely to hurt you ever, ever again. I swear.”

His voice was deep with emotion, and he felt his pain ebbing away, as his hands explored her body. She responded to his touch and they made love on the floor of his room. It wasn’t too uncomfortable, Deacon thought absently, Dino had spared no expense on the carpet padding.

When he woke the next morning, Deacon found himself in bed, the cover pulled up over his body. He smelled coffee, bacon, and other delicious aromas, coming from the kitchen. His cane was beside the bed and a pair of jeans draped over the chair within arm’s reach. Damn, she thought of everything.

“I could get used to this,” he thought happily.

He rose carefully, able to put more weight on his leg than he had the day before. It was stiff, but not as sore. The bruise was substantially smaller and had faded a little.

Kacy was humming happily in the kitchen as she moved briskly around, all her movements clipped and staccato. The only time she didn’t move like that was in bed. Everything else she did was with military precision. He grinned, leaning on his cane, staring at her, waiting to see how long it would take for her to notice him.

“If you think I don’t see you,” she called to him, “then you are most mistaken. Perfect timing. I was about to call you.”

Her cheeks were flushed with the heat of the oven and, he thought, happiness. A sparkle was in her eye he had never seen.

“I’m not as much of a gimp today,” he grinned as he showed her how much weight he could put on his leg.

“You weren’t a gimp at all, last night.” She winked at him.

Deacon chuckled, walking into the kitchen behind her, he grabbed her playfully around the waist. He drew her to him, kissing her on the neck as his hands found soft, cuddly places to hold on to.

“There now, your eggs will get cold!” She pretended to wiggle to get free, but found some way to stay exactly where she was. “Time to eat! You must be starving!”

“Oh, I am.” The caught himself before he made another crass remark, she might not appreciate. “I’d like some breakfast, too”

She didn’t seem to mind the implication, so he allowed himself another kiss on her neck, a nibble on her ear and a final squeeze before he sat on the stool she brought to him.

“Looks tasty,” he grinned. “So do you.”

He waited to judge her reaction, she didn’t bridle, nor did she seem affronted, so he continued to feel out the flirtatious waters.

“You know, Kacy, if I ever do or say anything that makes you uncomfortable, all you have to do is tell me.”

She wouldn’t look at him right away, but he saw the color rising in her cheeks, her eyes averted.

“It was a silly way for me to behave. It’s just, well, when Pete was first in hospital, there was this man who worked with him. The one who set the bomb off too early.”

Kacy struggled with her emotions. Deacon wanted to ease her discomfiture, but didn’t know how.

“He came to see Pete, and we got talking. He told me how badly he felt, that Pete was a great guy, he hoped he got better really soon. He was so nice, so comforting, I started to cry on his shoulder. Then he got a little too familiar, if you know what I mean. He said just horrid things, about how hot I was, how much he envied Pete having such a tasty piece of ass. That’s what he called me! I think he’d have raped me right there, but Pete’s mum and dad came in. He left in a hurry.”

Deacon shifted uncomfortably on his stool. “Kacy, I’m so sorry. What a bastard.”

“I wondered from then on if he’d done it on purpose. Blowing Pete up, I mean. Pete’s parents pursued criminal charges against him, but it didn’t get too far. He skipped town, I think there is still a warrant out for his arrest.”

“No wonder you got so angry. God, I feel like such an ass.”

She touched his hand softly, bringing it up to her cheek. Her eyes were soft, her smile warm and just for him.

“I’m sorry too, I should know by now you didn’t mean it like that. It was just so close to what he said, I guess it struck a raw nerve. I have way too many of those, I’m afraid.”

“I’ll do my best to soothe those frazzled nerves, Kacy. I meant what I said, I’ll never do anything to hurt you on purpose. The occasional brain fart, I can’t be held responsible for those.”

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 29

She took a kick boxing stance, readying herself for an attack. “Don’t come near me. I thought you were different. I really hoped you were, but you are just like all the other morons out there, who think with their privates. Don’t touch me, or I swear to you, I’ll break your other leg. Goodnight, you can sleep by yourself!” She whirled around, storming toward the second bedroom, slamming the door.

Deflated and ashamed, he limped over to her door, knocking softly. “Kacy? Kacy, I’m sorry, it was an awful thing to say. I had no idea you’d get so upset. I am just a crass, common man, who’s not used to talking to a lady. Kacy?” He tapped again, but only silence reverberated from the room.

Sighing deeply, he made his way slowly to his room, where he struggled into the Jacuzzi. The jets felt wonderful on his sore, aching muscles, the bubbles playing along his body like a lover’s hands. He leaned back, closing his eyes, and thinking of Kacy.

Why had she reacted so badly to his statement? He had meant for it to be a compliment, not an insult, and he hadn’t thought it through. It was the kind of thing he’d said to Frieda. She was coarse and common herself, and found statements like that sexy. Besides, with her it had been true. He had seen Frieda and all he had wanted was to get into her pants. It was a goal he accomplished with agility and ease, because she had the same thoughts about him.

Drying off, he put on some silk boxers Frieda had given him as a gag gift, for Christmas last year. They were covered with flames and said Hot to Trot on the waist band. He dressed in a pair of sweat pants and a tee shirt. Taking his cane, he moved slowly to the office carrying the set plans, then decided he wanted a cup of coffee. Limping back to the kitchen, he made a pot and decided to offer some to Kacy. Her light was still on. Tapping on the door, he spoke calmly, although he was anything but serene.

“Kacy? I made some fresh coffee if you want some. I’m gonna be up late working on the set. Night.” He didn’t expect a response, but he had been sure this time he heard her and it sounded like she was crying.

“I am such an asshole,” he muttered ruefully. “I’ve just trashed the best relationship I ever had.”

Deacon shut the door to the office with a soft click and sat down to work on the rendering. He found paints and expensive colored pencils, pastels and other art supplies in a cabinet, and set to work on a watercolor. He worked in close detail, putting the hands of the grandfather clock on with gold paint.

He thought he heard her door open and close, even thought he sensed her outside the office, but she said nothing and he kept silent. He didn’t know what to say to her. Maybe she didn’t know what to say, either.

Around two, he put the supplies away and then had a silly idea. He took half a sheet of watercolor paper, folding it in half. On the front, he drew a picture of a donkey’s behind, the head turned to the side, showing blue eyes with long lashes. Inside, he hand lettered a short note and slipped it under her door. The light was out, but he was pretty sure he’d seen it click off when he had opened the door to the office.

Leaning against the wall, he sighed again and stumbled back to his room with fatigue and pain finally becoming too much even for his stamina. He’d left his cane in the office and just didn’t have the energy to make his slow, weary way back there. He fell into bed, stuffed a couple pillows under his sore leg and turned on the TV.

It was all info-mercials and porn movies at this time of night. The former were annoying in the extreme and the latter made him think of what an jerk he’d been, so he turned off the lamp and tried to sleep.

Drifting off, after tossing and turning about half an hour or so, he heard the door to his room open. At first he was startled and then he caught a whiff of her cologne. Feigning sleep, he lay still, slowing his breathing, making it even as if he were in a deep sleep. She tiptoed across the room and stopped by the bed. He didn’t dare to open an eye, but he felt her movements with every fiber of his being. She didn’t get in with him, but set something on the bedside table and quietly went out again, the door clicked with finality.

Oh God, I’ve lost her.

When he heard her door shut, he turned on the lamp. On the table was his card. She had kissed it. Bright pink lips adorned the donkey’s behind. Inside, where he had written, “I’m sorry, Kacy. I’ve been a real ass.” She had penciled in the corner, “Me, too.”

Deacon had to force himself to swallow, not knowing if he should go back to her room or not. He didn’t want to risk upsetting her, but he wanted her back so much he could taste it. It wasn’t just the sex, although that was fantastic. It was her, only her. She was what filled that void he’d had in his life. Having her wrenched out again, by anger, was more than he thought he could bear.

Fighting a silent battle within himself, he deliberated what to do. On the one hand, he had made progress, she apparently wasn’t angry with him anymore. But she hadn’t woken him, so maybe she didn’t want him back after all. Or maybe she felt so guilty, and she was afraid he was angry with her, so she left him alone. She was worried about his leg….

“By damn!” He told himself loudly, “I’m going to go crazy lying here not knowing!”

He rose so quickly, he nearly fell over. Groping for the wall, he stumbled from one piece of furniture to another until he reached the doorknob. He turned it rapidly, afraid he would lose the impetus which had brought him so far. His face set in determination, he jerked the door open, face to face with a shocked Kacy. She recovered herself first, and flung her arms around him, nearly knocking him to the floor.

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 28

“You know, I hadn’t really thought about that until now. I think if the old place burned down, I’d dig the whole shebang up and make a little park, name it Charles Sawyer park after Uncle Charlie. He was well loved in the community.”

“Who would want the land that much?”

Dino shrugged. “I’ve gotten so many offers, I can’t even count them all. The condo guys would like to build a ten story building right there. I imagine half the developers in the state would want that spot. It’s prime. Funny, when it was built, this was the poorest section of beach there was.”

“Really?” Kacy was surprised, it was now one of the most exclusive neighborhoods in the area.

“Yep, it was the black beach, they segregated in those days. No one wanted that stretch of sand and very few white people dared to go there. The military needed cheap land, so they appropriated it. It originally housed their camp offices. Very boring history really. They closed the base there, in around 1957.

“When Sophia’s father-in-law bought it in 1962, he refurbished it and made it into a night club. Then as the retirees flowed south from Daytona, he made it into a posh dinner theater and comedy club. They even got some big name acts there. It was popular until around 1975, when Sophie’s husband made it into a little theater. The rest you know.” He shrugged one broad shoulder.

“So we are no closer to knowing who wants it, than we were.” Kacy sighed, pushing away from the table.

“We can’t decide anything tonight. We’ll hope things settle down, or that the security men catch the culprit. I don’t give a damn if the whole place goes up in smoke. I just don’t want anyone hurt.” Dino looked angry, absorbed in his thoughts.

Kacy and Deacon decided it was time to go. Kacy gave Dino a kiss on the cheek, which he returned distractedly. They left with Deacon leaning on her again.

“I can’t tell you how sorry I am about the leg. I feel horrid. It was such a spiteful, mean thing to do.”

He hugged her tightly, kissing her cheek. “Frieda’s done worse to me, so forget about it.”

“Does she really think she can get anywhere with this palimony thing?”

“I don’t know. She hardly has a leg to stand on, being that she left me, so I’m not too worried. Maybe I should talk to a lawyer, though.”

“Mr. Stevens is one.”

“Who?”

“Oh, the florid, fat gentleman with the balding head who always wears those abominable ties. He’s playing Hannibal Hix. He’s semi-retired, but still keeps a shoe in. He could give you some advice, maybe suggest someone, if he can’t handle it himself.”

“You’re incredible, have I mentioned that?”

They were walking in the door to the guest house. He hobbled to the couch and flopped down.

“So glad you finally noticed.”

Kacy winked provocatively. He held out his hand to her, drawing her to the arm of the couch. She perched on it, leaning against him.

“What do you mean finally?” He asked playfully. “I noticed right away.”

“You did not!” she exclaimed. “You hated me when first we met! You called me a gorgon!”

Deacon chuckled seductively, deep in his chest. “Well, you had called me a flunky and a buffoon, if I remember rightly.”

“I was beastly.” She sighed heavily, remembering how horrible she had been.

“I was out of line making fun of you.” He brushed her arm tenderly with his finger.

Tears trickled from her eyes. She angrily blinked them away. “I was beyond horrendous. I got annoyed by that, sure, but when you turned around and looked like Pete…. I was angry and hurt, no sane reason, really. I just had this moment where I thought, Everyone was wrong! He’s alive, and no one told me! Then reality struck, and you didn’t seem to like me at all. But I should never have kicked your bad leg.”

His large, strong hands closed around her tiny waist, pulling her to his lap, wincing as her weight came down on his lap.

“I looked at you, all seething and angry, adding a little flush to your cheeks, and thought Wow! Then I saw you walking away from me, and that tight little ass, and I decided right there I wanted a piece of that.”

She pushed away from him, the angry flush back in her cheeks. “Did you really? Is that what all this is about? You wanted a piece of ass?”

Deacon realized he’d said completely the wrong thing. “Kacy, I didn’t mean it like that. I swear, I didn’t. I was just trying to tell you I was attracted to you right away.”

She jumped off his lap, backing from him angrily. “Is that how you talked to Frieda? How irresistible you must find yourself! Why, you must have women following you around like dogs in heat. What a suave operator! I can’t find words to express how charming that was to hear!”

She was working herself into a frenzy. Deacon didn’t know what to say, or how to calm her down. He’d said something that set her off, and had no earthly idea why.

“Kacy, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it like that….” He rose unsteadily, taking a step or two toward her.

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 27

“You won’t have to, Kacy.” Dino said reassuringly, the idea of ghosts bothered him, too. “Let’s leave that to the experts, shall we?”

They walked back to their cars, driving home in silence. Dino pulled into the garage just before they did.

“Come in the main house, we’ll have some dinner.”

Deacon and Kacy walked slowly to the door, with Deacon leaning heavily on her and his cane. The last few days had taken their toll on him. He felt worse, instead of better. Maybe he had taken too much aspirin without enough in his stomach. Kacy looked nearly as bad as he felt, although hers was emotional pain, not physical.

Dino bustled around the kitchen, gathering ingredients, mixing and pouring. By the time he was done, three elegant mushroom omelets adorned the table. Glasses of chilled sparkling white grape juice completed the meal.

“Sit, eat.” He waved them toward the table in the breakfast nook.

They ate in relative silence, taking a few moments to compliment the chef. Each one was lost in private thought.

Deacon broke the silence first. “Dino, why would someone want to drive us away from the theater?”

Dino set his napkin down carefully by his plate before answering. “You know, I just can’t figure it out. I’ve got no clue why anyone would want to hurt me. It doesn’t make sense. I’ve driven some hard business deals, but I can’t imagine that would prompt anyone to do this.”

“What if it’s not you,” Kacy said pointedly.

“What do you mean?” Dino’s brow furrowed.

“What if it’s something about the theater itself. Maybe an old grudge, or someone they loved died there. What about the electrician who was killed, maybe his family?”

“I thought of that, and did some checking. He left no family. He wasn’t a young man, unmarried, no kids, parents dead, only child. That wouldn’t explain what happened before the closing.”

“Could someone have hated your uncle enough to destroy his reputation?” Deacon didn’t know anything about Dino’s family. He was brainstorming, grasping at straws.

“Uncle Charlie?” Dino laughed. “I doubt it. He was the quietest, nicest old man you’d ever hope to meet. Kind, gentle, hell—he was a priest. I hope he’d not made anyone mad enough to do that! He got the place from his sister’s estate, when she died years ago. I doubt anyone hated her either, she was a great philanthropist.”

“In any case, there is something about that building or that plot of land, or you that’s making it a very popular place for accidents,” Kacy added. “I took it upon myself to do a wee bit of digging, and found some interesting facts out. Do you know how many so called accidents occurred between 1988, when Uncle Charlie inherited the place, and now?”

The two men shook their heads.

“Seven. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but I’ve been around movie sets and worked professional theaters for the last eighteen years, and you know how many fatal accidents those places had, all together?”

The men mutely shook their heads.

“None.” She did not include Pete’s death, that was something understood as a taboo subject, and she hadn’t been working that film.

“It’s bizarre to have a small, insignificant place like this draw so much attention. When your Aunt Sophie owned it, there were accidents then, too. Prior to that, before it even came into your family, going back to its opening. However, in those years prior to 1988, there were less than five accidents total in over forty years, and none of them fatal.”

The men sat in stunned silence. Neither of them knew how to respond to this pronouncement. It did little to solidify a motive, but it did a lot to prove, to them at least, that these accidents were anything but.

“Who would stand to benefit, if the old place burned down?”

Dino reddened. “Me, I guess. I don’t need the money, but there are folks who might want to believe I do. When a business burns down, they usually suspect the owner, especially when it’s arson. Not like the old place is insured for much, only about a hundred thousand. The property alone, is worth several million, since it’s sitting right along the beach. I’ve had offers to buy the old place, so they can tear it down, but it meant a lot to my aunt and uncle. I’d rather not do that. I spent some great times there as a kid.”

The other two looked at him strangely.

“I’m a sentimental guy, what can I say? Why, I got my first kiss in the wings of that old place, when I was fifteen and later I….” He blushed deeply, recalling a very private moment in the backstage area after everyone else had gone home. “Anyway….” he broke off abruptly letting them fill in the gap.

“A good possibility is the land itself. If the theater burned down, what would you do? Would you develop the land?” Kacy asked him.

Dino thought a moment, then responded softly, thoughtfully.

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 26

The young man grinned. “I think we could do that pretty much with our eyes shut, but if it would make you feel better, we’ll start on that. You don’t have any stocked?”

“All of it had to be disposed of. It was full of carpenter ants. Didn’t much want to have a flat fall down during a show. Spoils the verisimilitude.”

The kids laughed, and Deacon limped off to show them the supplies and find a place to work.

“I’m posting the cast list on the door,” Dino said “We’ll try to keep the actors out today. I’ll move the rehearsals somewhere else. Maybe I can make arrangements to go to the Fireman’s Community Hall, or something. I’ll let you know when I’ve made a few calls.”

Several hours later, the construction crew had been through more than half of the theater, cleaning stuff out as they went. It had to be done anyway, it didn’t matter if it got done now or later. The pile of chemicals and flammable waste, was growing steadily, so Mac assigned a dump brigade. They loaded all the trash on a large truck to be carted off later.

Nothing happened for most of the day, so Kacy was thinking she and Mac were being paranoid. Surely, they were giving in to the superstitions associated with the place. Then, one of the workers called them back to the work room.

“Looks like someone was planning a nighttime fire party, and got interrupted,” Mac said.

He found more leaking bottles of acetone and several other chemicals which would have made a roaring inferno, given the right incentive. Dino was shocked, his face coldly blank.

“This looks horrible, folks, and reflects rather badly on me, I’m afraid. If this place burned to the ground, everyone would think I did it for the insurance.” Dino sighed, running his hands through his hair.

“Get it cleared out,” Deacon ordered.

He rallied everyone, while Kacy took Dino back to her office, for a cup of coffee and a chance to relax.

“He’s right, Mac,” Deacon confided in his foreman. “It looks like arson was planned, and everyone would blame Dino.”

“About two hundred million reasons that would be a stupid conclusion. Mr. Stewart don’t need the money. My guess is someone has a grudge, wants to take it out on him.” Mac looked around him angrily.

“That doesn’t explain what happened before, though. It might have been a grudge then too, but not against Dino. He didn’t own it then.”

“I can’t see why anyone would want to be nasty to Mr. Sawyer. He’s the nicest, most generous person I know.”

“Someone doesn’t want this place reopened. That’s what it says to me. Dino might be the reason, but I think it’s something about the place itself, that’s the motive.”

“You could be right. Let’s hope we’re both wrong, and this is all a series of odd and disturbing coincidences. Meanwhile, the new building supplies were all locked up in the shed last night. You, me and Miss D have the only keys. I’ve gone through it and as far as I can tell, nothing is missing or disturbed. I think we should take anything we don’t need, and dump it.”

“I had planned to do that anyway, but the sooner the better, I think. Have we got the most hazardous stuff out?”

“Yes, to the best of my knowledge. There could be more stuff buried in there we’d never know.”

“Thanks for all the hard work today,” Deacon told him. “We’ll get this crap under control, maybe tomorrow we can get some actual building done.”

“Number one on my list, make the work site safe. We don’t want nobody getting hurt. If that slows us a day or two, it’s okay by me.”

A black panel van pulled into the driveway, followed by Dino’s SUV. The van stopped even with Deacon and Kacy. The van window scrolled down, revealing two large, intimidating men.

“Deacon, Kacy I want to introduce you to Mr. Bellows and Mr. Salvatore. They’ll be acting as site security. I know it’s probably a little overly cautious of me. I just don’t want anyone hurt.”

The two security men stepped out of the van and shook hands with Deacon and Kacy. Their bodies rippled and roiled with more muscles than Deacon could ever remember having. He sported a well toned physic, a six pack most men would be proud of, and a lean, lanky body with powerful thighs and sinewy arms. He could carry four of the big Lekos without breaking a sweat, manhandle flats and platforms, carry ladders and all manner of other heavy objects without difficulty. But when he looked at the security men, he felt puny, ineffective and weak.

The two men spoke very little, doing a quick perimeter check. One of them went inside, locking the door behind him while the other stayed outside in the van.

“They are trained in Aikido, Karate, Kung Fu and are both expert marksmen. Bellows was a Navy Seal, and Salvatore, Marine Recon. I think they can handle anyone who comes around.”

“What about the ghosts?” Kacy was only partially teasing. Like many theater people, she was superstitious, and the findings today had made her nervous. She would never have admitted it to anyone, but she was spooked. Deacon gazed down at her in surprise.

“You don’t really believe those stories, I hope?

“We all know funny things go on in old buildings like this. Be they ghosts or something else, who knows? I just know I’d not want to spend the night there alone.” She shuddered, leaning in toward Deacon, who put his arm around her protectively.

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 24

She fell asleep, curled in his embrace, dreaming of Pete. He walked beside her for a while, then kissing her hand, he walked away into a mist. His tall, lanky body receded like a shadow, into clouds of swirling white. His voice echoed in her head, “Goodbye, Kacy. I loved you.”

Tears of parting dried on her cheeks and she slept.

Deacon woke to the smell of coffee, and fresh muffins. It was a homey smell, something he associated with Leave It To Beaver and other Fifties shows. He’d never lived in an environment where Mom stayed home and kept house and baked fresh cookies for the children to have after school. His world had been rushing out the door, coming home to an empty apartment or house, being bullied or yelled at for being a burden, pushed around and blamed for anything that went wrong.

The Sanderson’s had been the closest to a real home, but that wasn’t until he was fifteen. Mr. and Mrs. Sanderson were a retired minister and his wife. They were good people, and taught him about self-esteem and self-worth. Fortunately he hadn’t been too old to learn those valuable lessons. A sensitive child, he had built up a wall around himself that it had taken nearly two years for them to work through. He wasn’t willful and defiant, just withdrawn into his own little world of creativity.

The event that broke the wall down was the death of the Sanderson’s son, Tobias. He had a car accident, hit by a drunk driver. The parents leaned on Deacon for support. He was there for them, just as he was now here for Kacy. He’d always been empathetic, able to comfort. He had fallen into the role easily, as if it had been made for him. He hoped it was a lasting one this time. It felt good, secure, eternal.

His leg twinged a little when he stood up to go to the bathroom, but he managed to walk without leaning too heavily on his cane. When he went to the kitchen, Kacy was lifting a pan of fresh muffins from the oven, closing it with her foot. Grinning happily, he hobbled to the counter, looking more feeble than he felt. She set the muffins down with a click and came around the counter to help him to a bar stool.

“Sit, I made something special!”

“Smells fantastic!”

She fixed his coffee and then slathered butter onto a muffin. They were giant, steaming hot blueberry muffins, the like of which one got only in bakeries.

“You made these? Wow!”

“My mum said every girl should know how to cook and bake, even if she was liberated. You’ll starve to death for your principals, she told me more times than I can remember! I enjoy it really, just not a lot of time for it. Eat! You’ll hurt my feelings if you don’t eat at least three.”

“I think I can accommodate you, ma’am!” He pulled his sore leg onto the low footstool sitting conveniently near the bar. “You moved that, didn’t you? I don’t remember it being there.”

She winked, “You don’t miss much, do you? I’ve left my cell phone number on a pad by the phone and Dr. Cooper’s number, should you need it. Dino’s you have, I take it?”

“Yes, mum, I have Uncle Dino’s number. Honestly, Kacy, sit down! You’re making me nervous!”

“I’m anxious to get to work, so I can come home!”

“Bypass work, stay with me.” He tugged her hand so she came around, and stood between his legs.

“Mac is putting in the cheeks for me today. I really have to be there to show him where they need to go. I can’t leave that to him, he’s not the one lighting the stage! I promise I will be back as soon as possible, and I’ll bring food.”

“Screw the food. No, screw me, forget the food.”

Her kiss was full of promises. “I will do so, as soon as possible. I’d not miss it for the world. Now, I must dash. You be a good boy, finish those elevations for me, and keep off your leg. I want you in top form!” She kissed him playfully on the cheek while he nibbled her ear, letting his fingers do the walking. “Behave now!”

“Behaving, ma’am!”

He snapped a saucy salute and watched as she walked out the door. She had an amazing walk. It was the thing that had first attracted him. He heard the car start up and her characteristic acceleration sounded like a jet taking off.

How can a VW make that sound?

Dexter wasn’t really looking forward to the day. That little redhead was kind of a bitch, but she knew her stuff. At least she had apologized when Mr. Stewart set her straight. He just didn’t really want to cross her again. Hell of an ass. Maybe the day wouldn’t be so bad if she was around, even if she was yelling.

He chuckled as he pulled into the parking lot, hopped out of his van, taking his tools with him, locking the truck carefully behind him. He’d learned a long time ago that things had a way of walking off on a job site. He didn’t feel like replacing his tools and equipment.

The old place was quiet at the moment, the painting crew was making good progress. They were having to strip and sand before they painted, the wood was in terrible shape. It wasn’t going to look bad when they were done. He sat on the porch waiting for someone to come with keys, having tried the doors, he found them locked. He lit a cigarette, smoking in the calm, chilly morning.

A yellow VW sped up, screeched into the lot next to his van, and slammed to a halt. It was the redhead. Damn, she’s hot! Too bad she hooked up with Mr. Stewart, passed sullenly through his mind. Word spread pretty fast that she was the boss’ lady. Any man who wanted to keep his job, would keep his hands to himself. Besides, she was quite a firebrand. Dexter, who fancied himself a lady’s man, preferred a more docile female. He stood when she approached.

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 23

“His folks were quite affluent, so he got pretty much anything he wanted. He told me once that he had always felt as if part of him was missing, and no amount of presents could make that feeling go away. He couldn’t explain it, but sometimes he would have these dreams of this other little boy, as if he looked into a mirror.” She looked deeply into his eyes. “Deacon, I think that other boy was you. I believe you and Pete were twins.”

Stunned, he sat quite still, doing and saying nothing. “He found out who is parents were, well his mum anyway. He had his father’s name, but hadn’t ever found him. His mum had him when she was sixteen. She had twins and gave them up for adoption. She had hoped they would be adopted together. Pete’s parents were given to understand he was a single birth, or they’d have adopted his brother. By the time they discovered it, no one could find the other boy, but they did look for you. I think they would like to meet you sometime.”

“I don’t know what to say, Kacy. Did you ever meet Pete’s mother?”

“She’s a lovely lady, you’d like her. Pete looked just like his mum, they had the same blue eyes,” she gulped. “Just as you do.” She started to cry again, but softly, not the sobs which had shaken her small frame before, their first night together.

“We should go to bed,” Deacon said drowsily.

“Yes, and get some sleep. I mean sleep, Deacon. I won’t allow you to be naughty, even if it means I sleep in my own bed,” she scolded him, frowning.

“Yes, Mum, I promise to be a good boy, keep my hands to myself, and play nicely with others. Honestly, I hurt too bad to want to do anything but rest. Doc gave me a prescription for some pain pills but I’m a little worried about filling it.”

They were moving slowly to the bedroom, his weight on the cane and her shoulder. She looked up at him strangely.

“Why’s that?”

He explained about his former drug problem.

“Before you fill it, ask him about it. He might be able to suggest something else. I want you to promise me something.”

“Yes, my lady love?”

He sat heavily on the side of the bed while she helped him get his jeans off. He knew he must really be out of it, having her hands on his pants didn’t even get a tingle.

“You’ll stay home tomorrow, finish those designs, and have a courier take them to Dino’s office to be copied. Do you promise?”

“Only if you’ll stay with me.” He grabbed her waist, his hands going around easily.

She rolled her eyes heavenward. “Honestly! I’ve got to keep an eye on the crew! What if they do the wiring all wrong, I’ll have to do it over!”

“Dexter knows what he’s doing, and I trust Mac to keep the others running smoothly. He knows what has to be done, as well as I do. I’ll stay here, if you do.”

“Half day, I’ll go in for the morning and come back for lunch, how would that be?”

He agreed to the concession. “All right, but the second half of the day, I get to be naughty again.”

“Only if the swelling is down!”

Sighing, he levered his legs into the bed, gritting his teeth. With a gasp, he agreed. Her kiss normally would have set him on fire, but he was just too worn out and sore to give a damn about anything. Kacy placed pillows under his leg, changed to her nightshirt in the bathroom, and snuggled in next to him on the side opposite his sore leg.

“You know just what to do to take care of me, thanks.”

He kissed her hair. She snuggled closer.

“You’re welcome.”

She’d had lots of practice over the years, with Pete. He’d broken limbs, toes and fingers, pulled muscles, nearly ruptured a disk in his neck and chipped most of his teeth. At the age of twenty-seven, he’d had more aches and pains than a man three times his age. Stunt work was very demanding physically, and not for the faint hearted. She’d had to make herself watch him, but it terrified her. The more dangerous the gag, the more worried she’d get. Pete loved the danger, taking each as a personal challenge. He loved the complex gags for the very reason she didn’t.

The day he’d been hurt, she could hardly bring herself to go to the set, but something compelled her there. His last kiss had been full of love and sorrow. She remembered the touch of his lips on hers. He never got scared before a stunt, but this time he had checked and double checked his equipment, going over the devices personally. The only thing he couldn’t account for was human error, a button pressed too soon.

Huddled up next to Deacon, she felt the tears fall, tears she thought she had conquered. Whether she wept for Pete, or herself, she didn’t know. Maybe it was Deacon she cried for, because he had lost a brother whom he would never meet in this life.

Deacon’s arm draped around her as he turned on his side. She thought he was asleep, but he kissed her hair, cuddling from behind. He didn’t have to say anything, just having him there was enough. So gentle, so kind and loving, even more than Pete had ever been. There were times when he’d been absolutely callous, and not understood what she was feeling. Deacon knew, without her saying a word. The two were so alike in some ways, and in others completely different.

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 22

“If he’s guilty of anything, it’s of another attempt at matchmaking, which happened to work this time.”

“But he set us up!”

“He saw two unhappy people who needed someone to love. Bernie’s not devious enough to do anything other than that.”

“No, but Maxie is,” she added venomously.

Deacon shrugged, he had to admit that was true. Maxie was devious and underhanded, unlike Bernie.

“I’ll kill her then!”

“Is it such a bad thing? Us being together, is it bad?”

She shook her head. “I feel as if we’ve been manipulated, that’s all. I don’t like the feeling.”

His kisses stilled any further protest. She kicked the door shut and they were not disturbed for some time.

A tentative tap on the door, around five, alerted them.

“Yeah! What?” Deacon called distractedly.

He tried to straighten his clothing, but it was pointless. Kacy combed her hair with her fingers, fixing her sweater and pulled out a mirror to check her make up. The lip gloss was smeared irreparably.

“It’s Mac,” he called through the door. “My crew and I are gonna head home. Mr. Sawyer said knock off at five, that okay by you, boss?”

Deacon opened the door. “Yeah, that’s cool, Mac. See you guys tomorrow. Thanks.”

Mac looked past Deacon’s shoulder and winked at Kacy. “Night, ma’am. See you kids tomorrow.” He tipped his hard hat and left with a grin.

“Let’s go home, Deacon. You’re tired and so am I. I’ll gather the plans and we can go over them after supper. We’ll order out pizza or something. I don’t think Dino has anything planned, but I’ll ask him before we go.”

A quick kiss and she dashed out. He heard her talking to Dino in the hallway. Hobbling out the door, he saw Kacy kiss Dino on the cheek and thank him for the lights. He looked pleased. One thing Deacon gave the guy, he loved making people happy. He was one of the most generous men Deacon had ever met.

They called for a pizza as soon as they got home. Deacon got a quick shower, and Kacy laid the set plans out on the huge dining room table. When he got out, she went in. By the time she came out, toweling her hair, the pizza had arrived. They sat in the living room eating and chatting happily. When they had cleaned up their mess, they sat in the dining room to go over the new set plans.

“Has Dino seen these yet?”

“Not got them finished yet. I don’t like to show a director unfinished plans, they want too many changes.”

“This is great. It keeps the general feeling of the other, but you’ve eliminated those impossible angles. Have you done a front elevation yet?”

He shook his head. “I’ve got a rough rendering in the office. Not to scale and it’s only pencil. By tomorrow afternoon I should have that done. How is the lighting plot coming?”

“I’ve got the major stage areas covered, but some of it will be dependent upon blocking, of course.” She was so excited, she jumped up and walked around the table, heading briskly for the office. She returned, carrying his drawing.

“This is terrific! Do we have scene painters yet?”

“The college kids will be doing that, supposedly. I may end up doing the majority of the detail work myself, unless they’re really fast learners.”

Kacy gazed at him with an unreadable expression on her face. She looked like a little girl on Christmas morning, who had been handed the most fabulous present ever.

“You know, I am so enjoying working with you. I dunno, you make it easy for me. This was an aspect of my life that Pete couldn’t ever really share. Even if we were both in theater, our emphasis was so different. I never understood why he did the stunts.” Her voice trailed off.

Taking her little hands in his big ones, Deacon drew her into his embrace, his cheek against her hair. “When I was a kid, I had nothing and nobody. I was one of those kids abandoned by everyone—parents, teachers, foster parents, society. The scrawny, smart, weird kid no one wanted to be around. I was a total geek.” He chuckled as she looked at him in disbelief. “Then I got into theater when I was in high school. The foster family I was living with wasn’t too bad, and the theater teacher was just awesome. It gave me a direction, an outlet, a reason to keep going. When I went to college, it was a dream come true.”

“Where did you go?”

“Carnegie-Mellon”

“Really? Very impressive! That’s where you met Bernie then? Pete met him in boarding school. He, Dino and Pete were a trifecta of trouble.”

“I was strictly a public school kid.”

“Pete was adopted, did I tell you that?”

“No, you didn’t mention it.”

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 12

The same woman who kicked you painfully in the shin earlier today, and called you obtuse, he reminded himself. It was no good, he couldn’t talk himself out of it.

She came back with a plate laden with food. How had she known exactly what he liked and given him extra portions? She brought him another glass of sweetened tea, with a double slice of lemon—just the way he liked it.

“Did I so something wrong? Something you don’t fancy?”

“No, it’s great! It was very thoughtful of you. Go on and serve yourself. Thanks.”

She glanced over her shoulder as she walked back to the table. She was checking to see if he was watching. He ducked his head to avoid her eyes, but stared after her as soon as she turned around.

She hadn’t known what he liked, but what Pete liked. He wasn’t going to live in Pete’s shadow. The sooner they both realized it, the better things would be. He’d set her straight, he’d talk to her. Deep inside, he knew he wouldn’t. He’d let her dote on him, turn her affection from her dead husband to him, because he was a lonely man, who’d never had a woman look at him like that.

She came back with her plate which was almost as full as his. “I realized I’d not only skipped breakfast, but lunch as well. I’m starving!”

Deacon waited for her to begin eating before he took his first bite. She noticed, but said nothing.

“Is it good?”

“Delicious,” he said, feigning excitement.

It probably was, but to Deacon Stewart, his world had just been set on its ear again, and the food tasted rather like chalk dust. Not until coffee and dessert were served, did he get his sense of taste back.

“Karaoke anyone?”

Dino had gone all out. Guessing that a band would have been difficult to pick for this crowd which ranged in age from eighty to eighteen, he had arranged to borrow the Karaoke machine from the restaurant. They were wheeling it in, getting it all set up.

Three of the girls jumped up first and sang a Rhianna song complete with dancing. They were pretty good, if you liked that kind of music. Another sang Madonna’s Like a Virgin, directing some of the lyrics and gestures at Deacon. He wanted to sink under the table, when Kacy looked at him, raising an eyebrow. He shook his head, telling her it meant absolutely nothing.

A group of boys got up, singing their own version of a song by Justin Timberlake, obviously a parody they had created. Their dancing was laughable, but added some light hearted entertainment and a drew focus from Deacon, especially when one of them approached the girl who’d sung the Madonna song. He gave her a lap dance, practically gyrating his hips in her face. She played along happily, sticking a dollar bill in the top of his loose fitting jeans.

Dino sang an old Elvis song, extremely well, and then an duet with Mrs. Cooper the song from Same Time Next Year. She and her husband paired up for a few old time favorites and then everyone wanted Deacon to sing.

“No, I can’t get up.”

He waved their requests away. He knew it wouldn’t last long, but he’d keep denying it until forced to sing. He did have a nice voice, but he wasn’t used to singing solo. He was great in a chorus or a choir, but he didn’t like the limelight, which was why he had chosen backstage work.

“Perhaps Kacy would join me in a song,” Dino said, holding out his hand to Kacy. “She’s got one of the prettiest voices I’ve heard.”

Blushing hotly, she agreed to sing with him. It looked like a man, and his little girl standing there, so Dino sat on a stool while Kacy stood beside him. They chose a song that was as unexpected as it was lovely, Desert Rose by Sting. Deacon didn’t really focus on it since the microphone was being pressed into his hands.

“You now!” Kacy declared loudly, then muffled the microphone. “I made a bloody fool of myself, it’s your turn.”

Grinning as if she’d bite him for refusing, he accepted the microphone meekly. “Probably break every window in the place, but I’ll try.”

The teenage girls cheered and jumped around bouncing lusciously. Closing his eyes for a moment, he asked for an obscure song, hoping they didn’t have it. Unfortunately for him, it was a very extensive library and they had Still Got the Blues For You by Gary Moore.

It had been a couple years since he had sung in front of anyone, and he was a little rusty, but he still sounded pretty decent. No one said or did anything when he stopped, and for a minute he thought he’d done something wrong, hit a bad note, gotten the lyrics backwards or something. Then Kacy started to clap and the rest joined in. He looked up at her as she took the microphone away. There were tears in her eyes. His hand brushed hers as she took the microphone back to Dino.

“I want to request something,” Dino said to Kacy. “I want to hear you sing that song from Pretty Woman. What was it? The one near the end?”

Pain washed her features. “Dino, I can’t!” she gasped without remembering the microphone. “Please, don’t make me,” she whispered. Anguish filled her elfish features.

“Kacy, please, for an old friend?”

He cued the music and it started. She nearly missed the first beat, but caught up just in time. “It must have been love, but it’s over now….”

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 11

No stranger to pain, he gritted his teeth and put his boxers on. Hobbling to the closet, he explored the garment bags, finding a pair of pants, a shirt and jacket which fit remarkably well. He joined Kacy and Dino, who were drinking iced tea in the living room. He limped over to the couch, sitting heavily. Kacy looked up, a frown of concern on her face.

“I’m so sorry about that,” she sounded sincere at least. “I lost my temper.”

“Things happen….” He tried to wave it away.

“It was inexcusable and I do apologize! I’m embarrassed, really.”

“Kacy, forget about it. I’ll keep off it a couple days, it’ll be fine.”

“Shall we go to dinner?” Dino stood, rubbing his hands together expectantly. He offered Kacy his arm, and then remembered Deacon’s impairment. “I think I have something.” He ducked into a closet in the foyer and produced an ebony cane. “Put your weight on that.”

They drove in relative silence to the restaurant. It wasn’t one that Dino owned, but frequented. “Best seafood in Florida!” He exclaimed as he pulled into the lot.

The low, spreading building was surrounded by trees looking very old Florida.

“I reserved the private dining room. I’ll drop you two off at the door and find a place to park. The hostess can show you to a table.” He waved at them and pulled around the side of the building.

Inside, the restaurant had soft lighting and was done in earth tones and natural stone. There was a lot of talk in the private room as they walked in. The entire volunteer group was there, grinning and cheering. Three of the young women came over to help Deacon sit down, laughing and making a big fuss as they settled him. They snubbed Kacy who stood forlorn and lost. Deacon saw her looking lonely and unhappy and took pity on her. When she wasn’t in a temper, she was kind of okay.

“Kacy, come sit by me,” he patted the seat in the booth where he was happily ensconced.

A tall iced tea at his elbow and his foot up on the opposite side, he was relatively comfortable. Smiling a little sadly, she joined him, his long arm draped over the back of the booth barely touched her shoulder. She looked around at him, that same confused, peculiar expression on her face. He started to move his hand as if he had been bitten, but she leaned in against him, resting in the crook of his arm. He put this hand firmly on the back of the seat, careful not to touch her shoulder.

Smiling and waving, Dino came in. The crowd gravitated away from Deacon, surrounding him instead. Deacon was younger, and more attractive, but Dino had more money. The young women were torn between Deacon’s good looks, and Dino’s liquid assets. He rather hoped money would win out, he didn’t need any romantic complications in his life.

“Dino said he told you about Pete,” she spoke so softly he almost didn’t hear her over the chatter.

Deacon shifted his hips to a more comfortable angle before answering. He was very aware of the warmth of her leg close to his. Her cologne was fresh like citrus, light and perky. It filled his nostrils, making him a little dizzy. He concentrated on their conversation with difficulty.

“Yes, he showed me picture. You two looked very happy.”

“He shouldn’t have, you know. I don’t want your pity.”

Deacon couldn’t help wondering what she did want, but said nothing. “I don’t pity you, Kacy and neither does Dino. He was trying to make me understand. That’s all.”

She turned her head, gazing directly into his eyes with that disconcertingly penetrating scrutiny which made him squirm inside. “And do you?”

He said nothing, staring back in her eyes, unblinking. “I don’t begin to understand anyone, least of all myself,” he said with unusual honesty. Generally he didn’t discuss his feelings with women. It was one of Frieda’s biggest complaints.

“You’re a bit of an enigma, Mr. Stewart,” she said, looking directly at the fish tank along the side of the booth, just past him.

“How so, Ms. Du Champs?”

Her eyes flickered over to him to see if he was being facetious. When it was apparent to her that he wasn’t, she continued.

“Just when I think I’ve got your motivations pinned down, you do something surprising.”

He chuckled, shifting his position again, trying to get more comfortable. “Don’t be fooled, I’m motivated by very little right now. Food, drink, sleep, and a job to keep my mind off my troubles.”

“Dino’s been quite candid with my life, he has been less than equally forthcoming with yours.” There was that penetrating stare again.

Deacon shifted uncomfortably. “I’ll gladly share the details of my boring life at another time, Kacy. Right now, let’s enjoy our meal. Looks like the buffet is being served.”

He tried to rise, but she put a restraining hand on his chest. His heart fluttered a little, an experience he had not had in years, not even when he met Frieda.

“I’ll get you a plate. Sit tight.”

She walked slowly away from the table. He watched her with a discerning eye. She was doing that walk again, the one designed for his benefit. It was a hell of a walk, and her dress clung to her in just the right places for maximum effect. He was breathless, elated. Deacon realized the last time he’d had that feeling he was experiencing. It was the night he’d lost his virginity. The girl had been rather forward, deciding what she wanted, making it clear it was him. That tightness in his chest, the difficulty breathing, the racing pulse—dammit! He hadn’t had any intention of becoming romantically involved anytime soon, and now here was this gorgeous, sexy, obstreperous woman making his blood heat up just by walking away from him.

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