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First Meeting from How Far is Heaven ~ A Love in the City Romance by Dellani Oakes

First Meeting image smallestHal Garrow is alone in a big city, squeaking by financially, as he finishes his degree in music. He’s feeling down after an audition didn’t go well. Drawn to a small lake on campus, he pulls out his guitar and starts to sing.

He started strumming a happy tune he’d been working on. He didn’t feel happy and the tune started to take on the characteristics of a dirge, so he stopped playing, thought a moment and began to play a gospel song he’d learned years ago.

“Battered and torn, still I can see the light. Tattered and worn, but I must kneel to fight.”*

He sang softly as he formed the chords and plucked the strings. Transported away on the wings of the song, he didn’t notice that someone else had entered the park and was cautiously crossing the bridge.

Her voice joined his on the chorus, harmony soaring to the sky. She had a magnificent voice; high, sweet and clear as crystal. Hal was so surprised by her sudden appearance, he quit playing and stared. Sitting beside him, she smiled at him encouragingly.

“Go on then,” she motioned for him to continue. She had a high speaking voice and a slight Irish accent. “It’s my favorite part, the chorus.”

She flashed him a five star smile, her dark eyes dancing above full red lips. Her hair was like spun molasses, rich golden brown curls. Hal hesitated a moment longer, then started playing again. She sang loudly, pouring her heart into the words, smiling encouragement for him to join her in harmony. He faltered a moment on the notes, then sang just as loudly as she, his sweet tenor joining hers as they swooped through the melody.

When the song was over, he placed his hand gently over the strings to stop their vibration and looked at her again. He saw himself reflected in her eyes; long, straight black hair, high cheekbones and a nose that was almost too big for his face. His eyes were like two bright pieces of jet, piercing in their intensity.

The young woman held out a well manicured hand, long mauve nails glittering in the afternoon sunlight. “Hi, Maeve Tierney.”

“Hal Garrow,” he smiled shyly. “Have we met before, Miss Tierney?”

“Maeve. Not exactly, but we have a couple classes together. I mostly sit right up front, or I find myself day-dreaming. I have the attention span of a goldfish.” Her smile radiated harmony.

“I mostly like the back,” he shrugged. “Less likely to be called on in the back.” He forced himself to look away from her, gazing into the lake.

“If you don’t want to call attention to yourself,” she said, “why sit in the middle of the pond and play?”

“It’s the only place I feel safe,” he told her honestly. “I’m a country boy. This is as close as I can get on short notice.”

“I’m a city girl,” she told him. “I thrive on traffic snarls, exhaust fumes and ill tempered taxi drivers. The pond has its appeal though. Sometimes, even I want to be alone.”

“Is that why you came by today?” He made to rise, but Maeve’s hand on his arm stopped him.

“No, I came because I knew I’d find you here.”

“Right….” his tone was sarcastic.

“Don’t believe me, it makes no difference to me if you do or not. But I found you, didn’t I?”

“Specifically, by name?”

She shook her head. “Just a feeling I was going to meet someone unusual, special in some way. I never know who I’ll be meeting through such serendipitous circumstances. But I always find that I enjoy the encounter, regardless of how long it lasts. Don’t you ever have that?”

“Not really. Well,” he hesitated. “Maybe once in awhile. I guess I never really thought about it the same way, is all.”

“Serendipity. It’s how my parents met. Silly little thing when you think about it. It was her first day waiting tables at a pub in Chelsea. She spilt something on him and the rest is history.”

Interested despite himself, Hal smiled. “What did she spill on him?”

“Oh, it was awful,” Maeve said with dread. “He had ordered tomato soup and a roast beef sandwich with a dill pickle. Mum wasn’t too good at balancing a tray. She caught her foot on a board and toppled. The soup went over his head and the pickle landed in his lap. The sandwich, by some miracle, stayed on the plate. Mum dove for the pickle, grabbing for it as it fell. Nearly grabbed his privates instead. Of course, he was furious, but laughing so hard he couldn’t yell at her. She finally realized what she was doing, grubbing around at his britches. Red faced, she ran to the kitchen, crying and kicking up a fuss. As he was leaving, he handed her a sizable tip and said, Miss, you can grab for my pickle anytime. She quit that very day.”

“But they still ended up together?”

“Yes. It was meant to be. They met some days later at a party. Once she got over the horrible embarrassment, she decided she quite liked him.”

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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I Shall Not Walk Alone by Ben Harper

First Meeting from Hooked on Love ~ A Love Under the Sun Romance by Dellani Oakes

First Meeting image smallestPenny Hart owns and operates a fast growing coffee and music store called Caffeinated Discs. Several nights a week, a small authors group meets there for coffee, chat and writing. She’s known them all for years, but tonight, there’s a new person among them.

Loud laughter burst out in the alcove where the writers group sat. They’re a rowdy bunch. I decided to join them after I got the coffee ready.

As I started the pot, the CD changed and the louder, more strident sounds of Tomoyasu Hotei started playing. I love his song, Battle Without Honor or Humanity, which happened to be playing. I cranked it up without really thinking about it. It drowned out the laughter and other sounds in the shop. When I turned around I was surprised to see a tall, lean muscled, broad shouldered guy standing behind me on the other side of the counter. He smiled as I jumped back a little.

“Well now,” he grinned, his Southern accent strong. “I haven’t had that effect on a lady for some time. I apologize if I scared you.”

“No, I just didn’t hear you come up, over the music.”

“Good tune. Hotei has a unique style, doesn’t he?”

I giggled a little nervously. Tall, gorgeous, muscular men tend to make me feel a little self-conscious.

“Yeah, I like him a lot. Most people don’t even know who he is. I get a lot of blank stares when I mention him.”

“I’ve gotten used to the blank stares. I like all kinds of weird music.” He sat on one of the bar stools.

His hair was a sandy brown, bleached by the sun. His skin was medium tan, but looked slightly sunburned. He had pale green eyes, like jade, with a smoky gray around the outer edge. I just about fell over the counter as I stared into them. Rimmed with dark eyelashes, I thought they were the most amazing eyes I’d ever seen. He had a strong jaw, slight cleft in his chin and a great smile. He was smiling at me now, in fact he was laughing.

“Have I got something caught in my teeth?” He rubbed his front teeth with his index finger.

“No. No, I’m sorry.” I giggled, blushing like crazy. “It’s just…. No.”

I shook my head so violently that I shook some of my hair loose. I have medium length, dark chestnut brown hair that’s kind of wild and flyaway. Even in clips, with lots of mousse, it gets away from me. My eyes are practically the same color as my hair. When I get a tan, I’m sort of monochromatic.

“My name’s Kael,” he put out his hand. His fingers were long, strong and calloused.

“Penny,” I smiled a little.

I hate being so shy! I hardly can talk to a handsome man. I just about freeze up when a guy looks at me. Here was this gorgeous hunk talking to me, holding out his hand to be shaken, and I stood there like a fool. Forcing myself to do the right thing, I held out my hand. He took my fingers gallantly in his and kissed them gently. It was the sexiest kiss I’ve ever had and it wasn’t even on my lips.

His green eyes twinkled, squinting slightly as he smiled. “Pleased to meet you, Penny. Is that short for Penelope?”

“Unfortunately. I hate it.”

I wrinkled my nose and used the excuse of the coffee finishing to try and extract myself from him. He held my fingers close to his lips, not quite kissing them again.

“I don’t think it’s such a bad name. It could be Hildaguard, or Gertrude or Brunnhilde. Penelope is pretty.” He let go of my hand with an easing of his grasp.

“Thank you. Boris tells me you’re a Marine?”

“Just got out a few weeks ago.”

“Were you in the war?” I turned around with the empty coffee carafe in my hand. “Several of my friends have been over there.”

“I was in Iraq.”

“Was it awful?”

His eyes got very sad and he turned his face away from me, gazing out the dark windows to the lonely strand of beach.

“It was—beyond awful,” he murmured.

When he turned, I saw a scar on the side of his face. It ran from the corner of his left eye to the area under his left ear. It was very thin and light, but looked relatively new.

My hand reached out without my thinking about it. I touched the scar, making him flinch. He didn’t quite jump away from my hand, but he looked uncomfortable for a moment.

“What happened?”

He moved away from my touch ever so slightly, but my fingers followed him of their own volition. I couldn’t let it go for some reason. I could tell it was making him uncomfortable, but I had to know.

“My buddy and I got too close to a car that blew up.”

“Part of the car did that?”

He shook his head, moving away a little more. “No,” he said so soft I could hardly hear him. “Part of my buddy.”

“Oh, God!” My fingers jerked away like I’d been shocked. “I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have asked.”

“It’s okay.” He tried to smile, but I could see the pain in his eyes. “Really. A few decades of therapy, I’ll be over it.”

His smile and laugh were forced and I felt horrid making him to talk about something so obviously painful. I took his hand, making him look at me.

“I’m so sorry. I know it must have been the worst thing ever. I can’t even imagine what it’s like there. No one who hasn’t been can possibly understand. But if you ever want to talk about it, I’m a good listener.”

“Like a bartender, huh? You listen to customers spill their guts and open their hearts?”

I shrugged, shaking my head. “No. Mostly I make coffee and put music on the CD player. But sometimes you need someone to talk to. Even if I can’t relate to you’ve been through, I can listen.”

“Thanks,” he said quietly. “I might take you up on that sometime.”

© 2020 Dellani Oakes

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https://www.amazon.com/Dellani-Oakes/e/B007ZQCW3A/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

First Meeting from He Thought He Saw ~ Miracle, Mississippi Series Book 1 by Dellani Oakes

He Thought He Saw redThis story isn’t exactly a romance, though there is a relationship between the two main characters. I would call this story a New Adult book, though it is also a fantasy set in modern times. Brian Casey has been having a rough few months. Strange things started happening around his 15th birthday in May, and keep getting worse. Now, it’s November, and the strange things get even more strange.

To make life a little more interesting, he meets someone at his bus stop. However, he isn’t quite sure who the person is.

A baggy, navy blue, hoodie concealed a short, slight frame. Straight, brown hair stuck out from under a multicolored beanie, concealing most of the face. Jeans and boots completed the anonymous outfit.

“Trouble?” Brian asked quietly.

The person gasped, looking up at him. “I think I managed to delete all my music,” the gruff voice complained. “Either that, or something else is wrong with the damn thing. It won’t work.”

“Man, that sucks. Mind if I sit?”

“Help yourself. Not my bench.”

“I’m Brian Casey.”

“Jordan Barrett.” The name and voice did nothing to clarify the gender issue.

“You must be new around here. I’ve never seen you before.”

“My folks wanted a quieter, simpler life. So, instead of living in the suburbs, they picked his tiny town in BFE. I can’t even get cell service unless I’m standing in the center of town. So much for keeping up with my friends back home.”

“Guess you’ll have to make some new ones,” Brian said quietly. He wasn’t sure what to think of the mouthy, disgruntled teen. He dearly wished that either the name or the clothing was different so he’d have a clue if he was speaking to a boy or girl. He still couldn’t tell, and he didn’t think it was polite to ask.

“Yeah. Not like I had so many, ya know? Not one to be popular.”

“Me either. Gotta work too hard to be popular. Besides, I prefer being anonymous.”

“Whatever works, right? Of course, my parents are upset that I’m a social pariah. They were head cheerleader and captain of the football team. They went Greek in college and belong to the alumni association of their high school and college. Mom was also Miss Teen Spirit when she was in high school. I told her I wasn’t interested in being named after a deodorant—or a song. She so didn’t get it.”

Brian chuckled, nodding. “I’m lucky. My mom couldn’t care less if I’m popular. She wants good grades. Can do that standing on my head.”

“You any good at math?”

“Yeah, pretty good. Why?”

“Because I suck ten kinds of suckage at math. I need someone to help me. Dad said he would, but he’s about as patient as a wet cat. Mom’s blonde.” Jordan said that as if it meant something special.

Brian, who was also blond, looked confused.

“Dumb blonde?” Jordan snickered. “I guess it’s contagious.”

“I may be blond, but at least I’m good at math.” He tried not to sound offended, but didn’t conceal it well.

“Oh, touchy! If you can help my math grade, I forgive you for being blond and promote you to honorary brunette.”

Brian chuckled. “Mighty kind of you.”

The bus arrived a few minutes later. Brian let Jordan walk on ahead of him. He moved down the aisle and took his usual seat. Since no one else sat with him, Jordan joined him. They talked a little bit on the way to school, but the engine noise made conversation difficult, especially once the bus filled up.

“What’s your first class?” Brian asked Jordan as they got off the bus.

“Chemistry. You?”

“The same. Mr. Sullivan?”

“Yeah. I didn’t see you yesterday.”

“I was sick. Want to walk together? We social pariahs should always travel in pairs.”

Jordan laughed. “Yeah. Thank you. Hey, can you open these lockers? I couldn’t get mine and had to carry all my books home. My shoulders are killing me.”

“Sure. There’s a trick to it. I’ll show you.”

He walked with Jordan to a nearby locker. Brian opened it with ease.

“How did you do that? I tried forever!”

“Gotta spin it twice all the way around to the right before doing the numbers. Also, you have to do the locker dance.”

“Locker dance?” A raised eyebrow showed Jordan’s skepticism.

“Yeah. You don’t know the locker dance?” Brian winked and gave a little shake of his hips as he shuffled in a circle. He even gave it the Saturday Night Fever point.

Jordan laughed loudly, head tossed back. “Oh, that’s a good one. I have to remember that. Help me with these books, would you? I hurt my wrist. Had a fall. It’s all bruised up.”

“No problem.” He took the books and laid them neatly in the locker.

“I hate to ask, but I need help with my jacket too.”

“Sure thing.”

He held the end of one sleeve, pulling it over a wrist brace. He stood close to Jordan, helping to detach the Velcro straps that kept catching on the jacket sleeve. With a mighty tug, he lost his balance, toppling over and knocking Jordan back a step. It was then, face to face and mere inches separating them, that he realized Jordan was a girl.

© 2020 Dellani Oakes

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First Meeting from He Needed Killin’ ~ A Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes

First Meeting image smallestI love First Meetings. Introducing us to the main characters, they set the stage for what’s to come. Dill Hamilton has an abusive boss, RJ Caldwell. Having just gotten away from him, he’s taken a job at a local steakhouse. Unfortunately, RJ finds out and confronts him, violently. The sheriff’s department arrives, and Dill meets Deputy Haylee Cassidy.

Sirens screamed to halt outside. RJ faltered, sinking to his knees with his hands behind his head. Bark put the rifle down and they waited while Levy and Haylee raced in. Caldwell was cuffed, his rights read, in less than five minutes. While the sheriff hauled him in, Haylee sat down to take statements. She started by eliminating those who hadn’t seen anything, or at least said they hadn’t. Mostly, she concentrated on Carla, Joe, Bark and Dill. She took the others first, then sat down with Dill. The bar cleared early as the deputy talked to and released the patrons. No one felt much like drinking when a cop was there.

“So, RJ found you, huh?”

“Yeah. Not sure how that happened.”

“I do. Leanne, our dispatcher, told him when he called in. We asked her not to, but she’s honest to a fault, and it felt like a lie. In her defense, she thought he was genuinely worried about you. He can be damn convincing when he wants.”

“Yeah. He’s a snake.”

“Tell me what happened.”

“I worked partly in the office, then Bark needed me on the bar. I have experience, so I agreed. Good night, no serious issues. It felt great to be back around people, you know? It’s real isolated out there with only RJ for company. Once in awhile, he’d have a visitor, but I wasn’t allowed to talk to them. I saw Carla when she came up. Sometimes, on my day off, I saw some folks.” He shrugged, shaking his head.

“How did you live like that?”

Dill chuckled, his gray-green eyes focusing on hers as he laid his arms on the table, hands folded. “Honestly? I have no idea. I had no other choice. Or I thought I didn’t.”

“What made you leave?”

Glancing away, Dill swallowed. He looked so young, vulnerable, Haylee wanted to hug him.

“He slapped me. All the time. What kind of a man slaps people?” His eyes darted back to hers. “And what kind of a man stands there and takes it? I stayed because I needed the money. Then it got to the point where the money wasn’t enough to make up for the humiliation. I’d rather work in a strip club with women grabbing my ass, than spend another second with that man. I was on my way back to the Purple Pony when I stopped here for dinner. Bark offered me a job, so I stayed.”

Haylee nodded, scribbling in her notebook. She couldn’t look at him. Tears welled in her eyes and she bit her lip so she wouldn’t cry. Mouth in a tight line, she swallowed and regrouped before looking up again.

While she wrote, Dill watched her. She was a pretty woman, firm jaw, high cheekbones, full lips. Her pale blonde hair was natural. Her body sported a light tan which was mostly tightly grouped freckles. She looked up at him again and he noticed that her eyes were a startling, penetrating turquoise, like a mountain lake. Swallowing quickly, he tried to pretend he hadn’t been staring.

“So, RJ found out from Leanne that you were here. Had he been drinking when he came in?”

“I’m not sure. I wasn’t that close. He was furious and started yelling about getting me back and exacting revenge. He gets very dramatic when he’s mad, starts to talk like a movie script. He made some threats and that’s when Joe ran for Bark. Bark came out with his rifle and told him to leave, but he refused. Shortly after that, you arrived.”

“Where are you staying?”

“Here. Bark’s got a couple rooms. It’s part of my wages.”

She nodded, scribbling notes. “Phone number?”

He rattled it off. “I took the battery out, though.”

“Why’s that?”

“RJ. I didn’t want him to track me. He’s got a program on his computer. Guess I can put it back in. Not like he doesn’t know where I am.”

“Good point. Besides, your mom might call, or something.”

“No, she won’t. She and my dad are dead.”

“Oh, my God, I’m so sorry!”

He wiggled his fingers to indicate that it wasn’t a problem. “They’ve been gone almost twenty years. I don’t remember them.”

“Do you have any pictures?”

“Used to. You lose things in foster care.”

Haylee couldn’t stop herself. She took his hand, squeezing his fingers. “I’m so sorry.”

Dill looked surprised and his gaze dropped to their clasped hands. Her hand was pale against his, but strong and her broad palms were calloused.

“People die,” he said calmly. “But thank you.” Raising her hand to his lips, he kissed it.

© 2020 Dellani Oakes

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First Meeting from Granny Strikes Again by Dellani Oakes

First Meeting image smallestI love first meetings. They set the often set the stage for how the rest of the relationship will develop. Charlene Draper owns a small bookstore on Main Street. When she finds out that there’s going to be a sidewalk festival, she decides to hire a musician to draw traffic to her store. Communicating by e-mail, they hit it off. He invites her to come hear him play. This will be the first time they meet in person, and Charlie is nervous.

Suddenly taken by a fit of nerves, I sat there trying to breathe. I almost drove away, but knew I wouldn’t be able to face him later, if I chickened out now. Better to get the meeting over with. If it was going to be a complete failure, I’d rather not delay it and build up my hopes. I walked into the restaurant and waited to be seated. The teenage girl acting as hostess came over with a smile.

“Hi, I’m Charlene Draper.”

“You’re here for Dane. He told me you’d be coming. Follow me.”

She led me to a table near the small, improvised stage where several guitars were on stands. His amplifiers and a microphone took up most of the rest of the space. I waited a few minutes, sipping the tea I’d ordered, when I felt someone behind me. I turned around, seeing him for the first time.

Even though the pictures weren’t that clear, I recognized his hair. It was a little longer than in his photo, but those dark waves were unmistakable. He rushed forward, taking my hand.

“Hi, I’m Dane. You’re Charlene?”

“Charlie,” I said automatically. “Please, sit down.”

I had to remind him, he was just standing there holding my hand, staring at me. It made me kind of nervous.

His eyes were a deep, dark green, like the water at the springs near my home. I couldn’t take my eyes off his. He was so handsome, it made it hard to breathe for a second. And, praise be, he was taller than me!

“Wow,” he gasped as he sat down. “I had no idea.”

I didn’t follow him. “No idea?”

“That you were so incredibly….” His voice drifted off and his eyes sparkled.

“Tall?” I guessed. “Young? Blonde? Impertinent?”

He laughed, tossing his hair out of his eyes. “No, so beautiful. You don’t have a picture of yourself up at the site, just the store.”

I blushed as bright pink as the flowers on my dress. I hardly knew how to answer him. I mumbled a thank you.

“I’ve embarrassed you. I’m sorry.”

“No, I’m flattered. It’s just no man ever told me that before.”

“Are they blind?”

“Dumb rednecks.”

“You just described most of my family.” He shook his head in wonder. “They must be blind.”

“I think they’re just used to me.”

“I suppose.” He stared at me a minute. “I get off at ten. Do you have time to go out after?”

He’d caught me completely by surprise. I hardly knew what to say.

“I’ll understand if you can’t….”

“I’d like to. Very much.”

“Sweet! You like dancing?”

“I’m not a very good dancer,” I admitted shyly. “But I love music. Next to books, it’s what I love the most.”

“I’m the same way. To me, music and books go together like strawberries and whipped cream.”

A waitress came up at that point. I hadn’t even looked at the menu. Dane solved my problem by ordering for me.

“Bring us two of my usual, Rita. This is my friend, Charlie. Rita and Megan are sisters. Their dad owns the place.”

“Nice to meet you, Rita.”

I smiled, shaking her hand. She didn’t look very happy to see me, but I smiled again anyway. When she left, I looked at Dane for an explanation.

“She’d like me to ask her out. If she was over eighteen, I might think about it.”

“Or she wasn’t the boss’ daughter.”

“That too. She’s a little pissed at me at the moment.”

It was Megan who brought our meals with a smile. “Anything else you need?”

“We’re good, thanks, Meg. Anything that Charlie wants, it’s on my tab.”

“No problem. You’re on in thirty.”

“Thanks, Meg.”

We had a nice meal together, laughing a lot as we talked. Ten minutes before he had to go on, Dane kissed my hand, gazing into my eyes.

©2020 Dellani Oakes

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

First Meeting image smallestI am a big fan of first meetings. These often set the tone for the relationship, and tell us a lot about how the couple will interact with one another later in the story. The meeting between Cynthia Marshall and Ian Yarrow doesn’t go well. Cynthia’s new to the society beat, covering for a colleague who’s out on medical leave. She’s been given the assignment of interviewing reclusive billionaire, Ian Yarrow.

The door slammed open and a very angry man, dressed in nothing but a glower and a pair of black silk boxers, frowned up at her from a streamlined wheelchair. Taken aback, Cynthia retreated and nearly fell off the porch. He grabbed her with a powerful hand, tugging her back on the porch.

“What?” he demanded.

“I-I’m Cyn-thia M-Marshall from the C-Clarion P-Post,” she grimaced at her own verbal errors. She’d hammered that stutter into oblivion years ago, but it came back in moments of high stress. Like now, when a gorgeous hunk of muscular, bronzed, hard bodied male in boxers yanked her nearly into his lap.

“The reporter, huh? Might have known you’d be early.”

“N-Not early, Mr. Yarrow. Actually, I’m—I’m a tad late. I had trouble finding the house. My GPS sent me in the opposite direction.”

He glared up at her, mouth a tight line, firm, well chiseled jaw working against his irritation.

“It’s cold out here, Miss Marshall, and I’m very nearly naked.”

He rolled back inside, holding the door partially closed so she had to squeeze past it. Full chested, she had to wriggle around the doorframe without catching her breasts or snagging Fiona’s sweater. He slammed the door behind her, the frown still present as he rolled toward an elevator at the end of the vaulted foyer.

Cynthia followed, unsure of where she was going or what she was supposed to be doing. The glower deepened as she stepped onto the lift with him, but he said nothing. The door of the cage slid shut behind her, tapping her on the rear.

“Why’s the paper so hot to do an article on me?”

His question, like everything else about him, caught her by surprise.

“I-I’m not certain, Mr. Yarrow. I was t-told to come here and interview you.”

“You gonna stutter like that the entire time?”

“S-Sorry. It comes on when I’m n-nervous.”

He leaned back, folding his hands in his lap. She caught the glimmer of a platinum ring on his pinky and another, more ornate one, on his thumb. There was no wedding band, though both rings were on his left hand. Since his hands lay just below the line of his boxers, she caught a good glimpse of the superb musculature of his chest and abs. A dusting of dusky, soft hair emphasized the well chiseled ridges.

A knowing smile twitched his full lips, his dark gray eyes taking in details of her physique. She was about 5’6″, full breasted, slender hipped and well toned. She worked hard at maintaining her figure and every inch of her bust line was real. Dressed in sleek black leggings and dark red turtle neck sweater with a black cashmere wrap, Stuart Weitzman boots and chunky jewelry of her own design, she thought she looked pretty good. Apparently Mr. Yarrow agreed with her. The smile grew—as did something a tad lower down—blatantly obvious given his lack of clothing.

Cynthia blushed, turning away. Yarrow laughed rather loudly. It was frightening in the confined space and Cynthia suddenly wished she’d brought the photographer with her after all. Since she was slated to have several sessions with Ian Yarrow, she’d opted to doing the first interview on her own to get a feel for him. She wasn’t sure she liked what she felt.

He rolled down the hallway toward an open bedroom door. She could see the unmade bed from the stairs only a few feet away. She hadn’t woken him—oh no, he’d had company. Thus the irritation and anger. Concealing a smile, she followed him.

“Gonna come in while I dress?”

“Oh, sorry. Of course not.”

“I mean, I don’t care. But unless you want to see more of me than is generally considered polite, you might want to wait there.”

“I apologize, Mr. Yarrow.” She stepped back from the door.

The tight lips returned. “Just Yarrow is fine. I don’t use my first name much, except with the women I take to bed. Having them scream Yarrow when they cum hasn’t got the same impact as Oh, Ian! You can quote that.” He winked up at her and rolled into the room, shutting the door in her face.

“Don’t we think a lot of ourselves?” she said more loudly than she’d meant to.

© 2020 Dellani Oakes

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First Meeting from Blacksmith’s Heart ~ A Love Under the Sun Romance by Dellani Oakes

First Meeting image smallestI am a big fan of first meetings. These often set the tone for the relationship, and tell us a lot about how the couple will interact with one another later in the story. Hana Sutherland wasn’t expecting to find love when she accompanied Great-Aunt Enid to the Lazy J Dude Ranch, but she hadn’t counted on meeting Jasper, either. With her new friend, Marnie, she is sitting on the rails of the corral as some of the young men put on an improvised rodeo.

Jasper rode a different horse from the others. It was black with a white blaze on the forehead. It bucked like a demon, spinning to the right as it jumped into the air. Howling like a banshee, Jasper hung on for eight and a half seconds before falling off.

The horse bucked a few seconds longer, then two of the young men grabbed him and calmed him down. Whickering and tossing his mane, he trotted from the corral.

Jasper dusted himself off, but instead of walking back to join the others, he came over to where Marnie and Hana were sitting. Grinning happily, he stopped and looked up at them. His eyes were an astonishing dark green, almost the color of his shirt. Hana’s heart fluttered again and she felt a blush rise up her throat as Jasper casually looked her over, eyes lingering on hers. An emerald sparkle lurked at the depths.

“Who’s your little friend, Mar?” He asked. His voice was a sweet, deep tenor that caressed Hana’s ears like luscious, warm honey.

“This is Hana, she’s new today. She came with her aunt.”

“Oh, Mrs. Parker’s great-niece, right?”

“That’s right. You know Auntie?”

Jasper chuckled, rubbing the back of his neck as if remembering a rather unpleasant experience. “Well, she’s been coming here since before I was born. Yeah, I know her. I know what it feels like to get rapped upside the head by her too.” He chuckled softly.

“Aunt Enid knows how to cuff a kid, that’s for sure!” Hana rubbed her own neck with the memory. “She grew up in the spare the rod and spoil the child era.”

Jasper tossed his dark hair out of his eyes, laughing happily. He had white, even teeth and full lips. Hana had to stop herself from staring until she realized he probably was used to being closely inspected by women. He carried himself with confidence and an air of nonchalance as if he hadn’t a care in the world.

“You two eating at the big house tonight?”

It was phrased offhandedly, but Hana suspected there was more to the question than he wanted to let on. Maybe he had a thing for Marnie? In which case, it sucked to be Hana, because of the available men, he was the one she was most attracted to.

Marnie looked at Hana. “So, you want to?”

“I’ll have to see what Auntie wants to do first, but I’d like to. Do I have to dress up?”

“Casual is great,” Marnie told her. “Some of the guests go all out with the cowboy theme. One guy dresses as Roy Rogers and his wife does the whole Dale Evans thing. It’s cute when they get up and sing their old songs with the karaoke. But you don’t have to do that much. You can show me what you’ve got, we’ll get you set.”

“Cool, thanks!” Hana turned to Jasper. “If my aunt hasn’t got other plans, I’ll be there.”

“Super!” He grinned happily, his green eyes sparkling. “I hope to see you there then. Seven o’clock,” He added as an afterthought. He swaggered off, dusting the seat of his pants with the brim of his hat.

“Oh, my God!” Hana couldn’t control herself another second. “Is he gorgeous or what?” She whispered excitedly to Marnie, hoping Jasper wouldn’t hear her.

“He’s a sweetheart too,” Marnie told her. “If I weren’t so wild about Jeff, I’d think about taking him for a spin. But I saw Jeff first and the brat stole my heart completely! I’m probably just attracted to him because he’s the only man who ever turned me down. Who knows?” She threw up her hands, rolling her eyes heavenward.

“Are those eyes for real? I mean he doesn’t wear colored contacts or something?”

“No! Totally, all Jasper! Come one, let’s go talk to your aunt and find something for you to wear.”

© 2020 Dellani Oakes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I didn’t know.”

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

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

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

“Umm….”

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

“Did you pay him anything in advance?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Flavor?”

“Lifesaver.”

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

“I dunno, what’s your favorite?”

“I was always partial to butterscotch.”

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

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

“What makes you say that?”

“The silly banter and the wink.”

“Banter? Where’d you hear that?”

“On television. Were you?”

“Was I what?”

“Flirting?”

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

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

“Dear God! What show was this?”

“Something on human behavior.”

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

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

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

“Can I ask her about flirting?”

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

“You didn’t hit her.”

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

“Okay.” That seemed to satisfy his nephew.

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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

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

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

Excuse me?”

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

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

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

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

Lovely to meet you, Miss Hudson.”

You called about a table?”

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

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

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

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

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

Sure. You can’t break it.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You were drunk?”

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

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

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

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

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

Wasn’t that a saloon, or something?”

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

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

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

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

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

Are you done?”

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

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

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

Oh, my god, is that—pot?”

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

I love this! Show me the oak?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which do you think?”

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

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

That’s so thoughtful!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No kidding! Where?”

I’ve got a guy,” he chuckled.

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Pleased to finally meet you.”

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

“Would it have mattered?” Karen asked archly.

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

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

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

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

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

“Celebrating early?”

“Mourning a missed opportunity.”

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

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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