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First Meeting from Ben Drexel ~ A Futuristic Romance by Dellani Oakes

HeadingThis is from a prequel to my Lone Wolf sci-fi series. It hasn’t got a proper name yet, so it’s just called Ben Drexel after one of my favorite characters from the series. It records Ben’s early life in the Galactic Marines. This first meeting is a little unique, because not only does Ben meet someone, so does his best friend, Ray.

Ahead of them in line were two women that Ben and Ray had their eyes on. Between themselves, the men called the women Ruby and Ebony. They sauntered up behind them, doing their best to appear casual, although secretly hoping that the women would notice.

Ruby looked behind her when Ray accidentally on purpose, brushed against her with his tray. Raising an eyebrow, she sucked in her cheeks, giving him a long, appraising look. He grinned, touching his brow.

“Evening, ladies. What’s on the menu tonight?”

Ruby pointed at the menu. Ray’s face fell. This was the third time in as many days that they’d had Swiss Steak and mashed potatoes. Ray wasn’t picky when it came to food, but he did like some variety.

“Guess they got a special deal or something,” he grumbled.

“Better than the food at our last posting,” Ben commented as his tray was loaded with food.

“True. That shit sucked balls,” Ray said louder than he intended.

Ruby glanced at him over her shoulder. Ebony giggled.

“Could ya not?” Ben said, ears reddening. He was much more careful with his language around women than Ray ever was.

“Not what? Complain? Yeah, that’ll happen.”

“I think it’s more the way you’re saying it than what you’re doing,” Ruby said with a sniff. “There are ladies present.”

“So? Like you haven’t heard bad language. You are Marines, aren’t you? Hell, baby, if you ain’t heard it by now, are you gonna get a surprise.”

“Could you shut up and move?” A corporal behind them said.

“Yeah, bite my ass, Prosser.”

“Yes, Gunnery Sergeant. Bare it and we’ll see who bites who.”

“Shut the fuck up, Prosser,” Ray said, irritated now.

Ruby and Ebony headed up the line. Ben followed and Ray purposely walked slowly as his tray was loaded with his selections. When they got to the end, he looked around for a place to sit. Ben had joined the two women, talking politely. There were no empty spots except for one seat at the same table. Ray ambled over casually, sitting without asking permission. The women eyed him incredulously but he stared at them, taking a bite of his food. Eating in silence, he listened to Ben and the women talk. They still hadn’t told him their names, but he didn’t care. He just wanted to eat and get back to his quarters before he embarrassed himself again.

“Una and I were planning to check out the laser show at the planetarium in town. Would you two like to join us?” Ruby said as she stood to dump her tray.

“That would be great,” Ben said, trying to hide his delight.

Ray was too surprised to speak until Ben nudged him. “Yeah, that’d be great. Thanks.”

“See, Benni, I told you he had better manners,” Ben said with a grin. “He is housebroken, but that’s about the best it gets.”

Benni’s eyes raked over Ray, examining every bulge and contour of his physique, finding it pleasing. She’d been interested for quite awhile, but wasn’t going to let on to him.

“I can live with that, Ben. So, Ray, where are you from?”

“Originally or lately?” He finally warmed up to the fact she was talking to him, instead of at him.

“Start with originally.”

“I was born on Io, but moved to Primos in the Delta Quadrant when I was a kid. Ben and I grew up together.”

“You’re from Primos?” Una asked Ben.

“Yeah. Been there?”

“Been there? I grew up there too!”

“No kidding? My family had a booth in the bazaar in Capitol City. They sold shnack-haueters.”

“No they didn’t!”

He chuckled, putting his arm around her shoulders. “Yeah, I’m pretty sure they did.”

“You’re that Drexel? Oh, my God! My father and grandfather taught me how to use a shnack-haueter before I could walk!”

“Really? We’ll have to get together and practice sometime.”

Benni looked between them, puzzled. “A what?”

Shnack-haueter or snake hammer,” Ray explained. “It’s a weapon that’s kind of a cross between a whip and a club. Very complex and can be real unwieldy. Brutal as hell if you do it right, though.”

“Do you know how to use one?”

“Not too bad….”

“Don’t let him fool you,” Ben said. “For a non-native, he’s damn near good as me.”

“You’re good with your haueter, are you?” Una raised an interested eyebrow.

Ben laughed at her double entendre, at least he hoped it was.

“Among the best,” he said proudly.

“We’ll see,” she replied, snuggling closer.

“Where are you from?” Ray asked Benni.

“I grew up on Old Earth in Death Valley.”

“No kidding? I always wondered why it was called that. It’s such a beautiful place.”

“It used to be a desert, several centuries ago. It wasn’t until all climate changes in the Twenty-Third Century that it got the proper rainfall to grow anything but cactus and lizards.”

“Learn something new,” Ray said with a grin.

© 2020 Dellani Oakes

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

First Meeting imageSome first meetings don’t occur in person. That’s the case for Elizabeth Stanton and Dylan Marshall. She’s applied for a job at a local senior citizen facility, which he runs. She had to miss her appointment earlier that day, due to weather and not knowing her way around, so Dylan decides to call her instead. She’s sitting in her new home, listening to the rain on the roof, wondering when the electricity is going to come back on, when the phone rings.

Elizabeth couldn’t help hoping her power would be sooner than two hours. She didn’t like being in the dark, especially in a house that didn’t yet feel like home. To occupy herself, she pulled out her computer, only to realize she couldn’t go on line, because, of course, the Wi-Fi was out. Rain hammered her roof, sounding like hail. She was tempted to look, but didn’t fancy going out in the dark just to check the weather. Her car was covered, the roof sturdy. She wasn’t worried—too much.

Her cellphone rang, startling her. It wasn’t a number she recognized, but since it was local, she answered anyway. “Hello?”

Elizabeth Slaton?”

Yes. Who’s this?”

Dylan Marshall. We spoke earlier about the job.”

Of course.” Her heart fluttered. Had he found someone else? Was he calling to cancel their appointment? She hoped not. She needed the job and he was the only one who had called her back.

Could you possibly come in earlier than one? I got handed a job I don’t really want and can’t say no to. I have to be at a Yacht Club cruise and schmooze luncheon. I don’t know when I’ll get back.”

Certainly. Until I have a job, my time is entirely open.”

Great! I look forward to it. Hey, did you get home okay?”

Yes, but my power is out. I’m sitting here in the dark and it’s a little creepy.”

Seriously? I love sitting in the dark. It relaxes me. Of course, Darla thinks I’m totally crazy. My dog, Darla. She’s a fawn Doberman.”

Your dog thinks you’re crazy?” she giggled.

Yeah, well, since I think that, I probably am, right? I don’t know, she has a very disapproving look on her face when I do it.”

Maybe she’s just trying to see.”

Dogs have good night vision—don’t they?”

Mine didn’t. Stone stupid and blind as sticks.”

You don’t mean blind as bats?”

No. Bats see just fine. But have you ever seen a stick that had good vision? I ask you.”

He paused. “I have not. Okay, I’ll give ya that.”

What time tomorrow?”

Nine thirty or ten. Which works better?”

Let’s make it ten. I’m not sure enough of your location. I don’t own a GPS. I never needed one until I moved here.”

Where are you located? I can give you great directions and can almost guarantee you won’t get lost.”

Almost? That sounds dubious, Mr. Marshall.”

Well, I can’t factor in your ability to follow directions, so I can’t say they are definitively, one hundred percent fool proof.”

Gotcha. I’m over on the beach. I can get mainland without difficulty.”

Okay, north or south end?”

South.”

Sweet. Okay. Once you cross the causeway, turn north on US-1.”

Hang on, let me get a pen.” She scrambled around finding paper and a pen. “Okay, north on US-1.”

Have you been to the city limits to the north?”

No.”

It’s not quite five miles. You’ll want to be in the left lane. Pass the airport, pass Tops and Bottoms.”

What’s up?”

Tops and Bottoms. It’s a strip club. You can’t miss it.”

I had no idea this town was so cosmopolitan.”

He chuckled. It was a very warm sound and made Elizabeth feel comfortable.

Two blocks past, turn left onto North Street. We’re on the left, but parking is on the right. Got that?”

Yes, I think so. We’ll see how well if I’m on time tomorrow.”

Take down my number in case you get lost.” He gave her his cell number. “Where you from, Miss Slaton?”

Denver, most recently. Ever been there?”

I spent the night at the airport once. We got snowed in on Halloween. Kind of a shock for a Southern boy like me to see snow in October. You went to college, I assume. Was that in Denver, too?”

That’s why I initially went there. I went to University of Denver. I graduated with my Bachelor’s with 3.9 and started my Master’s.”

What field?”

Business management.” She laughed a little, puzzled by the conversation. “I thought we were doing this tomorrow.”

Why wait? I still have to see you in person, but get the boring stuff out of the way before you get here. How many hours before you have your masters?”

Six.”

Why’d you leave, if you don’t mind me asking.”

Never date a cowboy.”

I don’t plan to. But why?”

I never met one who could spell or adhere to monogamy.”

Oooh, gotcha. So, you’re single?” He sounded way too happy to hear that.

I don’t date my boss, Mr. Marshall,” she replied in a bone chilling tone.

No worries. We just sometimes keep some odd hours. I don’t want a husband or boyfriend thinking I’m getting a lap dance from my secretary after hours.”

Tops and Bottoms is close, you can always go there.”

Exactly! That’s what makes this location ideal.”

She sincerely hoped he was kidding, and strongly suspected he was.

You’re actually more qualified for my job than I am. I’m not that close to my Masters. I’ve got the in-house experience. I’ve been doing this sort of work for seven years now. How fast do you type?”

I can do a hundred words a minute. I know Word….”

He made an impatient noise. “Do you have an above average IQ?”

I graduated with a 3.9,” she reminded him.

Can you put up with a man who’s slightly ADD and hops from subject to subject like a squirrel on crack?”

I’m not sure I’d describe it that way, but if you’re describing yourself, I’m keeping up with you.”

Can you multi-task?”

Depends on the tasks. I can’t type and stand on my head, but I can jog on a treadmill and read.”

Can you eat and talk at the same time?”

Not with food in my mouth. I mean, I am physically capable of doing that, but ew. Why? Is that part of the job description?”

No. I’m inviting you to dinner. It’s early yet, I’m hungry and a girl’s gotta eat.”

Mr. Marshall, I….”

Have no plausible excuse,” he concluded. “And please call me Dylan. You can meet me somewhere, if you like.”

I don’t know where anything is around here. And I’m a little nervous going out in this weather. I’m not used to it.”

Okay, tell you what. I’ll come pick you up and I’ll risk the shitty weather. Will you join me then? Please? I’d really like to get to know you.”

Elizabeth sighed. “All right. I don’t usually go out with men I don’t know, Mister… Dylan.”

I don’t usually ask out complete strangers, Elizabeth. But I hate eating alone. I have no food whatsoever at my place.”

How soon will you be here?”

Twenty minutes okay?”

Yes. That’s fine. Don’t expect perfection. It’s dark and I can’t see to put on makeup.”

I don’t care. We won’t do fancy. Do you eat meat?” He paused. Elizabeth thought she heard him curse softly. “I mean like steak,” he added sheepishly.

Elizabeth burst out laughing. “I wish I could see your face! I bet it was priceless. Yes. I like steak. And I occasionally eat meat.”

Dylan groaned softly.

I mean like chicken and pork, duh!”

I’ll see you in twenty minutes. I’ll be the guy who’s got his foot in his mouth.”

Neat trick. Isn’t it hard to drive like that?”

Amusing. Yeah….”

Bye, Dylan. See you soon!”

Bye.” He hung up.

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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First Meeting from Down the Drain ~ A Love Under the Sun Romance by Dellani Oakes

First Meeting imageAlthough technically Vanessa and Dario already know one another, this is the first time they’ve actually considered taking their friendship further. Since it’s a defining moment, it makes for a good first meeting.

Music played loudly and Vanessa heard voices in the back. Rather than walking through the house, she wandered around the well maintained lawn and found the party around the pool. Deb saw her coming and let her in the back screen door.

You look good enough to eat!” she teased.

I’ll take my compliments where I can get them. Thank you.”

Nessa!” Dario rushed over. He wasn’t a quiet or a subtle man, but he was good looking, above average height, muscular build with black hair and the darkest brown eyes she’d ever seen.

Taking the bowl from her, he offered her a beer, or other beverage, and bustled into the house to put the bowl in the fridge. He came back with two bottles of Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout, handing one to her with a flourish.

A lady as lovely as you, should have the best.”

Thank you.” She took the proffered bottle and sipped as he watched. “Oh, that’s good! Yum!”

Dario smirked, ducking his head slightly. “Glad you approve. I have a cousin who works at the brewery in California. He keeps me supplied.”

Can’t you buy this at the liquor store?” she smirked, raising an eyebrow as she sipped.

Yeah.” He stretched, extending his legs, exposing a tasty patch of sculpted abdomen. “But it sounds better to the ladies if I tell them how much trouble I went to, to get it.”

Vanessa laughed, tossing her head back. “Should you tell me that? Doesn’t it spoil the mystique?”

Maybe, but you aren’t the type of woman a man should lie to.”

That sobered her slightly. “Do I—come across…. How do I—? Do I seem—mean?” she stumbled and stuttered, trying not to seem needy or bitchy.

Dario laughed, shaking his head. “Vanessa, you are a whole lot of intimidating. But underneath beats the heart of a passionate woman—who can be scary as hell.”

That doesn’t make me feel better, Dario. Just saying.”

He scooted closer, lowering his voice. “But the scary isn’t the real Vanessa. There is another, very different woman under all that intimidation. And it takes a brave, confident man to find it.”

Are you saying you’re that man?” she raised an eyebrow.

I’m saying that I’d like to find out if I am. You willing to give me a shot?”

She gave him a once over, taking in his thick black hair, fathomless eyes, full lips and square jaw. Dropping her gaze, she examined his broad shoulders and firm chest, washboard abs, powerful thighs and tight ass. He waited patiently for her decision.

Yeah. I’m willing to give you a shot.”

Cool.”

Don’t think you’re getting lucky after this party.”

Hadn’t entered my mind,” he lied.

Sure, it hadn’t.” She nudged him, laughing.

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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

first meetingPaige Turner has a problem. Deciding she needs a private investigator, she walks into the office of the Bates Brothers, Norman and Master—kidding—Chay and Trey, who happen to be identical twins. They have an easy, fun dynamic, which immediately puts her at ease. But I bet you can’t guess which one she falls for.

She opened the stained glass door to the office with trepidation. Never having done this before, her hands shook. Identical platinum haired men greeted her with dazzling smiles. Paige halted as the effect of their stunning good looks left her breathless. One stepped forward, hand extended.

“Good morning and welcome to Bates Brothers Investigations. I’m Norman and he’s Master.”

“Dude, be serious,” the second twin said, hanging back a little.

“Seriously, he’s Norman and I’m Master. Our folks run a creepy hotel. Middle of nowhere, house on a cliff? No?”

“I’m Chay and he’s Trey,” the second one said, shaking her hand.

“But Dad totally wanted to name one of us Norman,” Trey contributed.

“It was all our mother could do to stop him,” Chay added with a smile.

“Did she stab him with a big, scary knife while he was in the shower?” their visitor asked.

“No, but she does love her rocking chair,” Trey replied with a grin.

“We named the dog Norman,” Chay said.

“So, neither of you is Master?” she asked slyly.

“Well….” Trey began.

Chay punched his brother. “No.”

“But we….”

“Don’t need to explain that one,” she interrupted.

“How can we help you?” Chay, the calmer of the two, asked.

“I need you to find someone for me.” She held out a photograph in shaking hands. “I think I’m being stalked. I got this picture on my phone.” She handed it to Trey, who was closest.

He examined it carefully before handing it to his twin.

“Has he spoken to you? Approached you in any way?” Chay asked.

“Not exactly. But I get these creepy calls sometimes. The number’s blocked, but there’s someone there, breathing….

“Then they hang up?” Trey concluded.

“Sometimes they whisper something. It sounds like a name. But it’s not something I ever heard before.”

“Not Rosebud?” Trey supplied.

The young woman cut her eyes at him. “Yeah, could be,” she replied sarcastically. “The closest I can make out, they say Katrinka. But I can’t be sure.”

“Why don’t we have a seat in my office,” Chay said. “And you can tell us all about it, Miss…?”

“Turner. Paige Turner. Yes, that’s my real name,” she directed at Trey before he could comment. “My father’s sense of the absurd. Mom couldn’t curtail him.”

“Do you have a sister named Leaf and a brother named Pancake?” Trey winked one brilliant blue eye.

“Funny, but no. I’m an only child. We named the dog Pancake.”

The men laughed in perfect unison, their booming voices filled the confined space. For the first time in weeks, Paige laughed too. Humor had been hard to find lately.

Chay ushered her into his office. Some would call it shabby chic, some less kind, just shabby. It was obvious they needed her case. Everything spoke to her of lack—from the battered wooden desk to the dented metal folding chairs. Despite the absence of glamour, it was neat and tidy. There were no files stacked on the desk, no half empty coffee cups. There were McDonald’s wrappers in the trash, but they were folded neatly and at the bottom of an otherwise empty basket.

“Sorry we aren’t fancier,” he said with a blush. “Please have a seat.” He indicated the one folding chair with a cushion.

Chay sat in a rickety wooden chair behind this desk. Trey perched on the corner.

“Tell Uncle Chay all about it,” Trey said with a frown of concern.

Paige grimaced at him. “And what does that make you?”

“I’ll be your daddy,” he replied with a nod and sly raise of an eyebrow.

Paige burst out laughing. “I hope that’s an act and you aren’t seriously using that to hit on me.”

Trey smirked. “Planting the seeds of discord. If you think of my bro as an uncle, then it’s sick if you hook up with him.”

“I see.”

“And if I were hitting on you,” he replied quietly. “You’d know it.”

Now that, Paige decided, was a come on. She smiled.

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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

First Meeting imageI’ve said it before, I’ll say it again—I love first meetings. Alyssa Kendrake is an out of work English teacher. When she gets an e-mail inviting her to audition for a TV show, she’s shocked and slightly intimidated. Since it’s a chance for work, she goes. The receptionist tells her to go upstairs and ask for directions to the audition room.

The desk on the fifth floor was unoccupied, so Alyssa waited until a tall swarthy skinned man walked by.

“Excuse me,” she said quietly.

He turned to her with a smile. “May I help you?”

“Yes, I’m looking for the casting director of Deserted. I was told to go to room fifty forty-two, but I don’t know where that is.”

“I’d be happy to show you, Miss Kendrake. I’m going there myself. My name is Barry.” He shook her hand politely.

“Thank you, Barry.”

She followed him down the hall, admiring the view. She didn’t usually allow herself to stare at a man, but he didn’t seem to notice. He was incredibly well built and his clothing set off his physique well. He wore dark gray dress pants, a dove gray shirt and no suit coat. His tie was a blend of gray and blue, like damp watercolors swirled together. He looked more like a professional athlete than someone who worked in an office.

Barry chuckled to himself. It wasn’t often a pretty woman came in the office and watched his ass as he walked down the hall. Strutting casually, he emphasized his swagger a little, to keep her looking. She thought he wasn’t aware of her gaze, but he was. He didn’t mind the lingering caress of her eyes. As a matter of fact, it was not only flattering, but a distinct thrill.

Alyssa watched the muscular man walk, thinking how long it had been since she’d had one of her own to admire up close. Blinking rapidly, she nearly ran into him when he stopped in front of room 5042. He held the door partially open, standing not quite far enough away for her to walk easily through. He leaned casually against it, one arm raised well above her head. Smiling down at her, he invited her into the room with a smile and a hand at the small of her back.

Alyssa had to turn slightly to face him, nearly brushing up against him. With a shy smile, she eased by his arm. Eyes demurely downcast, she glanced up at him like Lauren Bacall. Barry felt his pulse quicken as he closed the door behind them.

“Everyone, this is Alyssa Kendrake. She’s here about Deserted. She’s our next appointment.”

“Welcome, Alyssa,” a smiling, dark haired woman greeted her. “Please have a seat. I’m Kimberly Crimson, casting director. You’ve met Barry Sebring. Next to me is Mickey Stafford and to the left of him is Grace Bing. Why don’t you begin by telling us a little about yourself.”

Alyssa took the indicated chair. It was softer than it looked and she sank more deeply than she anticipated, nearly losing her balance. Righting herself with difficulty, she sat on the edge so she wouldn’t have another mishap.

She looked quickly at the people in the room, sizing them up as best she could. Barry was tall, athletic, handsome. Kimberly wasn’t much over five feet, slightly rounded, with soft dark hair and eyes. Grace was somewhat older than the others. Graying hair was pulled back in a sleek ponytail. Her half moon glasses rested on her nose. Mickey, who couldn’t have been much older than her high school students, was probably an intern.

“I’m Alyssa Kendrake. I’m thirty-two and a school teacher, or at least I was until all the budget cuts. To be specific, I am an out of work, high school, English teacher. I’m not really sure why I’m here. I’m not an actress.”

“You filled out an application for a clerical position,” Kimberly answered. “There was a picture with your application. I was going through the files and liked your look. It was my decision to ask you in.”

“Oh, well that’s great! I’m desperate to find something. The wolf is scratching at the door as we speak.”

They smiled politely, shuffling papers in front of them. Barry stared openly, the others kept glancing at her, scribbling notes on their papers. No one said anything for quite awhile.

“What else can you tell us about yourself?” Barry asked suddenly. “Are you married? Seeing anyone?”

Alyssa got the impression that those were more than casual questions. She couldn’t see what they had to do with anything, but turned to Barry with a friendly smile.

“I’m single, not for lack of trying. Why? Is this job contingent upon my being single?”

“No, I was just curious. Purely from a business point of view, of course,” he added quickly, glancing at Kimberly.

Miss Crimson giggled, shaking her head as she took notes. “Do you have any special talents, Alyssa?” She asked.

“I’m an English teacher and aspiring writer. I’ve done some freelance work for two of the local newspapers. I love to cook, play racquetball and swim three miles a day. My first degree is in theater and dance, but my second is in English education. Brown is my natural hair color. I wear contact lenses. I’m five foot six, weigh one hundred and ten pounds and love to listen to music.”

“What kind of music do you like?” Barry leaned forward, an intensity in his body language that hadn’t been there before.

“Just about everything, but my favorite is heavy metal. Specifically Metallica, though I really like Incubus and Rammstein.”

“Cool,” he chuckled, nodding at Kimberly. “Thank you, Alyssa. Are you available tomorrow at one for a callback?”

“My schedule is completely empty, Barry. Yes.”

“Excellent. Put her down for tomorrow at one, Grace.”

“Already got it.”

“I’ll see you out,” Barry grinned, holding the door for Alyssa once more.

“Thank you,” Alyssa blushed as she slid past him.

“My pleasure,” he gazed down at her, letting the door swing shut. “You free for dinner?”

“Tonight?”

“Or tomorrow. But tonight would be better for me.”

“Oh? Do you have pressing matters tomorrow?”

“We make our final decisions tomorrow. I’ll be tied up. Are you free at six?”

“As a matter of fact, I am.”

“I’ve got your address on your resume. I’ll pick you up at six?”

“Will this help me get the job?”

He winked, flashing a saucy grin. “Maybe.”

He had expressive, dark, jade green eyes, Alyssa noticed in passing. Her violet blue eyes penetrated his, searching the depths for what made Barry tick. His smile changed slightly as he noticed the scrutiny. Again, he didn’t seem to mind, so she indulged herself.

“Then maybe six would be good,” she giggled, blushing again.

“See you at six.” He pushed the elevator button, holding the door for her when it opened.

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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

First Meeting imageSome first meetings go better than others. Cynthia Marshall is new to the society page beat at one of the local papers. She’s been ordered to go to interview Ian Yarrow at his home. She doesn’t know a lot about him, except that he’s very rich, and has, apparently, asked to be interviewed. Arriving a little late, she rings the doorbell at the door of his mansion. No one answers, so she tries again. Finally, someone arrives – it could have gone better.

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 door frame 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. Mr. 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.

The door slammed open a few minutes later. He was dressed in faded, loose fitting jeans and a dark red Under Armour shirt that fit him like a glove. It did absolutely nothing to conceal his physique and everything to enhance it. He was still barefoot. His toes were tan, more dark hairs scattered across them and the instep. Dammit, the man even had sexy feet!

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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First Meeting from Conduct Unbecoming ~ A Florida Families Romance by Dellani Oakes

conduct front coverJasper Waters wasn’t expecting to meet a woman like Nadeya Raymund. In fact, he can hardly believe she exists. A former soldier, like Teague, she’s currently wanted by the police, for a murder she didn’t commit. Jasper knows she didn’t do it, and hopes to prove to her that he believes her. Knowing she’s dangerous, and skittish, he’s careful when he goes to the campground where she’s staying in a small cabin. Chances are, she won’t be happy to see him.

As he approached the door, he prayed for inspiration. It was going to take some fast talking for Nadeya not to freak out and kill him. He raised his hand to knock. Rethinking his position, he moved so he wasn’t standing directly in front of the door, but slightly to the side so the thick, log wall protected him. He tapped lightly and waited for a response. The curtain over the tiny window moved aside imperceptibly. Only someone trained to be observant would have seen it.

Jasper faced the window and smiled. “I’m Jasper Waters,” he said quietly. “I’m a friend of Teague’s. You hid on my boat.”

The door opened a crack and one dark, wary eye peered at him. “I remember you. What?”

“May I come in? The skeeters are pretty nasty and they’re feasting on me.”

Nadeya took a step back, leaving barely enough room for Jasper to squeeze through. She shut the door with her foot and slammed him against the wall, one hand pulled up at an uncomfortable angle behind him. She did a thorough frisking of him, leaving no areas untouched, before letting him go. She stepped out of easy reach, eyeing him with a neutral expression.

“I just want to talk,” Jasper said, holding his hands slightly from his sides.

“You’re a cop. Why should I talk to you?”

“Because I don’t think you killed that man on the beach. We’re both friends of Teague’s, maybe we could build on that.”

“Teague has lots of friends. . . .”

“No, Teague knows every damn body, but there are only a few of us he calls friends. You’re one of them—He told me what happened to your fiancé.”

She tightened up. Jasper took a step back, raising his hands.

“Would he share that with just anyone?”

Nadeya’s lower lip trembled slightly and she blinked hard. Jasper caught the hint of a tear in her eyes.

“He wouldn’t unless he knew I would help. You think I drop what I’m doing and run everyone out to a crime scene just cause I’m nice? Teague and I trust each other and I’d like to extend that courtesy to you, if you’ll let me.”

She stared at him several minutes, sizing him up. She gestured to one of the two chairs near the window. “Want some water or instant coffee? It’s all I’ve got.”

“Water would be good, thanks.” Jasper sat.

Nadeya got two bottles of water out of the mini-fridge and tossed him one. Jasper caught it with a grin. His left hand gripped it as he twisted it open.

“Nicely done. Now you know I’m a lefty.”

Nadeya smirked. “And you’re not armed. I could have taken your head off.”

“Yup, but I trusted you wouldn’t. And I thank you for that.”

She nodded as she opened her own bottle. “So, you’re here, talk.”

Jasper told her what he and Teague had figured out about the man on the beach. He even told her about C.L.A.D.

“What do you know about that?” Nadeya leaned closer, whispering.

“Bits and pieces, nothing concrete. What do you know?”

Nadeya looked furtive. “I shouldn’t tell you. We could get in a lot of trouble.”

Jasper held his hands out, palms up. “Who am I gonna tell? Except maybe Teague. Look, the more we know about this, the better. What do you say?”

She looked away, biting her lip. “I don’t know much more than you do. They intended it as a new interrogation technique. It’s supposed to be a way to reprogram people’s minds.”

“Like brain washing?”

“Kind of. More sophisticated, but still a way to break them. I know that someone else got ahold of it though. They were using it on us!” Anger flared in her eyes.

“Us—as in you personally?”

“No. But some of our soldiers. There was a captain I heard of, they tried to kill him off in a raid, but he took out everyone who attacked his convoy. They stole his memories and gave him a fucking medal.”

“Shit! How do you know about that?”

“The subject came up as they tortured my fiancé,” she mumbled.

“Oh, Nadeya, I’m sorry.”

“I know that. Next to Teague, you’re the only man I trust.”

Jasper exhaled sharply. “That’s quite a compliment. Thank you. I know you can’t possibly feel safe here. Would you like to come to my house?”

Her eyes grew hard. Jasper pressed his lips together, shaking his head.

“I’ve got a hell of a security system. Even you would have trouble sneaking through. I’ve got a couple acres around my place so I can see trouble coming and I’m armed better than Fort Knox. I’ve got a guest room with your name on it.”

Nadeya relaxed. “And leave this luxury accommodation?”

“I’ve got more to drink than water and instant coffee. I’ll even throw in breakfast.”

Nadeya’s smile was shaky. Taking a deep breath, she tried to smile again. Tears welled before she could stop them. She didn’t trust her voice, so she nodded.

“Good. Get your stuff and we can go. My car’s outside the gate.”

“My car?”

“It’s a rental, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Anything in it?”

She rolled her eyes at him. Jasper chuckled.

“I had to ask. I know it’s dumb. Get your gear.”

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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