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Love Takes a Swim Part 72 by Dellani Oakes

Love Takes a Swim cover smallBrill’s men get hurt while watching the apartment. Fortunately, they both live. The police corner someone not far away.

Paisley dashed to her room. Kai wasn’t sure whether to follow her or stay with the officer. He decided that Paisley could pack on her own and cleaned up the coffee things. A couple of Brill’s men approached the cordoned off area. Kai identified them as friends. Officer Warren allowed them in.

“We have some things to close up the door,” one of the men said. “The super said he’d get a new door on tomorrow.”

“Thanks for that,” Kai said. “I had no idea who to call.”

“He’s known to us,” the man said with a smirk, leaving them to draw their own conclusions.

Paisley came back with her bag, trembling. Kai held her close, nearly carrying her to the Jeep. Accompanied by Officer Warren, they went to his mother’s house. All was silent and dark, though the outside lights came on when they pulled up in the driveway.

“Would you like me to come in with you?” Warren asked.

“No, we’ll be fine here,” Kai replied. “We don’t want to wake the family.”

“I’ll wait out here until you get inside,” Warren promised. “I can’t stay, but I’ll be sure to have the officer on patrol swing by from time to time.”

“Thank you.” Paisley hugged her.

Kai shook her hand. He unlocked the house, opening the door. The alarm didn’t beep, which was strange. His mother was fanatic about setting the alarm. He stepped inside, turning on the light. The first thing he saw was Cody’s bruised face. The next thing that greeted him was Ralph, holding a gun to his mother’s head.

Paisley screamed. Kai pushed her back out the door, but Ralph aimed the weapon at him.

“Bring her in,” he commanded. “Or Mommy Dearest catches a bullet.”

“Where are Tempy and Brad?” Kai asked Cody.

“Not here,” Cody said calmly.

“You okay?” Kai asked, giving his brother a cursory, visual check as he stepped forward.

“Had worse,” Cody replied.

“Close the door,” Ralph said.

Kai kept Paisley behind him. He stepped out of the doorway and slammed the door loudly. Paisley squeaked with fear. She clung to Kai, terrified.

“Come here, you bitch,” Ralph commanded.

Paisley cowered behind Kai.

“Come here, or this nice lady’s gonna be missing something important—like her brain,” Ralph bellowed. “Now!”

Shivering, Paisley stepped from behind Kai. “So, you finally caught up with me. Took you longer than I thought. I guess Daddy’s connections can’t do everything.”

My connections now. Dad passed in a tragic accident.” Ralph snorted. “You didn’t really think you could get away from me, did you? When I own someone, I own them until death do us part. And I figure, for you, that’s about five more minutes.”

“What’s wrong with you?” Paisley screamed, dashing across the living room. “Why do you have to torment me? What did I ever do to deserve this?”

Ralph stared at her, unsure how to react. He pressed the gun against Nina’s throat. She stiffened, shaking with suppressed rage.

“I love you, Paisley. I’ve always loved you,” he explained, as if it were the most logical thing in the world. “I keep the things I love close to me. I protect them.”

“You don’t love me. You abused me. Held me prisoner. You tried to kill me, you freak! You killed my parents. You took everything away from me! You’re sick, Ralph. I don’t know where you went wrong, but you are in so many ways. And now, what are you going to do? Take these people away from me, too?”

“I want to keep you safe. I love you. Now, come over here and kiss me.”

“No! Not anymore. I’m not your plaything anymore!”

“But you’re pure and fragile, don’t you understand? I had to protect you and keep you pure. I couldn’t let the world touch you. I couldn’t let other men near you because they would spoil your purity. They’d want to take it from you.”

“You tried to take it from me, you sick bastard! You tried to rape me!”

“No. No! I wanted your purity. I wanted to share it with you. So you could make me pure again.”

“You’re sick, Ralph. That’s not how it works.”

“Not another step, cowboy,” Ralph said to Kai, who had eased a few steps closer to Cody. He focused on Kai, then cut his eyes at Paisley. “He stole your purity, didn’t he! He sullied you!”

The gun swiveled to aim at Kai. Instead of stopping, Kai moved closer to Cody, hands away from his sides, palms facing Ralph.

“It’s too late, buddy. She’s mine now. She gave me what she never gave to you. Paisley’s mine, body and soul. You can’t have her purity, because I took it away.”

Ralph’s hand trembled and his finger tightened on the trigger. “No! You’re lying! You’re a liar!” His hand shook as he aimed at Kai. He wiped his face with the other hand, raising it from Nina’s shoulder.

Taking the moment of freedom, Nina pushed Ralph’s hand up. He pulled the trigger, shooting a hole in the ceiling. The door popped open and Officer Warren was there, her weapon trained on Ralph.

Kai jumped forward, pushing his mother out of the way as he made a grab for Ralph’s gun. He missed, but Paisley knocked it from Ralph’s grasp. She punched her ex-fiance in the nose, then hammered him in the nuts with her other hand. He doubled over, groaning for mercy.

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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First Meeting from Hardly Gothic ~ A Love in the City Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes

First Meeting image smallestFirst Meetings are fun, because they set the stage for what’s to come. Sometimes, they go very well. Other times, not so much. The initial meeting between Angelica and Royal consists of him bumping into her in the hallway outside her father’s office. However, love gives them a second chance, and they meet at the art gallery he runs.

Turning around, a familiar dark haired man strutted across the lobby, well manicured hand extended. He flashed a brilliant grin, taking her hand in his. Silver eyes twinkled as he lifted her hand, kissing it.

“I believe I ran you down earlier, Miss Hull. Let me apologize. Your father sometimes makes me so angry, I can’t see straight.” He sandwiched her hand with both of his.

“I have that same problem with my mother,” she replied. “At least you didn’t knock me on my rear. Royal Prothro, isn’t it?”

“I see your father already told you about me.” He looked mildly annoyed. Hands dove deeply into the pockets of his well tailored suit, he stood somewhat hunched over, like a schoolboy in trouble.

“Not really. Your name, and a passing comment about how you’re infuriating one another. That was it, before Her Majesty required his presence.”

Royal chuckled, clapping his hands. “Oh, I can tell we’re going to get along famously,” he said, a hit of an accent in his deep, melodious voice.

“I thought you got along with Petra.” Angelica followed Royal to the elevator and he led her to his office.

“I do, because I can charm her. Your father, well….”

“There’s no charming Daddy.”

“No. And I don’t try. We’re each in an untenable position. I don’t want to be there, and he doesn’t want me around. I’m completely unqualified, and we both know it.”

“Then why?”

Royal sighed, opening a massive oak door with his name on a brass plate. “Because my grandfather is putting pressure on us both. He’s more than a tad influential in these parts. He thinks that I’m wasting my life writing novels, while I manage the gallery. He also thinks your father’s an advertising genius.”

“I’ve always thought the two things were dichotomous,” she replied with a flick of her eyes over her shoulder.

“Thank you! Precisely what I’ve always said. There’s no doubt your father is brilliant, and superior at what he does, but there’s no teaching me. I have no desire to learn how to influence people into buying one brand of toothpaste, or toilet tissue, over another.”

“And yet you also manage the DeGrummand art collection? How do you have time?”

“By not doing the job my grandfather wants. I’m afraid I upset your father today. I told him I quit. We’re making one another miserable. If I resign, he’s got an out. I can handle my grandfather’s disappointment in me. I don’t want him taking it out on Brendan. Despite our professional differences, your father’s a fine man. I like and admire him.”

They talked several hours about the DeGrummand collection and his position at the gallery. The interview extended into the dinner hour, and he invited her to dine with him. Angelica, who had missed lunch because of the card party, readily accepted his invitation.

“I’m dining at the Old Mill tonight. Does that suit you?”

“Certainly, if I’m dressed for it.”

“You look incredible.”

She was dressed in a suit that consisted of a claret colored bolero jacket, matching skirt and a white, tailored blouse. Her chestnut hair was done in a loose chignon. Diamond studs, given to her by her father for her twenty-first birthday, graced her ears.

Eyeing her escort critically, Angelica felt rather under dressed. His three piece suit was an impeccable fit. He had a swimmer’s build, wide shoulders, tapering to a narrow waist. His hair was so black, it was nearly blue. His silver eyes were ringed with dark lashes. She thought she looked frumpy in comparison, but if he approved her appearance, she wasn’t going to argue.

“Did you drive over?” he asked.

“I did.”

“Then perhaps I could catch a ride with you, instead of calling for the car?”

“Certainly. You have a driver?” she couldn’t keep the surprise from her voice.

“I’m often on the phone, or doing paperwork. I keep a portable office in the car, and work while Sam drives. Inconvenient sometimes, but far healthier. I’m not dodging traffic whilst trying to text, nor am I up until the crack of dawn getting caught up.”

“Makes sense. I sometimes wish I had a driver. I hate traffic.”

“In the wrong city then.” Royal opened her door, seeing she was settled before going to the passenger side.

“Yes, but this is my home. Besides, Petra would be so disappointed if I moved. She’d have no one but Daddy to boss around. What would she do?”Angelica’s scathing tone wasn’t lost on Royal.

“Don’t get along with her well, I take it.”

“I don’t like my mother. Sometimes, I’m not even sure I love her much. I stay for Daddy. He needs me.”

He nodded. “Similar to the reason I stay, though for my mother, not my father. He, like my grandfather, thinks I’m wasting my talent.”

“What novels do you write?”

Royal grinned, glancing out the window. “Romance. Under a pseudonym, of course. Perhaps you’ve read Alana Royal’s Knights of the Table Round?”

“My God, that’s you? No wonder there’s no picture on the cover. The biography is very sketchy as well.”

“Born in Yorkshire, lives in the city. Owns a mated pair of Yorkies….”

“Yapping little nuisances.”

“Not mine, Mum’s. The bio is actually her.”

“How on earth do you promote the books without doing interviews?”

Royal shrugged, shaking his head. “Phenomenal staff and lots of money. However, with this next one, third in the series, I’m going to have to do interviews. Not sure how I’m going to manage. I’m afraid my readership will drop when they find out I’m not a woman.”

“Get a ringer,” she suggested, sliding into a narrow opening between cars.

“Ringer?”

“Someone to pretend to be you. Well, not you, Alana Royal.”

“Interesting idea. But what if she decided to tell?”

“Get someone you can trust. Your mother or a sister or something.”

“Mum’s not well. She couldn’t handle the schedule. No sisters, aunts or female cousins.”

“Girlfriend?”

“Haven’t one. Nor fiancee. My last one said I was incorrigible, and left with half my belongings in her boxes. I caught her before she stole the other half. Even now, she’s suing me for palimony. Because she left, she’s not got much to go on. Still, bloody inconvenient.”

“Your life sounds like mine,” Angelica said as she made the turn into the parking lot. “A romantic train wreck.”

Royal’s laugh was tinged with sorrow. “I fear I don’t know your circumstances, but mine—sadly, yes.”

© 2020 Dellani Oakes

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

First Meeting imageOlivia Gray and Boone Strange have known one another since childhood, but haven’t seen one another for quite some time. She’s home, going through her grandmother’s house, since Gram has recently been diagnosed with dementia, and put in a home. She’s at his grandfather’s house next door, when several members of the Strange family arrive to help her with the daunting task. One of them is Boone.

The front door opened and one of Porter’s granddaughters walked in. She and Olivia were about the same age.

“That my little Frangipani?” Porter called.

“It sure is, Granddad! Livy, it’s so good to see you!” The young women hugged. “Girl, I have missed you! You ready to get to work?”

“Sit down and have a cup,” Porter invited. “The others are coming. I knew you’d be first. My little Frangi is always early. Now, that brother of yours…. Pfft!” He waved his gnarled hand. “Boy was born late.”

“Boone’s coming?” Olivia tried to keep the eagerness from her voice, but figured she probably failed miserably.

“I thought he was working today?” Frangi said.

“He told me he was coming. Now, whether that means after work, now, or midnight, who can say? That young’un keeps his own time. We got real time, and Boone time.”

The women giggled, knowing it was true.

“Mama says he’ll probably be late to his own funeral.”

The front door banged shut.

“Whose funeral?” A mellow baritone asked from the living room.

“Slow, but ears like a fox,” Frangi said. “You’ll be late to yours,” she said as her brother wandered in.

A sly smile spread across his face. “Is that Olivia? Lord, girl! Pops told me to come help with Granny’s, but he didn’t say you were gonna be here. Do I get a hug?”

Olivia’s breath caught in her throat when she heard his voice. “It’s been too long, Boone. How you been?”

She stood, legs shaking, as he folded her in his embrace. His strong arms wrapped around her and he held her close. She thought she heard him sigh contentedly. Maybe that was wishful thinking on her part, because it felt like coming home, to find herself in his arms. Reluctantly, she let go as he released her.

“Chile, you are skin and bones!” he declared, sounding like his grandfather. “What do they feed you in Florida?”

“Not enough, apparently. Sally’s already read me the riot act, and Porter fed me more for breakfast than I eat in a day.”

“She ate it all, though,” his grandfather stated. “Bet she’d eat more if I offered it.”

“No, I am officially full. If I eat anything else, I might vomit.”

“I can eat,” Boone said as he gave his grandfather a gentle hug.

“I know that, which is why I made plenty. Help yourself, your hands ain’t broke.”

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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

First Meeting imageA senior in college, Maggie is struggling with a required freshman psych class. It’s her own fault, she’d been putting it off. If she doesn’t pass, she won’t graduate. When her professor offers here a chance to participate in an experiment, she jumps at the chance. She soon finds she’ll be paired with a man, a complete stranger. They will get “married”, and live together as a couple for the next six weeks. Tonight is their first meeting. Maggie has no idea what to expect.

A man walked in, catching her attention. He was six feet tall, lean built, with broad shoulders. His dark brown hair was cut in a sort of early Beatles style and was tossed around in such a casual way, it probably took ages to fix. He bent forward to talk to the hostess, hands in the pockets of his tan chinos. He wore a darker tan corduroy jacket and a plaid shirt that was buttoned to his adam’s apple. His expression was made difficult to read by the black framed glasses he wore. Give him a pocket protector full of pens, he’d be right out of Revenge of the Nerds.

Maggie stood as he approached the table, holding out her hand. He took it, his palm slightly sweaty, shaking it in a moderately firm grip.

“Jaeger Jeffreys,” he said by way of greeting. He pronounced his name Jay-ger.

“Margay Simmons—but you can call me Maggie.”

Jaeger came around to help her with her chair. Unused to such attention, Maggie sat too quickly, flopping awkwardly onto her seat. Fortunately, Jaeger didn’t seem to notice.

“So, Jaeger,” she croaked. Clearing her throat, she took a sip of water. “Do you go by a nickname? Like Jay or Ger?” Realizing she was babbling, Maggie stopped talking and took a deep breath. Another sip gave her an excuse to stay quiet.

Jaeger chuckled. “I sometimes go by Jeff or Jay. Good friends call me J.J. You can call me any of the above, or the full handle. I answer to about anything.”

His voice was a smooth tenor flavored by a slight Southern accent that she thought was from Alabama. Maggie had a good ear for accents and could usually pinpoint where someone was from after a very short time.

“Unusual name, Jaeger.”

“Yep. Mom’s family name. It’s actually my middle name. First name’s awful.” He made a face.

“It can’t be that bad.”

“Trust me. When I know you better, I’ll share.” He took a sip of his water.

The waitress brought their soup, a delicate gazpacho with croutons. Conversation lagged slightly as they ate.

“So, Jaeger, what do you plan to do once you graduate?”

He put down his spoon and folded his hands under his chin. “First of all, my future wife can call me Jay—please. Secondly, I’m going into the family business. Dad’s an accountant, his dad was, and his dad. Going back to the War Between the States, when my many greats granddaddy was pay master for General Lee.”

“The Civil War, you mean?”

Jay shushed her playfully. “Lord, chile, don’t ever let my granny here you say that! She will shoot you for a Yankee! She calls it The Recent Unpleasantness.” He laid a thick layer of Southern on his statement.

“Yankee! I think I might be offended by that.”

Jaeger laughed, slapping his thigh. “I say all that and you catch onto Yankee? Lordy. Where you from, Maggie?”

“I was born in Tennessee, but raised in Florida. I’m as Southern as you are.”

He held up a finger, wiggling it at her. “I do beg to differ. I was born in the Appalachian Mountains, in a cabin in the Chattahoochee National Forest. I was raised in Georgia, North Carolina and Alabama. My folks were from Citronelle, Alabama—population just around thirty-six hundred. They now live in Biloxi, Mississippi. My granddaddy’s family was one of the first families to settle there in 1811. I have a family tree with so many branches, I don’t know all my first cousins and only a handful of the seconds. So, I promise you, to my granny, a girl raised in Florida—she’s a Yankee.”

Maggie bridled, sitting up straighter in her chair. It took her a moment to realize that he was teasing her. She saw an amused glitter in his eyes. She hadn’t noticed it before because of the glasses, but they were a dark sage green.

“Smart ass,” she muttered.

Jaeger winked. “Been called worse.”

Their entrees arrived. Maggie had opted for the coriander pork chop with a sweet potato and cooked apples. Jaeger had a steak, fries and grilled pineapple.

“I’m glad to see you’re not a vegan,” he said as he cut into his steak. “I dated a girl for awhile, only to find out she didn’t eat meat. Considering she didn’t share that fact with me when I invited her to dinner at the steak house, it was somewhat….”

“Humiliating?”

He winked, pointing his fork at her. “Bingo. I enjoyed my meal and she took a cab home.”

“Bummer.”

“Yeah, it was our third date too. Subject couldn’t come up before that?”

“You’d think so. What’s significant about the third date?”

Jaeger stopped eating, glancing up at her over his glasses. His fork and knife were poised to cut and framed his face in glittering steel.

“Um—the third date. After the third date…..” He tilted his head from side to side indicating she should fill in the blanks.

“Oh, my God! I’m dumb. I don’t—date—a lot. Like—ever?” Embarrassed, she attacked her pork chop with renewed vigor.

Jaeger’s laugh made her ears burn. She glared at him.

“I’m sorry. Just, it’s kind of refreshing to find someone who’s not jaded. You don’t know how rare that is, Maggie.”

“I suppose that could be a compliment. At least you didn’t call me naïve.”

“Now why would I do that? Being naïve isn’t a bad thing, but it implies being cut off from reality and not familiar with the bad things in life. You’re not sitting in some ivory tower, you’re out here with the rest of us, but you haven’t let the association with the bad things tarnish you.”

Maggie stared at him in silence, a bite of pork in her mouth. She had no idea how to reply to that. He’d summed up her life entirely in a few sentences. Not only that, he made her sound strong, positive and self-possessed. Everyone else treated her like a silly little child. She smiled.

“Thank you. I believe that’s the nicest thing anyone’s said to me in a long time.”

“Then you don’t hang out with the right people.” He concentrated on his food.

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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Stop Everything You’re Doing!

Cereal Authors

Everything You're Doing Image via Pixabay

Ten years ago, I joined a misfit group of authors who started a Facebook group called, “Red River Writers” I joined because I wanted to learn everything I could about freelance writing.  At the time there weren’t many writer groups online because the writing profession was a mystery with many writers keeping their trade secrets—secret.  Most of that was due to fear of competition or the desire to protect the business.   So finding a community was vital to a newbie writer like me, because I wasn’t going to get relevant and timely information talking to the old school.  Facebook introduced me to a new world of writers, and artists that I couldn’t find where I lived at the time.  I wanted to peek behind the curtain and find out what it was like to be a writer.

There, I met the founder of the group named, April…

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First Meeting from Driving Blind ~ A Florida Families Romance by Dellani Oakes

First Meeting imageI thought of this story when I was driving down State Road 44 into New Smyrna. The traffic is horrible at certain times of day, particularly in the summer. I can’t remember now why I was there, rather than taking I-95. There had to have been a good reason for it, because it’s usually a drive I avoid. In any case, this story, Driving Blind, was born as I languished in traffic.

It makes a fun First Meeting because it’s so random.

It had been an indescribably horrible day. Zenobia drove with the top down, listening to Battle Without Honor or Humanity at full volume. Her red VW Beetle zipped along Interstate 95, her sun-streaked blonde hair billowing behind her like a standard.

She pulled off at the New Smyrna, eastbound exit, slowing way down for the sharp curve. Checking traffic, she eased her VW into the flow heading toward town. At the stoplight on the east side of I-95, she slowed as the light changed to yellow. She could have driven through, but there was a motorcycle cop three cars behind her on the left. She turned down her music and waited for the light to change. The left turners eased across State Road 44 and the police officer on the motorcycle pulled up next to her.

Zenobia risked a glance at him. She couldn’t see much because of the helmet and glasses, but she saw a strong chin, broad shoulders and tanned arms covered in silky black hair. She smiled and looked away when he turned toward her. The light changed and she carefully put the car in gear, moving forward slowly in the heavy traffic.

As luck would have it, the next light was also red. Slightly frustrated, Zenobia checked the traffic to see how badly it was backed up. Another look out the front window showed the cars were thick ahead as well as to the rear. The police officer was a car behind her, but eased up once more, crowding the SUV ahead of him. The driver peeped over her shoulder guiltily, but the officer did nothing.

Zenobia felt eyes on her and looked around to see the officer staring at her. She smiled again, nervously, and flipped her hair to cover her face. A furtive glance in her rearview mirror showed the officer staring at her, smirking. He had full lips and a hint of a five o’clock shadow. Of course, with hair that dark, he probably had a shadow right after he shaved. What little she could see of his hair was so black, it had a bluish cast to it.

The light changed and the car behind Zenobia honked. Flustered, she forgot to put her car in gear. Scrabbling around, she put it in first, took her foot off the clutch but not the brake and the car stalled. More honking followed. Mortified, she got the car started, put it in gear and jack-rabbited through the intersection as the light changed to red.

Flashing blue lights and a whoop of a siren warned her to pull over. There was an abandoned driveway from a long defunct business. Zenobia rolled over there, turning off her car. She pulled out her license and registration, ready for the officer. He was busy on the radio, calling in her humiliation and probably checking to see if she had any priors or outstanding warrants. Thankfully, her driving slate was clean. She lived a steady, boring life. At 29, she lived with her parents, putting her advanced computer degree to less than great use working on the Geek Squad at Best Buy. Far from ideal, her circumstances couldn’t be helped. She’d had a lot of difficulty finding a good paying job in her field that was also close to home.

Feeling an overwhelming desire to cry, Zenobia put her head on the steering wheel. “This is the worst day ever!” she sobbed into her lap. She forced the tears down, but couldn’t keep her shoulders from shuddering.

The clearing of a deep, male voice got her attention. She looked up in the the darkest brown eyes she’d ever seen. Black eyebrows arched over thickly lashed eyes. His nose was almost too big for his face, but he made up for it by having a square jaw and a cleft in his chin. He smiled down at her.

Zenobia handed her license and registration to him. He gave them a cursory look, jotted something down on a pad with his left hand and gave them back to her.

I’m sorry about the mess back there,” she apologized quietly. “I’m still getting used to standard.”

No big thing,” he replied. His voice was deep, husky and flavored with a true Southern accent.

Are you gonna write me a ticket?” Her voice cracked making her feel even more foolish.

You okay?” He frowned, taking a step closer.

Unable to control herself another second, she burst into tears. “I’m sorry. I’m not trying to get out of the ticket by crying,” she sobbed. “I just don’t know what I did wrong and I can’t afford a ticket and I’ve had the worst day ever!”

Rather than being sympathetic, he laughed. Zenobia glared at him. He laughed harder.

I’m sorry,” he gasped. “I’m not laughing at you—well, I am—but not because you’re crying. I pulled you over to make sure you aren’t having car trouble. You had such a problem at the light, I thought maybe your engine stalled. I wanted to get you out of traffic.”

You—you aren’t giving me a ticket?”

No. No.” He chuckled again. “I’m really sorry, Miss Vlachos. I didn’t mean to scare you.”

Zenobia squinted up at him, surprise replacing worry. “You pronounced it right. No one ever gets it right.”

© 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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Love Takes a Swim Part 22 by Dellani Oakes

Love Takes a Swim cover smallPaisley’s class makes everyone happy, even the ones who usually complain.

Kai was pleased at their response. Paisley beamed proudly as she accepted their compliments. He walked her inside where she was teaching the Zumba class again.

“Do you think they really liked it?”

“I’ve never heard so many good things from that bunch. They’re hard to please. You’ve scored major points, babe. Congratz.”

“Thanks.” She blushed, pleased that she was doing well. “I want to make you proud of me.”

“I couldn’t be anything else. You’re fantastic. Beautiful, witty, talented—you put up with my sorry ass schedule without a complaint, and you get along great with my family. What more could I ask for?”

His arms circled her, pulling her close. Kai’s kiss lit a fire in her belly. Paisley wondered how he could have that effect on her without really trying. Her ex had never filled her with such desire. His kisses didn’t excite as much as they disgusted. She’d never been sexually attracted to Ralph at all. Kai was all kinds of exciting.

He stopped suddenly, yawning. “I need to go get some sleep, babe. Mom will bring you to the house. I’ll take you home to change before we go out.”

“Sounds good. Sleep well.”

“I’ll dream of you.”

“Good. Be sure to tell me what I’m wearing in your dream.”

“Nothing but a satisfied smile,” he replied, nipping her lip. “Bye.”

He let go reluctantly, backing toward the door as the ladies started coming in. Unable to pull himself away, he walked back toward her, kissing her once more.

“Hello, Kai,” they all said.

Some saw the kiss and raised an eyebrow. Others fanned themselves, smirking at Kai behind his back. He continued to kiss Paisley, raising a thumb to the assembled ladies, all of whom clapped and cheered, getting progressively louder as the kiss continued. He prolonged it as long as he dared. Dizzy and aroused, he gave Paisley one last, short kiss before departing.

Not sure who that buzzed more, me or her. But he was pretty sure it was him. He knew what they were missing out on, she didn’t.

Kai got home to a quiet house. It was weird to be there with it so empty and silent, like it was waiting to come alive with the presence of his family. He got a shower and shaved before heading to bed. Glad of heavy drapes, he closed them before lying down. He unplugged the phone by his bed, rolled over, falling almost instantly asleep.

The sounds of his family coming in, woke him from a deep sleep. He looked at the clock and saw that it was almost 7:00. He took another shower and brushed his teeth before pulling on his jeans. Tossing a shirt over his shoulder, he padded out to the dining room barefoot. He came up so quietly behind Paisley, she didn’t hear him right away. Spinning around, she greeted him with a surprised smile.

“I didn’t hear you come in!” Her arms went around his neck as she stood on tiptoe to give him a kiss. “I smelled your cologne.”

“Must be soap,” he said quietly, his forehead on hers. “Not wearing any.”

“It smells great,” she said, smiling.

Cody cleared his throat as he brought groceries to the refrigerator. “You could help bring food in, brother mine.”

“I could,” Kai mused, focused on Paisley. “Or I could stand her with the most beautiful woman in the world, in my arms.”

Cody thumped him in the back with a gallon of milk. “Or—you could go grab groceries and help out, bro.”

“Chill, would ya?” He kissed Paisley on the nose. “Be right back. Kick him in the ass, if he gets mouthy, huh?”

“Sure thing.” She took a fighting stance, hands clenched. “I’ve studied kick boxing for ten years, Cody. Make one wrong move, I’ll kick your sorry ass to Nebraska.”

“Could you make it Colorado instead? There’s mountains there, and I can go skiing,” the young man said as he put the groceries away.

“Nope, Nebraska. Cause it’s boring.”

Kai chuckled as he went out to his mother’s car. He loaded up a bunch of bags and carried them inside, thumping them on the counter. He and Cody tossed things back and forth, putting groceries away quickly and efficiently. Their mother came in a few minutes later, smiling, a pile of mail in her arms.

“Yea, the books I ordered came in from Amazon. Now I’ve got something to read.”

“What did you order, Nina?” Paisley asked her.

“Mom only reads romance novels,” Cody intoned solemnly. “The more sordid the better.”

“I don’t read sordid romance novels,” Nina said pompously. “Though they do get steamy,” she told Paisley with a delighted shiver.

© 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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Love Takes a Swim Part 18 by Dellani Oakes

Love Takes a Swim cover smallKai has an unfortunate occurrence when he’s taking a nap at the fire house.

Kai laughed. “Sure—rub my face in it. She works right across the street at the club. Go over when she’s doing class. You’ll get a good look.”

“Might just have to do that. Hurry up, they’re waiting.”

Kai and his team mates went to the grocery store, wandering around until they found something for dinner. Usually they had some kind of plan, but this time none of them had any good ideas. Finally, Cherise, the only woman on the team, stopped by the kitchen kiosk in the front of the store.

“This smells good,” she said, taking a sample. “Eat.” She handed it around to the men. “We’ll take this,” she told the woman.

“Ingredients are in the cabinet over there. Everything you need for the recipe, plus sides, wine, etc.”

“No wine, we’re on duty. However, the rest of it. Load it up, guys. I decided, you cook.”

Kai laughed at the other men. All bachelors, none of them had much skill in the kitchen. He suspected he and Cherise would be cooking. He was the only one who could handle himself in food prep, and not set the kitchen on fire, or take off a finger.

As he predicted, he and Cherise fixed the meal while the others set the table and basically got in the way. When it was ready, they ate, laughing and cutting up like crazy. The meal was barely over when the alarm went off.

Grabbing their gear, they listened to find out their destination. Multiple car wreck on US-1. They hopped in the truck, taking off, sirens blaring. Traffic moved quickly out of the way, as they sped down the road.

At the scene, police had blocked off the highway, diverting traffic down a side street. Four cars littered the road, scattered from the south bound lanes to the north bound. One of the officers gave them a brief rundown as they approached.

“I’ve got six vics,” he said. “Two minor, the rest are pretty bad. One I’m not sure is gonna make it. Old guy, drunk, turned the wrong way down the highway, started going north in the south bound lanes. He’s real hurt.”

Their team was joined by EVAC from another station. They split up, two of them doing a quick triage. The others started on the worst victims first. Kai did triage, then helped as needed. Soon, they were all at the hospital being attended to by trauma physicians.

Back at the station, they cleaned up the kitchen and prayed the rest of the night was quiet. Unfortunately, an hour and a half later, another call came in.

“What is it? A full moon?” Cherise asked, gazing up at the sky as they drove.

Kai looked up too, squinting at the darkening sky through the canopy of palm trees. “Don’t see the moon yet. I dunno.”

“I was being facetious,” Cherise replied, digging his ribs with her elbow.

It was another car crash, but this one minor. No one needed an ambulance. Only scratches and bruises on the two passengers.

“I’m gonna kill Greg,” Kai said as he walked back in the station. “It’s never this busy on my shift. It’s like the bastard knew.”

“Well, I’d sure as hell rather work with you when it’s like this,” Cherise told him. “I can count on you to do what you’re told, and not argue. You don’t give me shit, or question. And you can work independently, without me riding your ass. I, for one, am glad you’re here.”

“Kai’s got a new woman,” Tommy said with a sly grin.

“And just how do you know that?” Kai was rather annoyed that the entire team knew.

“Thad told me. So, she hot?” Davis asked him as he popped open a soda.

“Does it matter?” Cherise asked, her dark eyes flashing. “Maybe Kai isn’t that superficial.”

“I’ve never seen him with a chick who wasn’t smokin’,” Davis said. “If there’s a sweet piece of ass, anywhere in the neighborhood, Kai’ll find her.” He held out his knuckles for the younger man to tap.

Kai hung his head, ignoring the dubious compliment. “Thanks, man. Make me sound as bad as you. Cherise, she’s very pretty. But I’d like her even if she wasn’t. She’s got a tender spirit,” he mused quietly, knowing she would understand, even if the men wouldn’t.

They didn’t, and teased him about it for quite some time. Cherise came to him later, sitting beside him at the table as the others watched TV.

“So, tell me about Miss Tender Spirit. What’s her name?”

Kai told her all about Paisley, including the abusive ex, and everything else that made her unique.

“She sounds real special. I’m glad she met you. If she’d met one of the goon squad, can you imagine?”

“Am I really that different? I’m just a guy.”

“You’re not just a guy,” she said quietly. “No doubt, you’re a man.” She grinned, punching his broad shoulder. “But you’re more considerate than the rest of them. You’re a lot like my husband….”

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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