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

Some first meetings don’t take place in person, such is the case with Cullen Fellowes and Jazz Rialto. He sees her performing at the mall with her brothers. Making the mistake of singing with her, he outs himself—which is a problem, since he’s a famous rock star. Later, Lowell, Jazz’s brother posts the video of their performance, and Cullen makes a comment.

“Did you share it around?” Jazz asked.

“Yes, Mom. I shared it everywhere,” Lowell replied.

“Good. How did you label it?”

“The Jazz Trio sings with Cullen Fellowes.”

“You did not! He’ll be so pissed!”

“Wanna bet? Look who the first comment is from.” He pointed to the screen, reading it aloud. “Great concert! Wish it hadn’t ended in such a weird way, I wanted to come up and say hi. You all are great, and I had fun singing with you. Sang my damn song better than me! CWF

The comment was posted under the name The Cullenator, with a picture of his sassy grin, blue eyes twinkling.

“Did you reply?” She sat next to him once more.

“That comment, big sis, is directed at you.”

“Then move, and let me answer!” She grabbed the laptop, nearly knocking him off his chair.

“Don’t be lame. Let me read it before you post.”

“Fine!”

Thinking for a moment, she started typing. Lowell read over her shoulder.

“Mmm. No.”

“What? That’s a great response.”

Mr. Fellowes, my brothers and I enjoyed your participation at our concert. We hope you can join us again. You sound like you’re replying to a business letter. That sucks completely.” He deleted her message, typing one of his own.

“No! You didn’t post— Lowell!”

He’d typed: Cullen, thanks for the duet. Let’s do it again sometime. You’re super hot.

“You bastard! I can’t believe you did that! Oh, my God, you bastard!” She was in the process of pummeling him, when her phone rang. “Behave!” she cautioned. Her phone was the official business line. If the number wasn’t on her list, she treated it like a business call.

“Thank you for calling the Jazz Trio, Jazz speaking—”

“So, I’m hot, huh?” Cullen’s voice sounded over the phone, a soft laugh followed.

“Oh, God,” she whispered, hand over her eyes.

“You’re supposed to say that later, while we have sex. Right now, it’s completely inappropriate.”

“My brother wrote that. The drummer. The youngest. He can’t be trusted. My reply was—”

“Boring,” Lowell said loudly.

“Professional,” Jazz amended.

“So—boring,” Cullen said with a loud laugh. “I don’t like boring, or professional. I’m a relaxed kind of guy.”

“Why were you there?”

“At the mall? Sometimes, I like to be—boring,” he confessed. “Honestly, I like to connect with people. Growing up rich, being a rock star, it’s easy to forget what it’s like. Your music, your voice. That makes people take notice. Sorry I spoiled the ending of your concert, with my precipitous escape.”

It took her a second for her mind to flip into high vocabulary mode. Laughing softly, she cradled the phone. “It’s okay. Not being you, I can’t imagine what it’s like to be mobbed.”

“Not quite as entertaining as it might seem. I was lucky, though. Two of the security guys helped me out.”

“Who was the guy who got arrested?”

“How did you know?” he sounded genuinely puzzled.

“My brothers saw, as they drove by.”

“Tell him I filmed it,” Lowell nudged her.

“No!” she whispered.

“No? What? I didn’t ask anything,” Cullen said.

“I was telling Lowell no. He’s like a little kid, bugging me. Go away, Lowell!” She shoved at her brother.

He didn’t move, so she trotted up the stairs to her room.

“I was calling, partly to thank you for the compliment, and partly to ask you to come to the concert this Saturday.”

“Oh, gosh, I can’t!” Her face hit her palm. “I have a prior engagement.”

“Reschedule.”

“I can’t. It’s my great-grandmother’s ninety-ninth birthday. The entire clan is meeting up for a party. We’re hoping she’ll make it to a hundred, but you never know.”

“Oh, no sure. That’s far more important. Ninety-nine, huh? I didn’t think I’d even make it to thirty, that’s pretty cool.”

“Why not?”

“Why not—what?”

“Make it to thirty. You’re not sick, are you?”

His laughter rang out. “Do I look sick? I thought I looked hot.”

“You don’t. You do! Just—” She paused. “Are conversations with you always this difficult?”

“I’d love to say no, but probably. My brother says I don’t filter, and my sister says I don’t have an off switch. Both are correct.” He chuckled softly, sobering somewhat. “I didn’t think I’d make it to thirty, because I don’t live an exemplary life. I drive too fast, like to jump out of planes, love free climbing, and want to snow board in the Alps.”

“That last doesn’t sound so dangerous.”

“It is, if you jump out of a helicopter.”

“Oh. Wow. You can do that?”

“Yeah. You can do that.”

She paused so long, he thought she’d lost connection.

“Hello?”

“Yeah, hi. I was just thinking about all those things. Dangerous. Expensive.”

“They are. Both.”

“I can’t even dream of having that kind of money.”

“Actually, you can. You have talent—all three of you. You sang my song better than I do, and I wrote the damn thing. Part of my reason for this call, besides inviting you to the concert, I wanted to see if you and your brothers are available to go on the road in a few months. We’re doing a tour of the greater northeast, and Canada. Specifically Newfoundland/ Labrador, New Brunswick, Quebec, and all those funky-do islands that I can’t remember the names of. You’d need your passports, and whatever instruments you prefer. Everything else provided.”

Her gasp left her breathless. “Are you serious right now?”

“Yes. This isn’t just a play to get in your pants.”

“Um….”

“Though, I would like that. But I can wait. The offer is completely serious. If you say yes, I’ll call our manager, and have him talk to yours.”

“Actually, I’m the manger for now. We can’t afford a regular one.”

“Then, you need a manager.”

“Yeah, but….”

“Call this number, and tell her I sent you.” He rattled off a phone number.

“Wait, hold on. Let me get a pen and paper.”

“Waiting, ma’am!”

She scrabbled around, finding what she needed. “Okay, go.”

He repeated the number. “Got it?”

“Yes. Who is this?”

“Babs Goldblum.”

“We can’t afford her! She’s the best agent in the business!”

“Call her. Talking is free. Mention my name, and that we want you on our tour. I guarantee she’ll say yes.”

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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Brand New Day by Dellani Oakes – Part 18

Janet has a very frank conversation with her mother, talking about her relationship with Diego, and her mother and father’s marriage.

“Would you have married him, if you’d known at the time what he was?”

Her mother shrugged, shaking her head. “I don’t know. But there’s never been a man who has loved me like Evander.”

“But would you?”

Her mother smiled, tears running down her face. “In a heartbeat! You take that love you’ve got and hold on tight with both hands, Janet May. That boy loves you and you love him, I can see it when you say his name. But you take it slow, and you make him work hard to win you. Don’t give up easy. And don’t you sleep around. You stick with one man, and your life will be a lot happier.”

Janet nodded. This wasn’t the conversation she’d expected from her mother. Mama was much more prone to hateful words, and cold shoulders. While her mother was in this mellow mood, Janet asked a question that burned in her heart.

“Mama, why do you hate me so?”

Her mother burst into tears, grabbing her daughter in her arms. “Janet May, I don’t hate you! I just look at you and I see your daddy, and all I lost. I see the mean way I’ve been, and I can’t make it stop. I’m broke, and I’m tired, and I know if I’d stayed with your daddy, my life wouldn’t be so harsh. But I made up my mind, and I did what I did. I can’t take it back.”

“But what if you could? What if he’d take us back?”

Her mother smiled. “Can’t live your life on what if, baby.” Sniffing loudly, she wiped her eyes with her fingers.

Janet got her some toilet paper from the tiny bathroom so she could wipe her eyes and blow her nose.

“Now, we need to find something to carry up so your sister won’t have a snit wondering what we left her out of.” She looked around and found an ugly Hawaiian doll that danced if you touched it. “Think she’d like that for her room?”

“That’s the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen. She’ll love it.”

Laughing, they walked upstairs and presented Sookie with the doll. She took it to her room and stayed there all evening long.

Saturday, Janet got through her shift at the drive-in on automatic. Her mind was completely occupied with thoughts of Diego. Even thinking his name made her heart flutter. By the time her shift ended, she was anxious to see him.

At 3:02, she changed from her uniform into a new outfit. She slid on her new Levi’s straight leg, button up jeans and pulled a lime green T-shirt over her head. She switched her work shoes for a pair of leather sandals and put on a pair of plastic hoops that matched her shirt. A quick brush up on her makeup, and she was ready.

Diego walked in just as she returned to the restaurant. He took her hands, smiling.

“Is it okay if I kiss you?”

She glanced at her boss. He didn’t look like he was in a very lenient mood. There weren’t any rules about kissing someone when she was off duty, but why make him mad? She shook her head slightly. They walked out to Diego’s car. Before opening the door, he pressed his long, muscular body against hers, placing his hands on either side. The kiss, when it came, was nothing like any he’d given her before. It was full of desire, love and animalistic power. It was frightening and titillating all at once.

Janet sighed, relaxing against the car as her hands went around his waist. He made a noise in his throat that sounded like a growl. Janet tried not to laugh, but she was nervous all ready. His behavior made her more so. The laughter bubbled out, forcing them apart. He gazed down at her with a slightly glazed expression.

“What?” he mumbled.

“What was that noise?”

“What noise?”

“That one you made just now?” She imitated it.

“I did that?” He laughed, putting his arm around her shoulders, as he flopped against the car. “I have no idea. Maybe I was purring.”

She giggled, meeting his penetrating gaze. “Purring? Like a cat?”

“Why not? They purr when they’re content. Why can’t a man?”

“That’s pretty weird, Diego.”

©2020 Dellani Oakes

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Brand New Day by Dellani Oakes – Part 17

Janet’s mother gets home and is actually nice to her.

Janet knew that she would take off her uniform and have a shower before dinner. She set the cornbread on a rack to cool and checked the chicken. It looked perfect. Oven off, she stirred the butter beans and mashed the potatoes. She put plates in the oven to warm and made sure the table was set.

Her mother came out of the shower and changed into her house dress before coming to the table. Janet called Sookie and they sat down to dinner together. Her mother offered grace and they ate in silence a few minutes. When her mother seemed in the best frame of mind, Janet broached her final subject.

“I’m going to the movie on Saturday.”

“Really? With Ramona?”

“Actually, I’m going with her brother. Diego asked me out.”

“Diego. Asked you out?”

“Yes, Mom. It’s okay, isn’t it? We’ve known them for ages.”

Her mother didn’t say anything. She didn’t lose her temper or frown.

“You’re sure this is what you want?”

Kind of a weird question.

“Yes, Mom. I really like him. He’s the nicest boy I know and he’s liked me a long time. He just didn’t think it was appropriate to ask me out before I got in high school.”

Her mother nodded. She said nothing for a long time.

“I think it’s lovely,” she said quietly. “Diego is a nice boy. He’s very bright, focused. He’ll go far.”

“Yes, I think so too. This doesn’t mean we’re getting married or anything.” Janet laughed casually.

“I think it’s wonderful,” her mother said with genuine warmth. “I’m happy for you.”

“Thanks.”

“Sookie, go clean up. Janet, I need some help with something in the storage room.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Janet cleared her dishes and they went to the basement.

The house was two levels, one above ground, one below. The finished basement had a bathroom, two bedrooms, the utility room and a large, paneled family room. Janet had the larger basement bedroom. The second, smaller bedroom was the storage room. It was crammed full of boxes and bins that her mother moved around periodically, trying to organize, but it never came to much.

She walked in, shutting the door behind them, and sat on one of the boxes, indicating that Janet should sit, too.

“I know you know about how your body works,” she said calmly. “And you’ve learned about sex in school. But you don’t know about boys, not really. This is your first real boyfriend. Are you sure this is what you want?”

“Mom, I really care about him so much!” She didn’t dare say she loved him, her mother wouldn’t believe her.

“A man only takes no for an answer so long,” her mother continued. “And then he expects certain things.”

Janet nodded, knowing where this was going. “I know, Mom. Diego won’t force me into anything I’m not ready for.”

“It’s that I’m worried about,” her mother said, touching her cheek tenderly. “He’s a handsome boy, very sweet, but he’s still a man. We’re going to start you on birth control pills. I’ll buy you condoms.”

“Mama!” Janet was horrified.

“I’m not condoning this, I want that understood. And you’d better not ever do a thing in this house but kiss him.” The stern mother was back, gaining power. “But I understand about being swept off your feet,” her mother returned to the uncharacteristic calm. “Your father, despite his faults, was a handsome, desirable man, and he lit a fire in me that I haven’t had before or since. He was my first,” she mused. “And the best. I loved him so much….”

“Why did you leave him? I mean, I know…. But was that really all?”

“It wasn’t because of his heritage,” her mother said, stiffening. “He lied to me. For years, he lied.”

“Was being married to—to a man like him, so awful?”

“It was the lie, Janet May. The flat out lie that we lived. If he lied about that, what else had he lied about? Could I really trust him anymore?” She shrugged, tears falling.

©2020 Dellani Oakes

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Brand New Day by Dellani Oakes – Part 16

Diego leaves and Sookie confronts Janet about the relationship.

“Were you spying on me? You little….”

“You gonna have sex with him?”

“Sookie Ann! How dare you! He’s my boyfriend. That doesn’t automatically mean…. and how do you know about that anyway? You’re ten!”

“I’m not stupid. I do watch soap operas.” Sookie rolled her eyes.

“I’m not talking to you. Do your homework.” Janet headed to the kitchen.

Sookie followed her like a pestering little dog. “I’m telling Mom that he kissed you.”

“Go ahead. He’s my boyfriend, he has the right to kiss me.” She didn’t stop what she was doing, her back to her little sister.

“He’s Ramona’s brother, does she know?” She was trying every tactic she could to get under Janet’s skin.

“Mona knows all about it. She’s thrilled.”

“But Mom doesn’t know. I think I’ll tell her. I bet she’d be real interested.”

“Go ahead,” Janet replied. “And I’ll tell her who really broke into the shed and stole her bike. Then, maybe I’ll tell her you take money from her purse all the time, so you can buy a soda at the corner store. And maybe I’ll tell her about the time you….”

“You wouldn’t! You can’t!” Sookie stamped her foot.

Janet turned on her slowly, calmly. “Maybe it’s time Mom knew that you aren’t the perfect little girl she thinks you are. Perhaps I should enlighten her.”

“She won’t believe you! She’ll believe me.”

Janet smiled secretively. “Oh, she’ll believe me, squirt. I can be very persuasive.”

“You can’t! She won’t!”

Janet shrugged, going back to her work.

“I hate you! You’re the meanest sister ever!” Sookie balled up her fist to hit Janet in the back.

Janet saw her sister in the window over the sink. She turned around in a flash, leaning menacingly toward her.

“Go ahead, half pint. Hit me. I dare you. I won’t get you back right away, you misspent, addle brained, pipsqueak….” Janet lowered her voice an octave, dropping into a harsh, croaking whisper. “But you have to sleep sometime…..” She did an evil laugh.

Sookie screamed and ran to her room, slamming the door. She locked it and pulled a piece of furniture across the door. Janet continued to laugh, enjoying the feeling of power she had over her little sister. Of course, she might pay for it later, but for now, she held all the cards.

Janet planned to tell her mother about Diego after dinner. She fixed a roast chicken and all the side dishes her mother liked best. She even baked fresh cornbread, because her mother loved it.

When Ilene Yarkowsky walked in the house, she actually smiled. “It smells wonderful in this house! What’s the occasion?”

“Do we need one to have a nice meal? I got the chicken on sale, so I thought we’d have roast tonight, then use the rest for chicken and dumplings tomorrow. What you think?”

“Oh, good idea. And boil down the bones for broth.”

“Of course! Learned that from you and Nana. Don’t waste a lick!” she said just like her grandmother.

Her mother smiled again, hugging her for the first time in ages. “That’s my Mom! Did you make cornbread?” She asked as the timer dinged. “I’ll get it.” She took the cast iron skillet from the oven, inhaling deeply. “You trying to soften me up?” She asked warily.

“No, what a thing to say. It’s a little celebration. End of the first week. And I got a place on the speech team doing a dramatic reading, and a solo in chorus.”

“Really? How wonderful! You’re gonna go far with that,” her mother said, surprising her further.

“Where’s Sookie?”

“Hiding in her room.”

“Hiding? Whatever for?”

“Who knows? Maybe she watched Dark Shadows again. Or Psycho. That shower scene scared the bejeezus outta me for weeks. I didn’t even want to shower by myself downstairs.” She laughed at her own silly fear.

“Well, serves her right then,” Ilene said, wandering to her bedroom.

©2020 Dellani Oakes

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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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