From a three-week voyage of more than 7000 miles from New Orleans to Buenos Aires in 1964 through an eight-day, 3258-mile round-trip drive between Evanston, Illinois and Clovis, New Mexico in 2017, whether in their prime or in their nineties, the Bedfords have packed a lot into their life’s journey. Follow their inspiring story of faith and service, set in fascinating times and places in the Southern and Northern Hemispheres.
Kent Griswald is a high powered movie executive known for his micro-managing and aggressive supervision of a movie from beginning to end. He’s not well liked professionally or personally, so when someone puts a knife in his chest, no one is terribly surprised. However, someone also took pot shots at his younger brother, Connor, who has no enemies.
Detectives Walter Scott and Vanessa Weinstein are called in on the case, ready for action. Unfortunately, Detective Scott hadn’t counted on the eyewitness, Cadence Stuart. Pretty and personable, she’s also terrified that the killer may come after her next. It’s up to Scott to protect her from the tall, dark killer. Unfortunately, so far, the killer’s identity and whereabouts are Undiscovered.
After a lifetime of being protected and sheltered by her parents, Kate is thrown into a state of turmoil after their sudden death. With nowhere else to turn, she finds herself living with her fiancé, a conniving businessman who is well on his way to becoming a corrupt super-lawyer. At the same time, Kate’s father’s law firm houses more secrets than a politician’s hard drive. Later, she receives a shocking surprise when a long-lost half-brother enters her life. Can Kate rise to these challenges, discover the truth and re-emerge as a stronger, smarter version of herself?
Fresh out of a stint in prison, Jagger Reed wants his life back… Finally released from prison after serving only eighteen months of a twenty-year sentence, Jagger is excited to reunite with his disabled brother Dallas. With the help of Rosalind McAllister, the creative writing teacher at the prison, Jagger was given a full pardon and legal guardianship of his brother. The fight to get his old life back has just begun… When Jagger and Rose arrive to pick up Dallas from his temporary foster parent, Lena Radcliffe, they are horrified to discover she has moved out with no known address. Worried that his brother may be in danger, they enlist the help of the local police who discover Lena in Great Falls, Montana. Rose vows to help Jagger reunite with his brother. Jagger is out for blood, and heaven help anyone who stands in his way… Live or die…
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It’s time for Janet to go home. Her father comes to get her.
Her father took her home. She persuaded him to take her to her house, not his.
“I’m fine, Dad. I just need time to think. I’ll be okay on my own.”
“I’ll call and check up on you.”
“I know, Daddy. I’ll be okay.” She kissed him.
Evander left reluctantly. There still hadn’t been a word about Tex. They had police and Coffey’s men combing the city and outskirts. They were using all kinds of sophisticated equipment to find him, and there was nothing. He didn’t like leaving Janet on her own, but he took heart knowing that two of Coffey’s men were watching her. They were in a black SUV parked in front of her house. He waved to the car as he passed. He knew someone was inside, but he didn’t see anything through the tinted windows.
Janet needed a shower. She’d been in the same panties for more than one dance. Making sure the house was locked up and the alarm was on, she put on some music and sang as she bathed. She got out of the shower, wiping the fog from the mirror as she toweled her hair.
A sound in the bedroom alerted her to the fact she wasn’t alone. Thinking it might be Danny, she almost called out. Something made her stop. She continued to sing as if she hadn’t heard anything. Humming and singing, she finished toweling her hair and got dressed. Her gun was locked in the drawer as always, so it wouldn’t be any good if the intruder was already in the room.
Starting another song, she cast about the bathroom for a weapon. About the only thing she had were an old pair of barber sheers Diego had used to trim his sideburns. She took them out of the drawer and put them in her back pocket.
Nerves jangling, she walked to the bedroom, giving it a careful check before walking out of the bathroom. The closet door wasn’t quite shut, and she knew that she’d left it open. The sight of herself in the mirrored door shocked her. She had dark circles around her eyes, her cheeks were sunken and her complexion sallow.
“You can come out, Tex. I know you’re here,” she said more bravely than she felt.
The door slid back, squeaking the last half inch. That was the sound she’d heard in the bathroom.
He was wild eyed, gaunt, haggard, filthy. He was covered in dirt and, she suspected, feces. He’d probably made his escape in a sewer.
“Can’t fool you,” he said simply, his voice dry and brittle.
“You need to leave,” she said calmly, taking a step toward the bed.
He moved quickly, cutting her off. “Don’t bother looking for your gun. It’s not there. I know your habits—.357in the bedroom drawer, sawed off in the closet. Oh, sorry, the police have that, since I threatened to take your son’s head off with it last night.”
Tex frowned, swallowing hard. Tears lingered in his eyes. “Did you think I was so dumb I wouldn’t figure it out? Did you think I didn’t know your body so well I couldn’t tell you were pregnant? I knew. I fooled you into thinking I didn’t. Pretty good actor, huh?” He swallowed again, chin jutting forward angrily. “Did you ever love me, Just Janet? Was I ever number one? Or was it always that dirty Mexican?”
She shivered. Head up, she stared him down. “It was always him. You were a good substitute for a while. You’re damn good in bed, I’ll give you that. Better than him, at some things. But he would never treat me the way you did.”
“Oh, no. He just goes around killing people for a living.”
“At least he didn’t kill our son.”
“Damn kid probably wasn’t mine, anymore than the other two.”
“You’re wrong, Teddy. The baby I lost was yours. Unlike you, I’m loyal.”
“Oh, it was loyal taking up with him while I was in jail? That’s loyalty? Having two kids with him, that’s loyalty, too. Huh?”
“I wanted a divorce. You wouldn’t give it to me. That’s not my fault.”
“What is your fault, baby?” He raised her .357, aiming between her eyes.
Janet faltered. He was a good shot. Point blank range, she’d be dead before she hit the floor.
“Things went wrong,” she said quietly, praying for help. “We were both to blame.”
“You don’t really think that,” he growled. “You blame it all on me. All the fault of the man with the redundant name.”
©2020 Dellani Oakes
Unexpectedly, men from Diego’s past show up. Colonel Coffey, his former boss, tells him he’s needed again.
“If I find out this is a ploy to get me back, there won’t be a safe hole to shit in.” Diego took a step closer to the colonel, slipping out of Janet’s embrace. He leaned in so his face was mere inches from Coffey’s. “You said yourself, no one’s as good as me.”
“You’re threatening me in front of witnesses, Hernandez.”
“They don’t hear a thing,” Diego flung the statement into the room.
The other men paled. Janet got the impression the threat extended to them.
Colonel Coffey shook himself, squaring shoulders. “Get your things, Hernandez. We need to go.”
“I’ll go when I’m ready, Coffey. You’re dragging me back in the game, you’ll give me the time to say goodbye. I’ll see you here tomorrow morning at nine o’clock. Not a second before.”
Coffey tried to protest, but decided against it. He and his men left without another word.
Janet flew into Diego’s arms. “You can’t leave me again!”
“I have to find these guys, babe. If what Coffey says is true, none of us are safe.”
“And if he’s lying? They may not be here—they may never find you!”
“If they weren’t a real threat, Coffey would never have come.”
“He hates you!”
“No…. If those men take me again….”
“You can handle it.”
“I almost broke,” he told her in an agonized voice. “They did things to me no man should have to endure. And I lived. I don’t know how, but I did. I can’t let them do that again.”
“What about me?”
“I’ll be back,” he promised. “You can’t get rid of me.”
The rest of the night, they spent together, making love with a kind of desperation neither of them could contain. It added a new, deeper dimension to their union that made it more exciting, but also more heart rending.
At 8:00 A.M., they had a shower and fixed breakfast. Diego dressed in a black suit with a white shirt and blood red tie. His dark hair was clipped close to his scalp once more. Janet hardly recognized him. He was a stranger in her lover’s body.
“Come back to me. Don’t you dare be gone so long.”
“I’ll be back, I promise. I love you.”
The men arrived at 9:00 sharp. Diego kissed her one last time—and was gone. Janet sat on the floor, weeping uncontrollably. She curled into the fetal position and couldn’t move.
Ramona saw Diego leave, from her mother’s kitchen window. She ran to him as he got to the car.
“Where are you going?”
“I can’t explain, Mona. I’m sorry.”
“You promised you’d stay!”
“Janet needs you!”
“I know. Mona….”
“You’re a bastard, Diego Hernandez!”
He smiled sadly. “Not according to Mama. Take care of her, little sister. She needs you more than ever.”
“Then why are you going?”
He touched her cheek. “To protect her. I have to go.”
Ramona hugged him fiercely and watched as they drove away. She called to her mother, and together they went to check on Janet. They found her on the living room floor, curled in a ball, weeping. Together, they persuaded her to get up and sit on the couch.
“Why did he go?” Diego’s mother demanded.
“I can’t tell you, Mama. It’s a secret. But he left to keep us safe,” Janet sobbed.
“How does his leaving, keep us safe?”
“I can’t tell you.”
©2020 Dellani Oakes
At school the next day, Janet can hardly concentrate. She realizes she forgot her lunch, but Diego assures her that’s all right.
Diego drove them to McDonald’s, with Bunny and Ramona. They ate in the car on the way back to school. Enjoying the late summer sunshine, the four of them sat in the courtyard until the bell rang ending lunch. Diego walked her to class.
“See you in chorus.” He gave her a quick kiss.
“Do you have to work tonight?”
“I begged off the entire weekend.”
“Me too. Whatever will we do with all that free time?” He nipped her ear with his teeth. “I need to go.”
He jogged away, blowing her a kiss. Janet walked into drama class in a much better frame of mind than she’d been in yesterday. Trina sat next to her at the table, scooting close.
“So, tell me?”
“Tell you what?” Janet replied innocently.
“You know. I’ve seen that look before.”
“Complete satisfaction. On my own face a few times,” she added quietly as he bell rang. “Was it wonderful?”
“Oh, Trina! Yes, it was!” Janet whispered happily.
“Good. I’d hate to have to break his legs.”
Janet giggled, hugging her friend.
Class went well and chorus to follow, was a lot of fun. They practiced their parts for the Roberta Flack song, jazzing it up as necessary. Once school was over, they headed back to her house as fast as they could, and were in bed right away.
Stopping for dinner, they ate sandwiches, leaving the washing up for another time. It felt so right to be together. Scandalous and a little wrong, but good. Janet knew that it couldn’t last. There wouldn’t be anymore weekends like this, but she was glad they had this one. It was beautiful, perfect.
Saturday night, she fell asleep in Diego’s arms, knowing her parents would be home the next day. This was their last night together. Reality would hit tomorrow, but for now, life was perfect.
Janet’s family moved a week later. She said tearful goodbyes, but really she found it a relief. She loved her family, but Sookie and her mother had caused her so much grief over the last few years, it was nice to have them gone. She settled in with her aunt, uncle and cousin Madelyn. She and Maddie were mere days apart in age. Growing up more like sisters, they got along well. Things were more relaxed and normal in Maddie’s house, and Janet loved it there.
Diego was welcomed like an honored guest, the first time he came over for dinner. Later, he became a part of the family. Uncle Buck, who had no son, took him fishing and camping. It made Janet happy to see them get so close.
The chorus competition approached at light speed. Janet could hardly believe it. The competition was out of town in Lincoln, Nebraska. They were the final group to perform that day, so she had all day to worry about her solo.
Many of the choirs were exceptional, but none of them did anything like their group had planned. They grew more excited as their time approached. It was partly nerves and partly the knowledge that what they were about to attempt would blow the judges away.
Finally, they lined up and took their places on the risers behind the royal blue curtain. They were announced and the curtain rose. The three girls stood together near the microphone. Janet had her pitch in her mind, repeating it over and over to make sure she had it right.
Still in the dark, her voice cut through the darkness. “Strumming my pain with his fingers, Singing my life with his words….”
When she got to the last line, the entire chorus came in with harmony and accompaniment. The lights came up slowly as she and the others sang. The spotlight shown brightly in her eyes, keeping her from seeing the audience. She was just as glad, she could pretend they didn’t exist if she couldn’t see them.
©2020 Dellani Oakes
I am a big fan of first meetings, or the Meet Cute as they are called in romantic comedies. These often set the tone for the relationship, and tell us a lot about how the couple will interact with one another later in the story.
Jason Banes is a thief, however, he’s found himself on the wrong end of a murder charge. He admits to the accompanying theft, but maintains his innocence in the multiple murders he’s charged with. When compelling evidence comes out that he’s telling the truth, he’s released into FBI custody in order to help them find the person who is ultimately responsible, the elusive Orchid. Unfortunately, Special Agent in Charge Taylor Driscole, doesn’t seem very happy to meet him.
The woman was medium height with an athletic build. Her hair was an average shade of light brown, worn in a sloppy bun as if she couldn’t be bothered to style it. Her eyes were a common shade of blue, her complexion and looks attractive, but not impressive. She carried herself like a professional and her silvery gray suit coat bulged slightly under her left arm. She wore loose fitting, low riding pants that matched the jacket. Her shirt was stark white. She wore a tie; narrow, silk, gunmetal gray. Her makeup was minimal, severe. She had dark sunglasses perched on her head.
Putting the glasses to her teeth, she bit on the end a moment before speaking. “So, this is him, huh?” She looked at Jason like she was inspecting disappointing livestock.
“Jason Banes,” he said, stepping forward with his hand extended through the bars.
The men flanked the woman putting themselves in front of her like a wall.
“Cool it, guys. He can’t hurt me from in there.” She stepped forward, extending her hand.
Her nails were short, unpolished, well manicured. Her grip was strong, her fingers and palms calloused. Jason got the impression that she could kick his ass too. He took her hand, meeting the intensity of her grasp with equal pounds per square inch. His disarming smile flashed, making no impression whatever on the young woman.
“And you are?”
“Special Agent in Charge, Taylor Driscole.”
“You’re Agent Driscole?” He grinned, still holding her hand. The other hand went immediately to his head. Long fingers brushed his curly hair out of his face. “I was expecting a chap. Nice to meet you.”
“This isn’t a social visit, Mr. Banes.”
“Jason,” he corrected automatically.
“Mr. Banes,” she said firmly. “You’re to be released in my custody. The men and I will escort you to a secure location. They’re setting up surveillance and checking security now.”
“All right. How soon do we leave?”
“I’ve got a few more papers to sign, then you’re officially my headache.”
“I won’t be one, I promise. I’m house broken and I do know how to treat a lady.”
He wasn’t really trying to flirt, but Special Agent Driscole seemed to think he was overly familiar. She snatched back her hand, glaring at him.
“Get him ready,” she told the men with her. “Move into position,” she said to the cuff of her jacket.
“Yes, ma’am,” her entourage replied in chorus.
Driscole strode to the door, slapping it with her palm, knocking it aside angrily.
“What’s biting her?” Jason asked the men quietly.
The meat shield shrugged, exchanging a knowing look. Jason wasn’t sure, but he had the uneasy feeling they might be laughing at Driscole, him or both.
He was cuffed, with his wrists in front of him, and escorted to the elevator. Driscole was nowhere to be seen, but she and more security men were waiting in the parking garage. Jason was led off the elevator, surrounded by a walking wall of muscle. He’d never seen so many big, well armed men in his life. Each man had a weapon in his hand. They all looked around carefully, checking for unknown menace. Jason didn’t know whether to feel very safe or very, very afraid.
Two black SUV’s were waiting a few feet away. He was taken to the lead vehicle and put inside. He was flanked by two members of the meat shield. Agent Driscole climbed up front and the rest of the team got in the second vehicle. She contacted the other driver and they took off.
“Why is it you lot like black?” he asked the agents.
“What?” The man on his left asked.
“Black,” Jason replied airily. “Could we be anymore obvious? Do you chaps buy every black SUV in America?”
The man on the left looked puzzled, the man on the right and the driver chuckled. Driscole stared straight ahead. Jason shrugged. He wiggled around trying to get comfortable, but his companions took up most of the seat. He was more of a wiry build himself, but he had very broad shoulders. Feeling slightly claustrophobic, he wiggled some more.
Mr. Left gave him an evil eye. Mr. Right eased slightly toward the door, angling his shoulders so the each had a little more room.
“Thanks,” Jason murmured, smiling a little.
The man said nothing, but nodded and a smile flickered for a second and was gone.
“May I ask where we’re going?” Jason directed at the group.
No one said anything. Driscole shifted in her seat, ignoring him.
“Oi,” Jason said rather more loudly. “I know I’m a criminal, but I think I’ve got a right to know if I’m going to be safe. Might I point out, that you need me—rather a lot?”
Driscole glared at him over her shoulder. Firming her lips, she inhaled slowly. “Look, Mr. Banes. I’m not here to be your friend. I’m here to protect you. The less you know about our destination the better.”
“What? Am I going to yell out the windows and give it away? Who am I gonna tell, Special Agent in Charge Taylor Driscole? Eh? And while we’re having this lively repartee, perhaps you could ask one of the kind gentlemen to undo the handcuffs? I assure you, I’m not inclined to go anywhere. Besides, they’d break me in two before I even got to a door or disabled the driver—not that I know how to do that in any case. I’m a thief, not an assassin.”
© 2019 Dellani Oakes
With her parents and Sookie leaving for the weekend, Janet makes up her mind that she and Diego will be together.
Thursday evening, they finished packing the car before dinner. The family ate a quick meal and left before dark. Janet called Diego when they were gone. He drove over, suddenly very nervous. He’d told his parents he was sleeping in Sookie’s room, but he was sure they knew the truth. He’d found a box of condoms in his overnight bag.
She met him at the door with a shy smile. Was she having second thoughts? He hoped not. Jeff Beck’s Blow by Blow played on the stereo. The intricate music of the jazz guitarist, was among his favorites.
“You hungry?” she asked when the door was shut and locked behind him.
“No. I ate at home. Are you sure about this, Janet?”
She pushed him against the door, kissing him with abandon. Any fear or worry he’d had, left him. Her spirited advances left no doubt in his mind that she was ready, and she was expecting him to fulfill his promises to her.
“Let’s go downstairs,” he said hoarsely.
She led him to her room. She’d lit candles on the metal shelves in one corner. Her double bed looked inviting.
Diego shut and locked the door, even though they were alone. He set down his bag and took her in his arms.
“You’re sure? Because you can still say no.”
“I don’t want to say no,” she protested. She started to take of her shirt, but he stopped her.
“Let me.” Diego reached for her shirt, slipping it over her head.
Janet took his off, her hands shaking. Chest to chest, they kissed a long time, their desire growing steadily.
For Diego, it was somewhat surreal. Something he’d waited for, dreamed about, was going to happen. He was going to make love to Janet. He wondered if he was dreaming. But even his best dream didn’t feel this good.
“You can still say no, Janet.” He nibbled her ear, his lips blazing a trail down her neck.
“Yes,” she whispered hoarsely.
They made love, slowly, gently, getting to know one another. Despite their ages, it didn’t seem dirty or wrong. It was as if their love making had fulfilled something that had been missing until then. This new relationship could be plucked away, all too soon. They were both determined to enjoy what they could. After making love a second time, they had a quick shower and got ready to sleep. Janet made sure to set the alarm.
“Get some sleep,” Diego told her. “School tomorrow, remember?”
“Yeah, yeah,” she mumbled as she fell asleep. “Be that way….”
“I love you, Janet.”
“I love you….”
“I don’t know if I can concentrate today,” Diego confided as they walked into school the next morning. “I’ll be thinking about you.”
“Me too. We have two more nights.”
“Today needs to pass by so we can go home and go to bed.”
Janet laughed, tossing her dark hair over her shoulder as he held the door for her. She was sure everyone could tell that their relationship had changed overnight, but she didn’t care. She knew she’d made the right decision. Diego walked her to class, running to his own before the bell. He was at the door again when class was over, scurrying to his next one once she was at her door. At lunch time, he was waiting by her locker.
“You forgot to pack your lunch.”
“Crap, I did.”
“It’s okay. I’ve got it covered.”
“One advantage that high school has over junior high…. Open campus at lunch. Come on.”
©2020 Dellani Oakes
The bad news delivered, Janet wants to leave. She asks Diego to take her to Taco Village for dinner.
“I had a feeling you’d be coming,” she said. “Call me crazy, I knew to fix a special platter of chicken enchiladas just the way you two like them.”
She presented them with a steaming plate of food. Thanking her, they took forks and started eating from opposite sides. When they were done, his aunt came to clear their plate. She sat down across the table from Janet, taking her hand.
“You look so lost, cariña. What’s wrong?”
Janet told her, trying hard not to cry. Diego’s aunt smothered her in hugs. His female cousins took her to the restroom to freshen up. His aunt stayed to talk to him.
“So, they’re getting back together?” She made a disgusted noise. “I didn’t think that would ever happen. In a way, I’m happy. Ilene’s been alone too long. But to take that girl from all she holds dear. It’s so unfair.”
Diego nodded, gulping. “I don’t want to lose her, Auntie. But what can I do? I can’t marry her yet. What kind of life could we have? We’d have to live with my parents and we might not make it to college. School’s important to Janet.”
“Que sera sera,” she said.
“Don’t go quoting song lyrics, auntie.”
“Not meaning to, Diego. I’m really saying, what will be, will be. You can’t change what’s meant to be. If you’re meant to be together for life, it will happen. But if your lives take you different paths, you follow where it leads you.”
“I’ll try,” he said. “But if it takes me away from Janet….”
“I know. I’ll say special prayers. You take your girl somewhere to make her happy.” She kissed his cheek and pressed money in his hand.
Diego didn’t need the money, but she wouldn’t take it back. Thanking her, he took Janet outside.
“Where do you want to go?”
“I want to go play pool.”
He laughed loudly. “Okay. But we’ll go to my house. I’m not taking you to the bowling ally or the pool hall.”
Diego took her face in his hands. “I love you,” he said in Spanish, knowing Janet was fluent. “That won’t change, no matter where life takes us.”
“I’ll always love you, Diego. Until my dying day.”
They went to his house and played pool far later than they usually stayed up on a school night. His parents, knowing the situation, didn’t argue or fuss.
“That girl’s got a lot to deal with,” his mother said to his father. “She needs this time with Diego.”
Her husband nodded. He was a man of few words, but that didn’t stop him from disagreeing with her if he thought she was wrong. This particular time, he knew she wasn’t. At 10:00, he told Diego to take Janet home.
Sitting in her driveway, Diego didn’t know if he should talk or kiss her. She solved that problem by kissing him—long and slow and deep.
“This weekend, when my parents are gone, I want you to stay with me.”
“Don’t you dare argue with me, Diego Hernandez! I want you to stay here and make love to me. I don’t care what they think. I don’t care what they say. They could change their minds at the last minute, and make me move too. I’m not going to miss out on the one thing I want most, just because of them.”
“Are you really sure?”
“Positive. Will you?”
He nodded, kissing her. “I promise.
The rest of the week went by in a slow blur for Janet. The only moments that were clear to her were the ones that included Diego. Somewhere during that week, her mother took her to the doctor to get on the pill. She endured the humiliating exam without protest. This was simply another step toward getting what she wanted.
©2020 Dellani Oakes