First Meeting from Jerrika and Delmar ~ A Love in the City Romance by Dellani Oakes

Sometimes, first meetings aren’t face to face. In fact, Jerrika Harper and Delmar Washington connect over the phone, and don’t actually meet face to face for several days.

The phone rang on the other end, sounding tinny in his ear. Staring at his computer screen, which was doing something he knew it shouldn’t be, he waited.

“Tech support, Jerrika speaking, how may I help you?”

“Hi, this is Delmar, Fifth Floor.”

“Hello, Delmar Fifth Floor. What seems to be your trouble?”

Her voice was bright and sparkly, somehow lightening the load he had on his shoulders.

“I’m hoping you can tell me. I’m staring at a black screen. Before you ask, yes, it’s all plugged in, the monitor is on, I’ve turned it off and on again, and it’s still black.”

“Hmm. Is there a cursor blinking?”

“Yeah.”

“So, we know it’s operational. Did you recently download anything?”

“You think it’s a virus?”

“Could be. Did you?”

“Just some files for a client.”

“Via e-mail?”

“Yeah.”

He heard keys clicking rapidly.

“Name?”

“Delmar Washington.”

“Gotcha.”

More keys clicked. Jerrika whistled. “Wow, Delmar. Do you ever clear out your inbox?”

“I thought I did. Why?”

“You’ve got over two thousand old e-mails here, love. Want I should purge this?”

“You can do that?”

“I am an Tech Goddess, I am omnipresent and omnipotent.”

“But are you omniscient? Because that’s my favorite.”

She giggled. “Only on Friday. You’re in luck! This might take a minute.”

He could still hear her breathing, and the sound of keys clicking, so he knew she hadn’t hung up. As he watched, his screen blinked blue, black and came back on.

“Whoa! What did you do?”

“I have solved your problem. The most recent e-mails are in a file marked Recent. The ones which were less than a month old are now in a file marked 30 days or less. I did a quick check of the spam folder, threw it all away, and cleared your deleted files. The rest you’ll have to decide about. I didn’t want to purge anything important.”

“Damn, girl! Will you marry me?”

“That’s just the relief talking.”

“True. But how can I thank you? That was amazing.”

“I’m fond of chocolate chip cookies,” she teased.

“I’ll send you some.”

There was a surprised pause. “You really would, wouldn’t you?”

“You bet. Hey, better yet, I’ll get you a gift card to Lucille’s Bakery on Sixteenth. They make the best chocolate chip cookies in the city. What’s your e-mail?”

“Jerrika Harper. That’s spelled J-E-R-R-I-K-A.” It wasn’t necessary to give the rest, they worked for Crossfire Sporting Goods, which had its own server.

His turn to tap keys.

“Oh, my God, you really did!”

“I was serious about that thank you. You have no idea how much I have to do before I can go home. You’re a life saver.”

“I live but to serve. Anything else I can help you with?”

“I’d love for you to keep talking to me, you have a beautiful voice.”

“Why, thank you. You’ve got a very nice voice, yourself. But if you’re that busy, I’ll distract you.”

“Also true. Much as I’d love to keep chatting, I gotta go. Thanks again.”

“You bet. That’s what I’m here for. Keep your e-mail cleared out,” she admonished playfully.

“Never gonna happen.”

Laughing, they said goodbye and hung up.

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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Brand New Day by Dellani Oakes – Part 31

Janet tells Ramona about her father arriving. Then, her friend puts a bug in her ear, asking if they will move back to Texas. She’s so upset, she’s late to class.

The bell rang for class. Mrs. Frost wrote her a note and she walked rapidly to the chorus room on the other side of the auditorium.

Diego watched the door anxiously and smiled when she walked in. She had no time to explain before class, but made sure to tell him after.

Ramona and Bunny rode home again with Betty, leaving them alone to talk.

“Where did that idea come from? Your dad?”

“Mona. She asked me this morning.”

He snorted derisively. “Until your folks say it, don’t sweat it.”

They drove to the A&W for a cold drink. Over root beer floats, they talked calmly about what to do if her parents moved.

“You’ve got family here. Stay with them. Or Bunny. Or us.”

“Mom would never let me stay with you.”

He grimaced, nodding. “True. But your aunt and uncle would probably let you stay.”

Diego drove Janet home, then hurried off to work. Janet walked into a house she hardly recognized. Her mother had rearranged the furniture and picked up the clutter.

Her mother’s door was closed. She didn’t go near it, knowing what she’d likely hear. Sookie wasn’t home. The phone rang, making her jump. She answered on the second ring.

“H-hello?”

“Hi, it’s me.” Ramona. “Sookie’s here and wants to stay with the twins. Is that cool?”

“Yeah, that’s fine. Mom and Dad are—busy….”

“Ooh, lucky you.”

“I’m going for a walk.”

“Meet me in the park.”

“On my way.”

As children, they often met in the park after school. It was equidistant between their houses and neutral ground where they could be themselves. They sat on the swings and Janet remembered being there with Diego. She smiled.

“Could it be any more weird?” Ramona asked.

“Not really. He’s like a stranger—but not. Does that make sense?”

“Yeah. I’m sorry—what I said before. I didn’t know it would freak you out so bad. Diego told me. That whole mouth control issue….” She made her fingers look like mouths, opening and closing them as she spoke.

“If I have to, I’ll live with Aunt Martha. It wouldn’t be too bad. But would she let me stay three years?” Janet sniffled.

“Maybe not. But this year…. At least you’d have now. Diego graduates anyway, so this is the important year, Jan.”

The girls walked to the corner market and got sodas, drinking them as they walked to Ramona’s.

“Your mom called,” Carlos told her as they walked in. “I’ll drive you girls home. You might want to mention your visitor before hand.”

“Good idea. Sookie!” Janet called.

Her little sister came out, carrying a Barbie doll. “I hope this is important?” She sounded so disgusted and mature, Janet had to hide a laugh.

“We need to head home, squirt.”

“Must we? Okay.” Sookie groaned, rolling her eyes.

In the car, Janet explained who was visiting.

“Do I call him Dad, too?” Sookie asked angrily.

“Whatever he tells you to call him. I call your dad by his name. He’ll probably do that, too.”

“They scared me, you know,” she said solemnly.

“I know, squirt. You can sleep in with me, if you want.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, we’ll have a pajama party.”

“Cool!” Happier, Sookie jumped out of the car and ran up to the house.

©2020 Dellani Oakes

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First Meeting from Indian Summer Revisited ~ A Paranormal Romance by Dellani Oakes

I am a big fan of first meetings. These often set the tone for the relationship, and tell us a lot about how the couple will interact with one another later in the story. Although they get off to a somewhat rough start, Malin Dimas and Carina Enriques-Deza find that they are mutually interested. Carina is an art student who loves photography. She’s so absorbed in her projects, she doesn’t always pay attention where she’s going, particularly if she’s in a rush.

Class ended, but Carina hardly noticed. She had another class, then she had to work. Her less than glamorous job was waiting tables at a small outdoor restaurant on Hypolita Street.

Rushing to her class, she neatly avoided running into anyone until she got to the staircase. Going from the bright sun to the sudden shade, she was still wearing her sunglasses. She ran headlong into a tall, broad shouldered body. Her bag went one way, her body the other, while the strong male hardly moved. He did grunt, her elbow having caught him inadvertently in the midsection.

Carina sprawled on the ground, cursing in Spanish and English as the man tried to help her up. Hardly looking at him, she was trying to find the things that had fallen out of her bag.

Her phone had landed in a shallow puddle. Her pens and lip gloss were nowhere to be found. A well calloused, long fingered hand helped her up, brushing her off as a pleasant tenor voice apologized for running her down.

“I’m so sorry. I got sun dazzled I guess,” he said quietly, handing her the lip gloss and pens. “I got in this dark and I couldn’t see a damn thing. Sorry about that.” His soft Southern accent was warm and welcoming.

Carina looked up at him. He had black hair and dark brown eyes. Her own jade green eyes locked with his for a moment and she smiled.

“It’s okay. I couldn’t see either. Environmental hazard living in Florida.”

“Beg pardon?” He looked confused.

“Sunshine,” she pointed skyward.

“Well, it is the Sunshine State, right?”

“Yeah. Sorry, I really need to run. I’ve got class.”

“Oh, sure. Sorry again.”

“No problem. Sorry I elbowed your gut.”

“Missed the nuts,” he said with a grin.

Carina giggled as she trotted up the stairs. The young man walked with her, taking the steps two at a time.

“I bet your girlfriend will be grateful for that,” she said as he opened the stairwell door for her.

“Don’t have one, but I’m mighty happy you missed ’em. I’ve grown a bit attached to them over the years.”

With a sidelong glance, she eased past him as he held the door for her. He stood by it, leaning on the edge, gazing down at her. There was barely enough room to slip through, but she did because she was in a hurry. Waving to him, she dodged in her classroom as the instructor was about to close the door.

“Carina, nice you could join us.”

“Sorry. I fell,” she explained as she walked past him.

“You okay?” Those were the last words that made their way into the hallway.

Malin Dimas shouldered his backpack and walked downstairs. He would have used any excuse to walk that girl to her class. He didn’t have another class until eleven, so he headed to the nearest coffee shop, got a large double shot and wandered to the Plaza in front of Government House. Sitting on the steps of the Slave Market, he gazed out over the town.

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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Brand New Day by Dellani Oakes – Part 30

Janet wakes to find her father at the house. After breakfast, she realizes she needs to get ready, just as Diego arrives.

She heard male voices drift down the stairs, and hoped Diego wasn’t upset meeting her father like that. Talk about a trial by fire for them both. She ran upstairs, nearly falling when she got to the kitchen. Diego sat at the table in the breakfast nook with a cup of coffee and a biscuit. He stood when she entered, lending her a hand.

“Watch it, baby. Ready to go?”

“Yeah. Sorry. Got to talking.” She gave her father a kiss. “See you later.”

“Bye, sweetheart.”

“Bye, sir,” Diego shook his hand.

“Nice meeting you, Diego.”

“You too.”

In the car, he turned to Janet, frowning. “No warning?”

“I didn’t know it was him until this morning. I didn’t think to call.”

“If I hadn’t seen my dad for ten years, I’d be the same way. He seems nice.”

“He wasn’t a dad, was he?”

Diego laughed as he pulled out of the driveway. “If you mean, did he threaten to castrate me if I made a move on you, no. He did make it clear he intends to be around a while, and will keep an eye on me.”

“Fun for you.”

“Not really.”

At school, Ramona assured her Sookie had gotten to school on time.

“She and the twins had way too much fun last night. Best friends for life.”

“Glad she had a good time.” She caught her friend up to date on the way to class.

“Your dad? No kidding? So, how do you feel about that?”

“Numb. I don’t know what to think. After all this time….”

“Do you think they’ll stay together?”

“Who knows. As long as they’re happy.”

“If they do, will you move to Texas?”

Janet hadn’t even thought of that. Her insides froze. “I don’t know.” She couldn’t even let her mind go that direction. It was simply too horrible.

She was distracted until lunch. Spending time with her friends helped, but she was still a little shaky. Diego walked her slowly to class.

“What’s wrong?” He took her by the elbows, turning her to face him.

“What if Mom wants to move back to Texas? What will I do? What will we do?”

“Deal with it when the time comes,” he said calmly. Inside, his belly clenched and he wanted to vomit. “It’ll be okay. Believe that.”

“I can’t lose you,” she wailed.

Disregarding rules, he kissed her fiercely. “Don’t even say it. You won’t lose me.”

She clung to him, sobbing. Mrs. Frost saw them from her class. She came over to see what was wrong.

“Is Janet okay?”

“She’s had some disturbing news.”

Mrs. Frost led them down the hall to the dressing room. “You can stay here a few minutes. When she’s calmer, bring her to class. I’ll write you a note.”

“Thank you.”

Janet felt better after a little while. The sobs and tears subsided. Diego took her to class and Mrs. Frost’s note exchanged hands without her missing a beat. Janet sat in the nearest chair, staring ahead, barely listening.

“… having tryouts next week,” finally penetrated her fog. Tryouts for what? She’d find out from one of the others.

The bell finally rang and she gathered her things. Mrs. Frost stopped her, closing the door.

“I don’t begin to know your business. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk to you. You aren’t—pregnant?”

“Oh, no, ma’am!” Janet burst out laughing. “No. I haven’t seen my dad in ten years, and all of a sudden, he’s here. And my folks might get back together….”

“I’d think that would make you happy.”

“Not if they decide to move to Texas.”

“Texas isn’t so bad.”

“But Diego’s not in Texas!”

“Aahh…. Maybe they’d let you stay here with someone. It’s worth asking.”

Janet nodded, trying to smile. Her lips twitched, wanting to pout instead.

“Better not to worry about something before it happens,” Mrs. Frost said, hugging her.

©2020 Dellani Oakes

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Brand New Day by Dellani Oakes – Part 29

Janet and Sookie have dinner at Diego’s house. Because of the man at the house, Mrs. Hernandez invites Sookie and Janet to stay over. Janet politely declines.

Sookie was thrilled to be allowed to sleepover on a weeknight. She hugged Janet good night and followed the twins to their room.

The mysterious car was still in the driveway. The lights were off except for the porch light and a lamp in the living room.

“I’m coming in with you,” Diego decided. “We don’t know who the guy is.”

Janet didn’t argue. She had been trying to find a way to ask him. They walked in the house. It was silent. There was a note taped to the TV. “Please lock up and make sure the lights are off, Mom.”

Janet taped a reply to the door of Sookie’s room, letting her mother know where her daughter was. That accomplished, he kissed Diego good night.

“I had a great time,” he said.

“Even with all the drama?”

“Yes. Even with the bad boy checks and the unexpected visitor….”

“Good, then it wasn’t just me. I had a good time, too.” She smiled up at him, dark eyes twinkling.

“I’ll pick you up at seven thirty.”

“I’ll be ready.”

One last kiss, and he left. Janet checked the doors and turned off the lights before going downstairs. Because she felt vulnerable, she locked her bedroom door and pulled a chair under the knob. Feeling better, she fell asleep.

The next morning, her alarm went off. She heard someone in the kitchen and music playing on the stereo. Dressing quickly, she dashed up the stairs two at a time. A man stood at the oven, pulling out a pan of biscuits.

There was something familiar about him—how he looked, moved, danced to Roberta Flack….

“Daddy?” Ten years fell away and she was a little girl again.

The man turned around, smiling. “Pumpkin!” He dashed over, lifting her, spinning her around. “I’ve missed you so much, Janet.”

“What are you doing here?”

“Mom called me. We have some things to work out, thought we’d try again.”

“Just like that?”

“Just like that. Look at you. My baby girl’s a young woman now.” He smiled happily, spinning her under his arm. “We have a lot to catch up on.”

“We do, but I have to get ready for school.”

“Today?” he sighed.

“I can’t miss. My ride will be here soon.”

“There’s coffee and biscuits,” he said proudly. “Bacon’s almost done.” He held her seat and served her a plate.

“You scared Sookie,” she told him as he sat across from her.

“What’s a Sookie?”

“My sister. Did Mom tell you anything?”

He ducked his head, smiling. “Honestly, after she said, It’s me. Can we talk? Well, I kind of stopped listening to her words and drank in her voice.”

Janet ate and explained about Sookie, and her experience the night before. Her father laughed, dark eyes sparkling.

“I had no idea. Poor kid. I saw Ilene, and all thought of anything else left me. Made a beeline for the nearest bed.”

Janet threw her napkin at him in disgust. “Are all men such horny bastards?”

Her father considered a moment before nodding. “Pretty much, yeah. So, tell me about Diego. Is it serious?”

“Dad, I’m fifteen. It’s not like we’re getting married or anything. But I do love him.”

“So, it’s serious.”

A car door slammed outside.

“He’s here! Oh, no. I’m not ready. Answer the door, introduce yourself….” She ran downstairs to finish getting ready.

©2020 Dellani Oakes

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First Meeting from I’m the Nanny ~ A Love in the City Romance by Dellani Oakes

Some first meetings don’t go well. For Mitch and Jade, it’s a bit difficult, because he’s arrived at her house, and he’s not – entirely – expected. However, if they’re lucky, they’ll work things out.

The door opened suddenly. An attractive young woman with long, walnut colored hair stood there with a child on one hip and the other by the hand. She frowned at him, cocking her head and raising an eyebrow. She was dressed in sleek taupe pants and an eggshell silk blouse, her hair and makeup flawless.

“And you are?”

“I’m here in response to the add. The agency sent me. I’m here to see Mrs. Smith?”

“Is this some sort of joke?”

He checked the address he’d been given by the agency representative. “This is the Smith residence, isn’t it?”

“My parents’ home. It’s my ad.” She continued to stare.

“Jade, darling? Who’s at the door?” A cultured, contralto voice called from inside. It echoed along the tile floors and shiny plaster walls. “Oh, hello.” An older version of the woman in front of him smiled, also confused.

Both women were taller than average, full busted, pillow lipped, with slender hips, long, dark hair and gigantic blue eyes. Mitch could only stare in return. Not because he was confused, but because they were two of the loveliest women he’d ever seen.

“Won’t you come in?” The older woman said. She took one child, lifting it into her arms as she pulled her daughter out of the doorway.

“He said the agency sent him, Mother.”

“Really? How unique. Please come in, Mr.?”

“Flagler. Mitchell Flagler. You were expecting me, weren’t you?”

“Daddy must have written the name down wrong,” Mother said. “His handwriting is atrocious,” she confided to Mitch. “We thought it said Michelle. Of course, we were expecting a woman….”

“If I’d known you were a man,” the younger woman said. “I would have told them not to send you and saved you the trip. I really can’t….”

“Give him a chance, Jade,” her mother said gently. “We’re running out of applicants. I fear that none of them had the experience necessary for coping with our particular problem,” Mrs. Smith said. “Please come in.”

She ushered Mitch into a lavishly furnished living room. The furniture was stark white, the carpet an expensive, hand loomed Persian. It was beautifully decorated in antique porcelain, glass and crystal. The toys on the floor were the only indication that there were children in the house.

Mrs. Smith showed him to a chair. Mitch sat opposite the two women. One child continued to cling to its mother, the other sat on the floor, playing happily with the toys. Already, Mitch sensed something not quite right about the interaction of the children. Focusing on the older woman, since she seemed the one inclined to speak to him, he smiled.

“I have all the proper references, ma’am. Are you Mrs. Smith?” He turned to the daughter.

“Miss Smith,” the younger woman said crisply. “I’m divorced. I gave that other name back,” she said with a disdainful sniff.

“I apologize. I was told I would be interviewing with a couple. I guess the agency made a few snafus in both directions.”

Miss Smith sniffed again, tossing her walnut colored hair. The child grabbed a handful, putting the hair in its mouth.

Because of the way the children were dressed, Mitch couldn’t tell if they were boys, girls or a mixed set. He waited patiently, trying not to show his nervousness. He really needed this job. His money was almost gone and he’d been living with friends for the past six weeks. Desperate for a job, he applied for this one on the off chance he might actually qualify.

He handed his folder of references and resumé to Mrs. Smith. She took it graciously, opening it as she adjusted delicate reading glasses on her nose. Miss Smith continued to stare at him incredulously.

“It’s rather a surprising profession for a man,” she snapped.

“It’s not my first preference, Miss Smith. But I’m not in a position to be picky at the moment. I need a job badly and I’m well qualified. I believe you’ll see for yourself.”

“Your first degree is in early childhood development?” Mrs. Smith said, reading his resumé.

“Yes, ma’am. My B.S. degree. My Masters is in child psychology and I was working on my PhD until recently.”

“Why did you quit?” she asked politely.

“To be honest, my life fell apart a few weeks ago. I no longer have the money to continue my education.”

“Oh? What happened?” Miss Smith asked.

This was the first note of concern that Mitch had heard from Miss Smith. Her face softened.

“Well, it’s rather personal,” he said quietly, looking at his hands. “Not to put too fine a point on it, I thought everything was perfect, but found out how wrong I was when my fiancée threw me over for someone rich and influential.”

That was more than he wanted to say, but it tumbled out. His ears went hot and he knew he was blushing. What Sheree had done to him both hurt and embarrassed him. That he hadn’t seen it coming, humiliated him.

“I know how you feel,” Miss Smith said quietly. “Perhaps I could have a look, Mother?” She scanned the resumé quickly, lips forming a thoughtful pout.

“So, what was your PhD to be in?” her mother asked.

“I was working on a dual emphasis. Child development and psychology.”

“Do you have any practical experience with children?”

“I have six younger siblings,” he said with a smile. “And my mother ran a daycare and preschool. From the time I started high school, I worked with her.”

“Is she your only reference?” Mrs. Smith asked.

“No, ma’am. I worked at two different facilities while in college. You have contact numbers there. I had in mind to start a preschool of my own for children with learning or behavioral problems. They are hard to mainstream in a regular facility. They don’t have the staff or the time for so called problem children. My youngest brother was born with autism. Because of Tim, I went into this field. He’s almost thirteen now.”

The women looked at one another, mouths open. He saw tears in their eyes and wondered what he’d said to make them cry.

“Oh, Mom!” Miss Smith gasped.

She clutched her child, burying her face on the child’s shoulder, weeping piteously. The child started to cry in response to its mother. The little one on the floor came over, standing at its mother’s knee, staring up at her.

“Mama cwying, Mamaw?”

“It’s all right, darling. Mama’s fine.”

The other child was nearly hysterical. The grandmother tried to take it, but the child flung itself away from the reaching hands. Mitch jumped up, catching the child before it fell out of its mother’s arms.

“Whoa!” He said, picking the little one up. “Careful, kiddo! Good way to whack your head!” He continued to talk to the child, laughing and being silly.

The toddler laughed, grabbing his lips as he made a funny face. The laugh took both women by surprise. The other child lurched over to his knees, grabbing a handful of pants.

“Hi there! You want to come up too?” He sat down, taking one child on each knee. “What are their names?” he asked the women.

Both mother and daughter stared at him. Neither of them spoke right away. The young woman cleared her throat twice before speaking.

“Richard and Rebecca. Richie is on your left.”

So, the unresponsive child was a boy, the other his sister.

“Mr. Flagler,” the older woman said quietly. “How soon can you start?”

It took Mitch a moment to process what she had said. “Right away. You want me, just like that? You don’t want to check my references?”

“We’ve got all the references we need right there,” she said as she gazed at the laughing little boy.

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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Brand New Day by Dellani Oakes – Part 28

There is a strange man at Janet’s house. It scares Sookie, so Janet and Diego take her to his house.

“Women talk,” she replied. “Some of them have talked about you, rather extensively. And they also talk about Diego. Oh, the things they say!”

“Keep it to yourself,” Diego insisted.

“Not funny, Mona,” Carlos snapped.

“I’m not trying to be. You guys are a two man scandal.”

“Shut up, Mona,” Carlos said.

“Why? So I won’t hurt your feelings?”

“So you won’t embarrass your brother in front of his girlfriend.”

She clamped her lips together. “Sorry. I forget.”

“We always talk like this,” Janet replied. “But it’s kinda different now.”

“It’s weird. In a cool kinda way. Oh, man,” she said in disgust. “I won’t be able to ask you sex questions, cause you’ll be talking about my brother! Ew ew ew!!” Ramona danced around, wiggling her fingers as if she’d just smashed a spider.

“Enough!” Diego slammed his hand on the counter. He stormed from the room and went out to the backyard, the door booming behind him.

“What was that?” their mother called from the living room.

“Nothing, Mom. Wind caught it,” Carlos lied.

“Keep it down, Daddy’s trying to sleep.”

“Sorry.” He glared at Ramona. “That was a cheap shot, Mona.”

“I didn’t mean to upset him. Sheesh, sensitive.”

Carlos tossed down the dish towel, leaning across the table. “Look, girls talk as much as guys, maybe more. We all know that. A guy that dates a lot, well, he kind of figures he’s gonna be the subject of conversation. It’s not easy being the brother of a younger sister. Eventually, one of two things is going to happen. Either you hear the guys discussing your sister in explicit terms, or you hear yourself being discussed by her friends. When you fall for your little sister’s best friend…well, that whole fear factor increases exponentially.”

“I don’t even know what that means, Carlos,” Ramona said in a matter of fact tone.

“It means—Diego’s ego could take a hammering. Teasing him about this isn’t in the cards now. Got it?”

“Why not? He teases me all the time.”

“We don’t pick who we fall in love with, it just happens,” Carlos tried to explain. “Maybe he’s a little embarrassed?”

“That’s just stupid,” Ramona replied.

“He’s supposed to think of Janet like he does you, like his little sister, and he can’t. It’s not so weird, it happens a lot. Happened to more than one friend of mine. Happened to me.”

“You fell for your friend’s little sister?”

“Unlike Diego, I didn’t have the balls to ask her out right away. But I finally did, and I can’t tell you how happy we are now.

“I’m glad you did,” Janet said softly. “Because if Diego hadn’t asked me, I’d have been miserable my whole entire life.” She walked out the back door, closing it quietly.

Diego was in the middle of the yard, staring at the sky. She took his arm, leaning toward him, her head on his shoulder.

“Hey.”

“Hey.” He kissed the top of her head as he slipped his arm around her.

“I guess that was to be expected. I don’t know if she’ll ever totally understand.”

“Probably not.”

“Carlos talked to her. Maybe she will…. Even if she never does, I’m glad we’re together.”

“Me too.” His voice deepened and he moved closer, taking her in his arms.

Janet had learned that was his signal that he didn’t want to talk anymore. She didn’t want to talk either. They kissed a long time. Eventually, the mosquitoes got bad enough, they had to go inside.

Mrs. Hernandez had invited Sookie to spend the night. She extended the invitation to Janet too, who declined.

“All my books and everything’s at home. I’ll be fine in the basement. Thanks, though.”

“You’re always welcome. Anytime.”

©2020 Dellani Oakes

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Brand New Day by Dellani Oakes – Part 27

After the movie, Charlene checks on them, gives Diego permission to kiss Janet, and leaves.

They kissed for more than five minutes. The door opened again and it was the next projectionist.

“Sorry, man. Lock the door next time.”

“Doesn’t lock.”

“Oh, true. Well, do something, huh?”

“We’re just kissing, Roy. No biggie.”

“Don’t wanna throw off your groove, man. Okay, so we set up for the next run?”

“Yeah. Oh, there’s a bad spot at the end of the second reel.” He explained the problem as he grabbed his things.

Janet and Diego left with their arms around one another. Several of their friends were in the lobby playing pinball. They greeted them as they walked past.

“Oh, Mom invited you to Sunday dinner, and I just remembered,” he said, smacking his forehead. “Can you come?”

“Can I borrow a phone?”

“Call from my house.”

“Sure.”

His house was about five minutes away. She called her mother. The phone rang quite a long time. Finally, Sookie answered sounding very apprehensive.

“Sook, what’s up? Is Mom there?”

“Janet you need to get home,” she whispered.

“What’s wrong? Are you okay? Is Mom hurt?”

“I dunno. You need to come. Please?”

“I’m on my way. Are you in danger?”

“No. Just please hurry.”

“Go in your room and lock the door. I’m on my way.” Janet hung up, terrified.

“I need to get home. Now. Something’s wrong. Sookie wouldn’t tell me.”

Diego was all ready leading her to the door. Carlos joined them, carrying a first aid kit.

“In case someone’s hurt.”

“Thanks.”

Carlos clamored in the back and Janet rode up front. A strange car with Texas plates sat in the driveway. The front door was locked, all the lights were on with no one in the living room.

Janet tried to unlock the door but her hands shook too much. Carlos took her key, opening the door. She ran to Sookie’s room, hammering on the door.

“It’s me, Janet. Are you okay?”

Sookie opened the door, peering out with big, dark eyes.

“Honey? What’s wrong?”

“I don’t know. Some man came here about noon. He and Mama talked a long time and argued some. Then they went in her room and haven’t come out. And I thought she was screaming…. She won’t answer the door. I’m scared, Janet!”

Strange noises were, indeed, coming from the master bedroom. The men exchanged a look. Janet took Sookie downstairs to her room, which fortunately wasn’t directly under the master bedroom, and turned on the TV extra loud. She found the men in the kitchen making coffee and blushing.

“Is that what I think it is?” Janet asked Diego.

He blushed even more, nodding.

“Your mom’s got a boyfriend?” Carlos asked.

“I didn’t think so. She hasn’t really seen anyone since she broke up with Sookie’s dad. And she never had a man here before. Not even Braden.”

“Janet, I’m hungry,” Sookie said from the basement.

“We’ll fix something,” she called. “You better call your mom,” she told Diego.

“Get Sookie, we’ll leave a note,” Carlos said. “She shouldn’t be here.”

Mrs. Hernandez was fine with two extra people for dinner instead of one. She’d fixed enough food for an army, so there was plenty. After dinner, Janet and Ramona cleaned up with the help of Diego and Carlos. Their twin sisters entertained Sookie, who was only a few months younger and in the same grade.

“So, Mom’s got a man! How cool!” Ramona said.

“It’s weird,” Janet snapped. “It’s not like her. She’s never like this.”

“The right man can make you do dumb stuff,” Ramona said, tossing her head.

“What do you know about it?” Carlos asked. “You’ve dated about as much as Janet.”

©2020 Dellani Oakes

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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 26

Janet and Diego almost kiss, when Charlene walks in to check on them.

“Nope and I’ve still got my pants on.”

“So you do! Good boy!”

“Did you need anything else?”

“Nope. I’m happy.”

“Fantastic.” He turned her around and shut the door behind her.

He’d barely gotten rid of her and was moving in for a kiss when someone else walked in. One of the girls from the concession stand brought Janet a soda, another came in with a box of Sugar Babies.

“Is this some sort of conspiracy?” he asked the girl with the Sugar Babies.

“Conspiracy?”

“You know, to keep me from kissing my girlfriend?”

“Oh, no you go right ahead.” She sat on the hassock, watching the movie from one of the small windows.

“With you here?”

“Don’t mind me.”

“Are you our self-appointed chaperon?”

“Nope. Charlene sent me in. I’m on break.” She popped a Sugar Baby in her mouth and offered one to Janet.

“We don’t need a chaperon. I’m not gonna do anything! Are all the women determined to keep me from getting a kiss?”

“Go ahead. I’ll ignore you.”

“Suddenly, I’m not as happy as I was ten minutes ago.”

“Funny how that happens,” the girl said, eating another Sugar Baby.

Janet couldn’t help laughing. Diego looked so disgusted and disappointed.

“Wishing your best friend’s mom didn’t work with you?”

“Regretting I ever got her the job, yeah.”

“That’s what happens when your best friend is a horny bastard, and you have a similar reputation,” the girl said. “And no, I didn’t sleep with him and we never dated,” she told Janet. “It’s unfortunate, because I think he’d be delicious. But our boss is pretty picky about employees dating.”

“And Charlene is pretty picky about enforcing it,” Diego said in disgust.

“So mistreated,” Janet said, patting his thigh.

He stared at her hand on his thigh and sighed. He was even more discouraged when he realized that her hand that close to his zipper and he didn’t even feel a tingle.

“Dammit,” he muttered.

The film drew to a close and the audience clapped. The house lights came up and they exited the theatre. The Sugar Babies girl got up to sweep the theatre. Diego figured someone else would come in to keep an eye on them, and he wasn’t wrong. Charlene came back in.

“Everything good up here?”

“Peachy,” Diego grunted as he set the film to rewind. “We weren’t doing anything, you know. All I wanted was a kiss.”

“That may be all you figured on getting, but it’s not all you want,” Charlene said. “I have a husband and six boys, four of whom are over twelve. I know how you think, and what your capable of. Which is why I have six boys,” she said in an aside to Janet.

“Is it too much to ask for five minutes of privacy to get one damn kiss? I haven’t seen her since this morning. I just wanted a kiss!”

He sounded so despondent, Charlene took pity on him. She patted his cheek. “But no funny business!”

“How? You’ve scared my gonads into submission,” he complained.

Charlene left, shutting the door behind her.

“I couldn’t even turn on a light right now,” Diego complained.

Janet took pity on him, too. She walked up behind him, hugging him around the waist. He fidgeted until he was facing her.

“Can I get that kiss now?” he whimpered

“Please. I’ve been contemplating withdrawal.”

“Me too,” he mumbled as his lips met hers.

©2020 Dellani Oakes

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