Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 26

The young man grinned. “I think we could do that pretty much with our eyes shut, but if it would make you feel better, we’ll start on that. You don’t have any stocked?”

“All of it had to be disposed of. It was full of carpenter ants. Didn’t much want to have a flat fall down during a show. Spoils the verisimilitude.”

The kids laughed, and Deacon limped off to show them the supplies and find a place to work.

“I’m posting the cast list on the door,” Dino said “We’ll try to keep the actors out today. I’ll move the rehearsals somewhere else. Maybe I can make arrangements to go to the Fireman’s Community Hall, or something. I’ll let you know when I’ve made a few calls.”

Several hours later, the construction crew had been through more than half of the theater, cleaning stuff out as they went. It had to be done anyway, it didn’t matter if it got done now or later. The pile of chemicals and flammable waste, was growing steadily, so Mac assigned a dump brigade. They loaded all the trash on a large truck to be carted off later.

Nothing happened for most of the day, so Kacy was thinking she and Mac were being paranoid. Surely, they were giving in to the superstitions associated with the place. Then, one of the workers called them back to the work room.

“Looks like someone was planning a nighttime fire party, and got interrupted,” Mac said.

He found more leaking bottles of acetone and several other chemicals which would have made a roaring inferno, given the right incentive. Dino was shocked, his face coldly blank.

“This looks horrible, folks, and reflects rather badly on me, I’m afraid. If this place burned to the ground, everyone would think I did it for the insurance.” Dino sighed, running his hands through his hair.

“Get it cleared out,” Deacon ordered.

He rallied everyone, while Kacy took Dino back to her office, for a cup of coffee and a chance to relax.

“He’s right, Mac,” Deacon confided in his foreman. “It looks like arson was planned, and everyone would blame Dino.”

“About two hundred million reasons that would be a stupid conclusion. Mr. Stewart don’t need the money. My guess is someone has a grudge, wants to take it out on him.” Mac looked around him angrily.

“That doesn’t explain what happened before, though. It might have been a grudge then too, but not against Dino. He didn’t own it then.”

“I can’t see why anyone would want to be nasty to Mr. Sawyer. He’s the nicest, most generous person I know.”

“Someone doesn’t want this place reopened. That’s what it says to me. Dino might be the reason, but I think it’s something about the place itself, that’s the motive.”

“You could be right. Let’s hope we’re both wrong, and this is all a series of odd and disturbing coincidences. Meanwhile, the new building supplies were all locked up in the shed last night. You, me and Miss D have the only keys. I’ve gone through it and as far as I can tell, nothing is missing or disturbed. I think we should take anything we don’t need, and dump it.”

“I had planned to do that anyway, but the sooner the better, I think. Have we got the most hazardous stuff out?”

“Yes, to the best of my knowledge. There could be more stuff buried in there we’d never know.”

“Thanks for all the hard work today,” Deacon told him. “We’ll get this crap under control, maybe tomorrow we can get some actual building done.”

“Number one on my list, make the work site safe. We don’t want nobody getting hurt. If that slows us a day or two, it’s okay by me.”

A black panel van pulled into the driveway, followed by Dino’s SUV. The van stopped even with Deacon and Kacy. The van window scrolled down, revealing two large, intimidating men.

“Deacon, Kacy I want to introduce you to Mr. Bellows and Mr. Salvatore. They’ll be acting as site security. I know it’s probably a little overly cautious of me. I just don’t want anyone hurt.”

The two security men stepped out of the van and shook hands with Deacon and Kacy. Their bodies rippled and roiled with more muscles than Deacon could ever remember having. He sported a well toned physic, a six pack most men would be proud of, and a lean, lanky body with powerful thighs and sinewy arms. He could carry four of the big Lekos without breaking a sweat, manhandle flats and platforms, carry ladders and all manner of other heavy objects without difficulty. But when he looked at the security men, he felt puny, ineffective and weak.

The two men spoke very little, doing a quick perimeter check. One of them went inside, locking the door behind him while the other stayed outside in the van.

“They are trained in Aikido, Karate, Kung Fu and are both expert marksmen. Bellows was a Navy Seal, and Salvatore, Marine Recon. I think they can handle anyone who comes around.”

“What about the ghosts?” Kacy was only partially teasing. Like many theater people, she was superstitious, and the findings today had made her nervous. She would never have admitted it to anyone, but she was spooked. Deacon gazed down at her in surprise.

“You don’t really believe those stories, I hope?

“We all know funny things go on in old buildings like this. Be they ghosts or something else, who knows? I just know I’d not want to spend the night there alone.” She shuddered, leaning in toward Deacon, who put his arm around her protectively.

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 25

“Morning, Miss Du Champs.”

She looked up at him, smiling broadly. “Hallo, Dexter. Sorry again about that flap yesterday. Do you think we can get the Lekos hung today? Unless those college kids know their ass from their elbow, I’m going to need your help rather badly.”

Dexter was about six feet tall, powerfully built and moderately handsome. He was loosely in the category of her type. Were she not already with Deacon, she’d consider him a welcome diversion. As it was, she needed his expertise, and felt she should cultivate his friendship. He wasn’t a stupid man, in fact he was intelligent, and did his job quite well.

“I think we can get most of them up, ma’am. Mac said he’s putting up the cheeks today, you need me to wire them when he’s done?”

“Could you? That would be fantastic! I’m good at fixing the ruddy lights when they break, but I’m not too confident about the actual wiring. I’m glad I can count on you to take care of that for me. One less thing to worry about.”

The rest of the workers were showing up a few at a time. She looked around at all their expectant faces. “Oi, I’m the one with the key, aren’t I?”

She giggled, blushing. She wasn’t used to being the one with the key ring, it was an odd sensation.

“Mac,” she said as she walked by him to the door, “Deacon won’t be in today, his bloody leg is still giving him a problem. I’ll give you his number in case you need to call him.”

He nodded, taking out a pad of paper and a pencil. She gave him the number and opened the door. An odd smell greeted them.

“What’s that odor, Mac? Do you recognize it?”

He stuck his head in and took a deep breath. “No, Miss Du Champs, it’s not familiar to me. Chemicals of some kind. Hey!” He turned, yelling at the gathering workers, “Put out the smokes in the driveway! We have a chemical leak! Open her up, let’s see what we have!”

His next move was to go to the main power box on the outside, and shut it off, then he checked for gas lines. Finding none, he looked around for anything out of place.

The crew went in by twos, flashlights out, opening windows and treading with care. A team of women found the problem back in the makeup room. They came out and got Mac who waved to Kacy.

“I kept thinking it smelled a lot like a nail salon,” one of them said. “It’s an ancient bottle of acetone. Sprung a leak. I’m surprised it’s lasted this long. Windy and I will go through the room today and see what else needs to be disposed of. That okay, Mac?”

He nodded, glad to see things were all right. “Just get that shit cleaned up as well as you can before you start. I’ll put the fire fans on, air the place out.”

The women nodded and went back inside, leaving the leaking bottle on the sand. Mac touched it with a tentative toe.

“Not a good thing to have in there. I think before we do anything else, we need to do a hazard search. I’ll call Deacon and okay it with him.”

Kacy didn’t reply, but put on her gloves and studied the bottle with care. Mac spoke to Deacon and got the okay to suspend work to look for fire hazards.

“Mac, make sure the fire extinguishers work. It’s something I didn’t think of, stupid of me. If they don’t, tell Mr. Sawyer I authorized their purchase.”

“You got it, boss.”

He pocketed his cell phone and looked at Kacy who was still studying the bottle.

“Mac, look at this. I want to know if you see what I see.” She tipped the bottle with a gloved hand. He peered closely at the bottom seam.

“That didn’t spring a leak, Miss D., that was cut with a razor knife. Why do I got a creepy feeling all of a sudden?”

“Because we’re superstitious and paranoid, Mac.”

“No, Miss D. I just never figured any of the shit that happened before, was an accident, no more than I believe it now. Deacon needs to see that, don’t you think?”

She nodded. “Yes, I think so too.”

“Want I should go get him?”

She shook her head. “I’ll go, you call Dino.”

He made a face. “I’d rather go get Deacon, than talk to Dino about this.”

Kacy grinned and made a clucking sound as she rose. “Fine. Be sure he’s got his aspirin.” She pulled out her phone and called Dino.

Dino and Deacon arrived almost simultaneously. Neither of them looked happy.

“Any other stuff in the room?” Dino was worried.

“Nothing else we’ve found, Mr. Sawyer. We’re checking every box, closet, drawer, cubbyhole, even loose boards in the floor. If there’s anything else, we’ll find it.”

Dino nodded, looking worried. About five minutes later, a van full of college kids pulled up in the lot. The driver stopped by Dino, and asked what was going on.

“You still need us, Mr. Stewart?”

Dino looked at Deacon. “Yeah, since you’re here, how about a quick lesson in platform topping and flat making?”

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 24

She fell asleep, curled in his embrace, dreaming of Pete. He walked beside her for a while, then kissing her hand, he walked away into a mist. His tall, lanky body receded like a shadow, into clouds of swirling white. His voice echoed in her head, “Goodbye, Kacy. I loved you.”

Tears of parting dried on her cheeks and she slept.

Deacon woke to the smell of coffee, and fresh muffins. It was a homey smell, something he associated with Leave It To Beaver and other Fifties shows. He’d never lived in an environment where Mom stayed home and kept house and baked fresh cookies for the children to have after school. His world had been rushing out the door, coming home to an empty apartment or house, being bullied or yelled at for being a burden, pushed around and blamed for anything that went wrong.

The Sanderson’s had been the closest to a real home, but that wasn’t until he was fifteen. Mr. and Mrs. Sanderson were a retired minister and his wife. They were good people, and taught him about self-esteem and self-worth. Fortunately he hadn’t been too old to learn those valuable lessons. A sensitive child, he had built up a wall around himself that it had taken nearly two years for them to work through. He wasn’t willful and defiant, just withdrawn into his own little world of creativity.

The event that broke the wall down was the death of the Sanderson’s son, Tobias. He had a car accident, hit by a drunk driver. The parents leaned on Deacon for support. He was there for them, just as he was now here for Kacy. He’d always been empathetic, able to comfort. He had fallen into the role easily, as if it had been made for him. He hoped it was a lasting one this time. It felt good, secure, eternal.

His leg twinged a little when he stood up to go to the bathroom, but he managed to walk without leaning too heavily on his cane. When he went to the kitchen, Kacy was lifting a pan of fresh muffins from the oven, closing it with her foot. Grinning happily, he hobbled to the counter, looking more feeble than he felt. She set the muffins down with a click and came around the counter to help him to a bar stool.

“Sit, I made something special!”

“Smells fantastic!”

She fixed his coffee and then slathered butter onto a muffin. They were giant, steaming hot blueberry muffins, the like of which one got only in bakeries.

“You made these? Wow!”

“My mum said every girl should know how to cook and bake, even if she was liberated. You’ll starve to death for your principals, she told me more times than I can remember! I enjoy it really, just not a lot of time for it. Eat! You’ll hurt my feelings if you don’t eat at least three.”

“I think I can accommodate you, ma’am!” He pulled his sore leg onto the low footstool sitting conveniently near the bar. “You moved that, didn’t you? I don’t remember it being there.”

She winked, “You don’t miss much, do you? I’ve left my cell phone number on a pad by the phone and Dr. Cooper’s number, should you need it. Dino’s you have, I take it?”

“Yes, mum, I have Uncle Dino’s number. Honestly, Kacy, sit down! You’re making me nervous!”

“I’m anxious to get to work, so I can come home!”

“Bypass work, stay with me.” He tugged her hand so she came around, and stood between his legs.

“Mac is putting in the cheeks for me today. I really have to be there to show him where they need to go. I can’t leave that to him, he’s not the one lighting the stage! I promise I will be back as soon as possible, and I’ll bring food.”

“Screw the food. No, screw me, forget the food.”

Her kiss was full of promises. “I will do so, as soon as possible. I’d not miss it for the world. Now, I must dash. You be a good boy, finish those elevations for me, and keep off your leg. I want you in top form!” She kissed him playfully on the cheek while he nibbled her ear, letting his fingers do the walking. “Behave now!”

“Behaving, ma’am!”

He snapped a saucy salute and watched as she walked out the door. She had an amazing walk. It was the thing that had first attracted him. He heard the car start up and her characteristic acceleration sounded like a jet taking off.

How can a VW make that sound?

Dexter wasn’t really looking forward to the day. That little redhead was kind of a bitch, but she knew her stuff. At least she had apologized when Mr. Stewart set her straight. He just didn’t really want to cross her again. Hell of an ass. Maybe the day wouldn’t be so bad if she was around, even if she was yelling.

He chuckled as he pulled into the parking lot, hopped out of his van, taking his tools with him, locking the truck carefully behind him. He’d learned a long time ago that things had a way of walking off on a job site. He didn’t feel like replacing his tools and equipment.

The old place was quiet at the moment, the painting crew was making good progress. They were having to strip and sand before they painted, the wood was in terrible shape. It wasn’t going to look bad when they were done. He sat on the porch waiting for someone to come with keys, having tried the doors, he found them locked. He lit a cigarette, smoking in the calm, chilly morning.

A yellow VW sped up, screeched into the lot next to his van, and slammed to a halt. It was the redhead. Damn, she’s hot! Too bad she hooked up with Mr. Stewart, passed sullenly through his mind. Word spread pretty fast that she was the boss’ lady. Any man who wanted to keep his job, would keep his hands to himself. Besides, she was quite a firebrand. Dexter, who fancied himself a lady’s man, preferred a more docile female. He stood when she approached.

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Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 23

“His folks were quite affluent, so he got pretty much anything he wanted. He told me once that he had always felt as if part of him was missing, and no amount of presents could make that feeling go away. He couldn’t explain it, but sometimes he would have these dreams of this other little boy, as if he looked into a mirror.” She looked deeply into his eyes. “Deacon, I think that other boy was you. I believe you and Pete were twins.”

Stunned, he sat quite still, doing and saying nothing. “He found out who is parents were, well his mum anyway. He had his father’s name, but hadn’t ever found him. His mum had him when she was sixteen. She had twins and gave them up for adoption. She had hoped they would be adopted together. Pete’s parents were given to understand he was a single birth, or they’d have adopted his brother. By the time they discovered it, no one could find the other boy, but they did look for you. I think they would like to meet you sometime.”

“I don’t know what to say, Kacy. Did you ever meet Pete’s mother?”

“She’s a lovely lady, you’d like her. Pete looked just like his mum, they had the same blue eyes,” she gulped. “Just as you do.” She started to cry again, but softly, not the sobs which had shaken her small frame before, their first night together.

“We should go to bed,” Deacon said drowsily.

“Yes, and get some sleep. I mean sleep, Deacon. I won’t allow you to be naughty, even if it means I sleep in my own bed,” she scolded him, frowning.

“Yes, Mum, I promise to be a good boy, keep my hands to myself, and play nicely with others. Honestly, I hurt too bad to want to do anything but rest. Doc gave me a prescription for some pain pills but I’m a little worried about filling it.”

They were moving slowly to the bedroom, his weight on the cane and her shoulder. She looked up at him strangely.

“Why’s that?”

He explained about his former drug problem.

“Before you fill it, ask him about it. He might be able to suggest something else. I want you to promise me something.”

“Yes, my lady love?”

He sat heavily on the side of the bed while she helped him get his jeans off. He knew he must really be out of it, having her hands on his pants didn’t even get a tingle.

“You’ll stay home tomorrow, finish those designs, and have a courier take them to Dino’s office to be copied. Do you promise?”

“Only if you’ll stay with me.” He grabbed her waist, his hands going around easily.

She rolled her eyes heavenward. “Honestly! I’ve got to keep an eye on the crew! What if they do the wiring all wrong, I’ll have to do it over!”

“Dexter knows what he’s doing, and I trust Mac to keep the others running smoothly. He knows what has to be done, as well as I do. I’ll stay here, if you do.”

“Half day, I’ll go in for the morning and come back for lunch, how would that be?”

He agreed to the concession. “All right, but the second half of the day, I get to be naughty again.”

“Only if the swelling is down!”

Sighing, he levered his legs into the bed, gritting his teeth. With a gasp, he agreed. Her kiss normally would have set him on fire, but he was just too worn out and sore to give a damn about anything. Kacy placed pillows under his leg, changed to her nightshirt in the bathroom, and snuggled in next to him on the side opposite his sore leg.

“You know just what to do to take care of me, thanks.”

He kissed her hair. She snuggled closer.

“You’re welcome.”

She’d had lots of practice over the years, with Pete. He’d broken limbs, toes and fingers, pulled muscles, nearly ruptured a disk in his neck and chipped most of his teeth. At the age of twenty-seven, he’d had more aches and pains than a man three times his age. Stunt work was very demanding physically, and not for the faint hearted. She’d had to make herself watch him, but it terrified her. The more dangerous the gag, the more worried she’d get. Pete loved the danger, taking each as a personal challenge. He loved the complex gags for the very reason she didn’t.

The day he’d been hurt, she could hardly bring herself to go to the set, but something compelled her there. His last kiss had been full of love and sorrow. She remembered the touch of his lips on hers. He never got scared before a stunt, but this time he had checked and double checked his equipment, going over the devices personally. The only thing he couldn’t account for was human error, a button pressed too soon.

Huddled up next to Deacon, she felt the tears fall, tears she thought she had conquered. Whether she wept for Pete, or herself, she didn’t know. Maybe it was Deacon she cried for, because he had lost a brother whom he would never meet in this life.

Deacon’s arm draped around her as he turned on his side. She thought he was asleep, but he kissed her hair, cuddling from behind. He didn’t have to say anything, just having him there was enough. So gentle, so kind and loving, even more than Pete had ever been. There were times when he’d been absolutely callous, and not understood what she was feeling. Deacon knew, without her saying a word. The two were so alike in some ways, and in others completely different.

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 22

“If he’s guilty of anything, it’s of another attempt at matchmaking, which happened to work this time.”

“But he set us up!”

“He saw two unhappy people who needed someone to love. Bernie’s not devious enough to do anything other than that.”

“No, but Maxie is,” she added venomously.

Deacon shrugged, he had to admit that was true. Maxie was devious and underhanded, unlike Bernie.

“I’ll kill her then!”

“Is it such a bad thing? Us being together, is it bad?”

She shook her head. “I feel as if we’ve been manipulated, that’s all. I don’t like the feeling.”

His kisses stilled any further protest. She kicked the door shut and they were not disturbed for some time.

A tentative tap on the door, around five, alerted them.

“Yeah! What?” Deacon called distractedly.

He tried to straighten his clothing, but it was pointless. Kacy combed her hair with her fingers, fixing her sweater and pulled out a mirror to check her make up. The lip gloss was smeared irreparably.

“It’s Mac,” he called through the door. “My crew and I are gonna head home. Mr. Sawyer said knock off at five, that okay by you, boss?”

Deacon opened the door. “Yeah, that’s cool, Mac. See you guys tomorrow. Thanks.”

Mac looked past Deacon’s shoulder and winked at Kacy. “Night, ma’am. See you kids tomorrow.” He tipped his hard hat and left with a grin.

“Let’s go home, Deacon. You’re tired and so am I. I’ll gather the plans and we can go over them after supper. We’ll order out pizza or something. I don’t think Dino has anything planned, but I’ll ask him before we go.”

A quick kiss and she dashed out. He heard her talking to Dino in the hallway. Hobbling out the door, he saw Kacy kiss Dino on the cheek and thank him for the lights. He looked pleased. One thing Deacon gave the guy, he loved making people happy. He was one of the most generous men Deacon had ever met.

They called for a pizza as soon as they got home. Deacon got a quick shower, and Kacy laid the set plans out on the huge dining room table. When he got out, she went in. By the time she came out, toweling her hair, the pizza had arrived. They sat in the living room eating and chatting happily. When they had cleaned up their mess, they sat in the dining room to go over the new set plans.

“Has Dino seen these yet?”

“Not got them finished yet. I don’t like to show a director unfinished plans, they want too many changes.”

“This is great. It keeps the general feeling of the other, but you’ve eliminated those impossible angles. Have you done a front elevation yet?”

He shook his head. “I’ve got a rough rendering in the office. Not to scale and it’s only pencil. By tomorrow afternoon I should have that done. How is the lighting plot coming?”

“I’ve got the major stage areas covered, but some of it will be dependent upon blocking, of course.” She was so excited, she jumped up and walked around the table, heading briskly for the office. She returned, carrying his drawing.

“This is terrific! Do we have scene painters yet?”

“The college kids will be doing that, supposedly. I may end up doing the majority of the detail work myself, unless they’re really fast learners.”

Kacy gazed at him with an unreadable expression on her face. She looked like a little girl on Christmas morning, who had been handed the most fabulous present ever.

“You know, I am so enjoying working with you. I dunno, you make it easy for me. This was an aspect of my life that Pete couldn’t ever really share. Even if we were both in theater, our emphasis was so different. I never understood why he did the stunts.” Her voice trailed off.

Taking her little hands in his big ones, Deacon drew her into his embrace, his cheek against her hair. “When I was a kid, I had nothing and nobody. I was one of those kids abandoned by everyone—parents, teachers, foster parents, society. The scrawny, smart, weird kid no one wanted to be around. I was a total geek.” He chuckled as she looked at him in disbelief. “Then I got into theater when I was in high school. The foster family I was living with wasn’t too bad, and the theater teacher was just awesome. It gave me a direction, an outlet, a reason to keep going. When I went to college, it was a dream come true.”

“Where did you go?”

“Carnegie-Mellon”

“Really? Very impressive! That’s where you met Bernie then? Pete met him in boarding school. He, Dino and Pete were a trifecta of trouble.”

“I was strictly a public school kid.”

“Pete was adopted, did I tell you that?”

“No, you didn’t mention it.”

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Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 21

Deacon grinned, watching Kacy rip into one of the electricians Dino had hired. She was going to make them all hate her or love her. He wasn’t sure she cared which as long, as they did what she told them.

“I’d better help that fella, Doc. He’s doing what I told him to do, and she’s going to burn him, if I don’t stop her.” He rose with difficulty, leaning on the chairs next to him. “Oi, Kacy!” He imitated her accent and inflection perfectly.

She turned around in mid-sentence, her face clouding with concern. “Deacon, what’s wrong?”

“Overdoing, ma’am. Listen, you want to jump someone, then jump me. Dexter is doing what I told him.”

She glanced up at the electrician, looking humbled. “I’m sorry. Obviously Mr. Stewart and I got our wires crossed.” She grinned at the unintentional pun. “May I see you in your office, Mr. Stewart? We need to finalize the plans, so they can be copied.”

“Ms. Du Champs?” Dexter called as they were leaving. “What is it you want me to do? Your way or his?”

“Her way, Dexter,” Deacon told him. “She’s in charge of lights. I’m just the token gimp.”

“Yes, sir, Mr. Stewart!” Chuckling, Dexter went back to work, taking apart what he had already done.

Leaning on Kacy, but trying not to show it, Deacon hobbled to his office, which was closer than hers. She found an old stool to go with the ancient chair, and made him comfortable. Kissing him gently, she perched on the edge of the desk.

“You rescued that poor man, didn’t you? I’m still being beastly. I’m so sorry.” She wouldn’t look at him, hanging her head in shame.

“No, you were doing your job. I told him wrong. Feel free to correct him. Just tell him I messed up, you chewed me out, and you want it done differently. They don’t disrespect you, Kacy, they’re just scared to death of you.” He smiled to soften the reprimand.

“I’ll do that, but you sit there, and don’t move. I’ll grab the plans on my way back. We do need to finalize, so construction can begin.”

“I’ve got the guys rigging basic flats and platforms. The old stuff is all eaten up by bugs, or so mildewed that it can’t be used. I’ll have the college kids top them and put the canvas on the flats. They’re coming in tomorrow. Oh, got you something.”

She looked at him expectantly. He handed her a key and pointed across the hall to a large storage room. “Go ahead, open it.”

Curious despite herself, she hopped up and opened the door. Her cries of delight pleased him. He’d just received the shipment of all the theater lights. The other ones were past repair. He and Dino didn’t want to risk other injury.

Dancing with glee, she ran back into his office, hopping onto his lap before she remembered he was injured. A sharp intake of breath, and she jumped up as if he’d bitten her.

“Oh, Deacon, I’ve done it again! Bloody hell!”

He laughed despite the discomfort. “I’m fine, Kacy. Sit down, gently this time, eh?”

She seated herself on his lap with caution, kissing him lightly on the lips. “I’ll thank you properly once we get home.”

“Dino paid for it, you going to thank him properly, too?”

He winked and she smacked him playfully on the cheek. It stung a little, but not badly. It had been a subtle reprimand, as well.

“He’s like a brother to me, Deacon.” She didn’t add that he had been Pete’s closest friend. Deacon could see it in her eyes.

“He’s a hell of a guy, isn’t he?” he replied more diplomatically.

“Yes, he is. I’ve more to thank him for than just the lights.”

“Oh, what’s that, you figure?”

“I’ve not properly thanked him for you. Let me ask you something, don’t take this wrong, please.”

“Whenever a woman prefaces a comment like that, it makes me nervous. Ask away, whether or not I answer, is up to me.”

She nodded, agreeing to the condition. “Did Dino know, about you, when he hired you?”

“I was hired sight unseen, based on Bernie’s recommendation. I guess they knew one another as kids, or something.”

She giggled, throwing her head back happily, nearly tipping the chair over.

“You don’t know, do you? Bernie is Dino’s cousin!”

“I had no idea. Do you know Bernie?”

Her smile faded a little. “Bernie and Maxine were attendants at our wedding.”

He saw the direction her thoughts were going before she spoke. He wondered if he should defend himself, or if he was out of the immediate line of fire.

Dino never saw you, but Bernie has known you for years. That swine. I’ll kill him!” She whipped out her cell phone, dialing Bernie’s number with unmatched fury. “I’ll roast him! I’ll cut off his balls and use them for a gOba! He set me up!”

“What are you doing?” He wrested the phone from her gently. “Kacy, what’s wrong.”

“He knew, don’t you see? He knew about you and Pete!”

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Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 20

“Call him, and I’ll try to stall.”

Mac nodded and walked purposefully away to use the phone. Deacon headed out to the vestibule and put on his broadest, most sincere smile, extending his hand.

“Mr…? I’m sorry, I don’t believe we’ve been introduced.”

He laid the Southern accent on thick. Like butter on a hog’s belly, his acting coach at Carnegie-Mellon had told him once.

“Mr. Irving, I’m a city inspector.” The older man looked grumpy and out of sorts.

“Deacon Stewart, I’m the technical director. You already met my foreman I believe?”

“Yeah, we’ve met.”

He sounded so uncongenial, Deacon guessed Mac and he had gone the rounds of hostility.

“He said you had a problem with our shed? I wasn’t aware I needed a permit for something to be erected in the parking lot. That being the case, I’ll certainly apply for one, and stop work on it immediately. Can you issue a temporary permit?”

Taken aback by the friendly attitude, Mr. Irving stopped blustering and thought that through. He was unused to people cooperating with him.

“You’ll still have to apply for the permit. I see no reason why it should be a problem.”

“Again, I apologize. We were unaware of the new rules, and thank you for straightening us out. Are the rest of our permits in order?”

Irving looked annoyed as if he’d dearly love to find a problem with something, but it was all correct. Right about that time Dino pulled up in his SUV. He hopped out of the door in his racquetball outfit, glittering with perspiration. His grin was artificial and insincere, to anyone who knew him well. To Mr. Irving, it was just the opposite.

“Mr. Irving! I’m sorry to keep you waiting, my secretary was a little remiss in passing on your message.”

“I didn’t call, Mr. Sawyer.” Irving looked embarrassed.

“Really?” He feigned puzzlement. “Deacon, were you aware Mr. Irving was coming by, so we could greet him properly?”

“No, sir. Was a surprise to me. I’m afraid we kept him waiting. Mr. Irving, may I get you some coffee?”

“Not to worry,” it was Kacy carrying a China tea service from the props. It had been hastily washed and prepared, Deacon hid a smile. “I just made a fresh pot. Nice and hot, Mr. Irving. That’s a lovely name. My grandpa’s first name was Irving. What’s your first name?” She was being coy and charming. Deacon could have kissed her on the spot.

“William.”

“William! Oh, la! My daddy’s name is William! Such a fine upstanding name! May I call you William?”

“Certainly, Miss?”

“Oh, silly me! Miss Du Champs, but you may call me Hillary.”

She continued to charm Mr. William Irving for the next fifteen minutes, at the end of which time, he no longer required a permit for the shed, and said he’d be sure to stop by later in the week to see how far they had gotten.

“Do let me know in advance, won’t you? I’ll make more coffee and maybe a few of those lovely tea cakes, my mum taught me to bake, when I was a girl.” She batted her eyelashes and behaved in a most abominable fashion, but it served its purpose, to rid them of William Irving’s presence.

As he was taking his leave, Mr. Irving took her hand gently in his and kissed it. “Delighted to meet you, Hillary. Au revoir.”

“Farewell, parting is such sweet sorrow.” She waved from the door until he was gone and turned around to gauge her performance with the others. “Well?”

Dino raised an eyebrow. “I am not sure how Mr. Irving contained himself, Kacy. That was the most subtly provocative performance, it has ever been my privilege to witness.”

“It sure was! Is your daddy’s name really William?” Deacon asked.

“Of course not,” she giggled. “His name’s Geoffrey. The dog’s name is William.”

Dino was still laughing as he drove away.

Deacon added softly, when Dino had gone. “God, that made me hot, Kacy. I can’t wait to get you home.”

Blushing, she took the coffee things away to clean them.

The rest of the day was predictable chaos, but manageable enough not to be too infuriating. Deacon’s leg was on fire by the end of the day; swollen, the skin drawn tight. Dr. Cooper, who dropped by after auditions, saw him limping and made him sit down in the nearest chair.

“You’re overdoing it, young man. What did I tell you to do?”

“You said take aspirin and keep off it.”

Coop looked at him levelly. He didn’t have to speak his reprimand.

“The aspirin I remembered.” Deacon took a bottle out of his pocket and showed it to the doctor.

“Keeping off it, was also part of the treatment. Aside from wandering around here all day, and doing more than you should, I hesitate to ask what else you’ve been up to.” He winked, with a sidelong glance at Kacy who had just walked in the door. “Fine looking lady, though a bit of a temper.”

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Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 19

Kacy raised an eyebrow. “He?”

“My old pal Dick.” Deacon laughed at her shocked expression.

“I see. I never heard it put quite that way before.”

Deacon held out his arms to her again, sitting on the edge of the bed, supporting his sore leg on a pillow. “Well, my first girlfriend called him Mr. Sparky, but that’s kind of juvenile.”

Kacy tossed her hair, giving him a coy look. “Oh, I dunno. Sparky seems pretty appropriate to me. I am a lighting designer, after all.”

“That’s very true. Appropriate since that’s what sparked your interest.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” She tried to look innocent.

“Admit it, when we saw each other naked, that’s when you started having naughty thoughts about me.”

“Well, that might have had a little something to do with it.”

“Little? Little she says! My dear, I have you know that there is nothing little about it!”

His kiss stopped all further comment, but she had to agree he was right.

Tuesday morning, Deacon was on the phone for hours trying to arrange lumber, canvas, paint, hardware and tools to be delivered the next day. Since none of the wholesalers knew him, they were giving him a hard time, making excuses about why delivery couldn’t be made on time. The foreman of the construction crew saw the problems he was having and asked for the phone.

“Lemme, talk to him, Mr. Stewart. I know these assholes.”

Deacon gladly handed the phone over. Mac, the foreman, made it clear that delivery would be when Mr. Stewart said, or he would no longer do business with them. Not only would Mr. Stewart not do business, Mac himself, and Mr. Sawyer would no longer do business. Was that clear? Deacon had to admire the man’s moxie. He had a strong New York accent, that Deacon placed as Brooklyn. Deacon thanked him after he got off the phone.

“You betcha! You just got to know how to talk to the guys down here, Mr. Stewart. Up home, it’s a whole different finesse, have to sweet talk ’em a little. Down here, you refuse them your patronage, let them know you’ll tell all your friends in the business, and drop a few important names and badabing!” Snapping his fingers, he laughed so heartily, Deacon had to join in.

“You have the job from now on, of calling the suppliers, that okay with you?”

“Part of my job, Mr. Stewart.”

“Call me Deacon. Let’s get this party started.”

He listed the first five tasks needing completion and was impressed at how Mac divided his workers and got them all started.

“There’s a list beside the back door over there, when that stuff’s done, just check it. It’s mostly in order, but if I’ve gotten out of sequence, correct it as you go. Find me if you have any questions. You good to go?”

Mac grinned broadly and saluted, his craggy, suntanned face nearly cracking in two. “We got it under control, Deacon. Go be creative.”

They had set up an improvised shop in the large backstage area of the theater. The electrical equipment was housed there, so they could continue to work even if it rained. A tarp had been erected outside to cover the building materials, and a shed was being set up to put it all in so it wouldn’t get stolen.

“Theft from construction sites is bad down here. I don’t think Mr. Sawyer would appreciate buying this stuff two, three times,” Mac said.

“No, it would annoy him,” Deacon replied absently. He laughed loudly for a moment while Mac looked at him. “I just had this mental image of Dino squatting on the two by fours, with a rifle across his knees, guarding the stash.”

He and Mac chuckled as they stood outside on the back porch smoking cigarettes. A few other workers were also there, chatting a while on a short break.

“While I’m thinking of it, Mac. No one smokes inside. I’ve got cans of sand outside each door, butts go in there, not on the ground. This place is old enough to go up like a torch. Pass the word. Clear?” He directed his comments to the gathered workers.

“Yes, sir, Mr. Stewart.” They obediently ground out their butts in the can and went back to work.

Deacon stood on the porch, finishing his cigarette, enjoying a quiet moment.

“Mr. Stewart!” It was Mac’s voice.

Puzzled by the sudden formality, Deacon turned around. Mac didn’t look happy at all.

“Coming. What’s up, Mac?”

The older man looked agitated. “Some asshole from downtown, he’s bitching about our permits. I posted the damn things and showed them to him all nice and pretty, and he’s not satisfied. Apparently, a new ordinance, I was unaware of, we have to have one to erect that damn shed back there, and he’s fussing.”

“Dino around?”

“No, or I’d have him sweet talk the guy, if you know what I mean?”

Deacon did. He knew there was graft on every level of every bureaucracy.

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Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 18

He went into some detail, knowing Bernie’s meticulous mind would help him find the solutions he needed. By the end of the conversation, he had ideas written out and a rough design on paper.

“I gotta get into the shop, Deac. Some shit going on out there and I hear arguing.”

“Probably Lily and Steve. Tell them I said go shag each other, and mellow out. I always wanted to tell them that. Call me tomorrow, give Maxi my love.”

He hung up, amazed that he didn’t miss the shop, the arguments, or the suppressed anger permeating all their actions.

He heard the jingle of keys and the front door opened and shut followed by the click of heels on the tile floor. Kacy stood in the living room with a handful of bags she dropped on the couch. Her face lit up when she saw him hobble out of the office.

“Hiya!” He grinned, limping over to kiss her. She met him halfway, arms wide open.

“You look terrific,” he said honestly.

Her face was all smiles, her eyes glowing with happiness. He liked to hope he was at least partially responsible for the changes in her.

“Come see what I bought for you!”

He allowed her to lead him to the couch where she made him comfortable before opening her bags. The first was small, and inside was a jewelry box.

“You got me an engagement ring?” he pretended to be giggly and excited.

She bopped him on the head with a throw pillow. “No, silly. Open it! I went to the flea market and found this precious little kiosk in the middle of the aisle. They had all kinds of stuff like that. Open it!”

She was ready to grab the box away and open it herself, so he quit teasing and flipped back the lid. Inside were ear plugs, the same color as his eyes.

“These are fantastic! What are they made out of?”

“The guy said some sort of poly-resin crap, who cares? They don’t chip, break, flake or crack. Guaranteed for life.”

He popped the enameled ones out of his ears and put hers in.

“They’re great, Kacy. Thank you. Makes me wish I had something to give you.”

She kissed him passionately. “You have already given me the best gift in the world. You gave me my life back, Deacon Phineas Stewart.”

He drew her into a powerful embrace, pulling her onto the couch with him. She stayed a few minutes then stood, leading him to her room again and he tugged her the other way to the master suite.

They were half undressed when the phone rang. “Dammit!” He limped to the night stand and picked up. “Yeah?”

“Is that any way to talk to me?”

“Frieda? I told you not to call back.”

“This is a courtesy call, Deacon, to let you know I’ve consulted a lawyer, and I am taking you to court for palimony.”

He looked at the phone in disbelief. “Pali- what? Frieda, you left me. If anything, I should charge you for my hospital stay.” He hung up, hurling the phone across the room. “I’m going to kill Bernie for giving her this number!”

“That’s the ex?” her tone was chilly.

“Not ex enough! She wants to sue me for palimony, like I’ve got anything to split!”

“I thought you said she was out of your life. Didn’t she leave you?”

“She called a few hours ago, my dumbass partner gave her the number. She wanted me to move out there, which really means she wants money to live on. I don’t want her back, Kacy.” He saw the look of sorrow on her face once more.

“You’re sure?”

“Never been more sure of anything in my entire life.”

She moved into his arms, kissing him with abandon. The phone rang again. He tried to ignore it, but the caller didn’t hang up.

“What?” he bellowed into the phone. “Bernie, I’m a little busy!” His friend spoke rapidly for a few minutes and Deacon’s frown deepened to a glower. “Thanks for letting me know.” He hung up without a goodbye.

“More good news?”

“Frieda froze all my assets. How the hell can she do that? She’s hiring a private firm to audit me to see what I’m worth, can you beat that?”

“She’s successfully killed the mood, hasn’t she?” Kacy didn’t look angry, just disappointed.

“Killed it good and dead, dammit!”

“Why did you ever take up with a vindictive bitch like that?”

“Sex,” he answered absently. “She was the rebound girl, and I was the rebound guy. We’d both ended really bad relationships, and got together at a party. The sex was fantastic, so we stayed together.”

She opened her mouth to protest and he held up a hand.

“I know. Bad idea. I wasn’t thinking with my brain in those days.” He looked down at his boxer shorts. “Not the first mess he’s gotten me into.”

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Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 17

“I take it you refer to their chests, not their intelligence?”

“You could put it that way. I’m pretty sure that Dr. and Mrs. Cooper are going to be the Lathrops. They are just too funny! The rest of the cast is kind of up in the air right now. I do hope they don’t give me a blonde to light.”

“And what’s wrong with blonds?” his tone scolding, he teased her, knowing what her response would likely be.

“If I put a blue light on a brunette’s hair, it still looks brown. Red light, same thing. You light a blonde, and they take on this halo effect and instant Bozo hair, it’s ludicrous!” They both laughed for a moment, basking in the sound. “How’s the leg?”

“Waiting for you to come rub it,” he said, without really thinking.

“Is that all needs rubbing?” her response was quick and calculated.

Deacon felt himself responding to the gibe and the invitation. “I’ll let you decide that when you get home,” he said and proceeded to fill in the gaps, his monologue becoming more and more explicit.

“I like the sound of that,” she murmured.

“You alone?”

Kacy giggled lightly. “Not exactly.”

He groaned inwardly.

“You’ve kept me quite entertained though, and I appreciate the offer. You had some interesting suggestions, I have to admit.”

He made several more before he hung up, grinning like a fool again. Had he ever been this happy? He couldn’t remember ever in his life feeling this way. Growing up in small town, Alabama foster homes, practically living out of a suitcase all his life, he hadn’t had a chance to settle down or be really contented anywhere.

He never was wanted for who he was, just tolerated because the foster family got money to house him. He was part of a paycheck, a necessary evil for which they were meagerly compensated. Instead of becoming a bad boy like so many others, he turned inward, drawing on his creativity to help him through the hard times.

Joining the Thespians in high school, he found an outlet, a chance to be someone else for a short time. Acting was wonderful, but his shyness made performing before an audience larger than his class, impossible. He took on the job of designing and building sets. By his sophomore year he knew more about set design than his teacher.

God bless, Mrs. Rooney, he thought, wondering if she was still teaching. She was the one who had given him all the letters of recommendation, written old college friends, and gotten him accepted in Carnegie-Mellon University, in one of the best theater programs in the country.

He met Bernie and his wife there. After graduation, the three of them started a scene design company on a shoestring budget, promises and raw talent. Now, ten years later, they were one of the most sought after companies in the business. Their success was largely due to Deacon’s creativity.

The last couple of years, he’d been churning things out by habit, hardly paying attention to what he was doing. He latched onto the cocaine because with it he could work without sleep, double his output and forget about how miserable he was. The best thing Frieda could have done was dump him. She set him free.

Picking up the phone, he decided to call Bernie and bring him up to date. A few short rings and his friend answered his cell phone, a clipped, New Jersey accent, which always amused Deacon whose Southern drawl wasn’t all put on.

“Hiya, short man, how goes?”

“Deac? That you, buddy? Good to hear your voice!” He heard Bernie talking to his wife in the background. “It’s Deacon! So tell me, fly boy, how are things in Florida?”

“Not too bad. Not bad at all in fact.”

“You met someone!” This was Maxine, who must be listening in. “I knew it!” Sounds of fighting over the phone and she came in more clearly. “So, what’s she like? Are you crazy about her?”

“I met someone, she’s terrific, a redhead like you. And yeah, I’m crazy about her.”

“That was fast,” he heard Bernie exclaiming, his voice sounding hollow. “You’ve been there what, a week?”

“Less. About five days. I always was a fast worker, Bernie. You were the slow poke.”

“There’s something to be said for slow, ask Maxi!”

She dropped her voice, pretending to be secretive. “Don’t let him fool you, slower is not always better. So what’s her name? Anyone I know?”

“Kacy. It’s possible, her professional name is Hillary Du Champs.”

“Oh, my God! Bernie, he met Hillary Du Champs! He’s schtuping Hillary Du Champs! You are, right?”

“That would be telling. A gentleman never tells, Maxi.”

“Oh, you’re insufferable! Take the phone, Bernard, I’m done trying to get any gossip out of that man!”

“So how’s Dino? Is the theater coming together okay?”

“Dino’s great and the theater needs Divine Intervention, Bernie. It’s a walking disaster, but with a little luck, and some hard work, it will come together. I’m redoing the set now, it was pretty bad. I know Dino was into using it, but Kacy will kill me if I keep the old plans. They’re nearly impossible to light!”

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