Tag Archive | brainwashing

I Love Dialogue! from Conduct Unbecoming

I love dialogue doodle bannerTeague McMurtry is a loyal friend. So when Aileen calls asking him to look for their friend, Nadeya, he can’t say no. Nadeya taught him everything he knows about survival. She is dangerous and damaged, having seen her fiancé murdered. She’s spent the last few years tracking down the men who killed him, seeking justice—or, at least, vengeance. When a body turns up on the beach, identical to a man Nadeya said she was looking for, suspicion targets her.

Tired of constantly being on the defensive, Teague intends to confront Quartermain and the others at the condo where they are staying. He and Nadeya head up to Daytona and take a room in the same condo. Once she learns Teague’s plans, Nadeya discourages the direct approach. She knows he can take Quartermain, but the other two are far more dangerous. She and Joel think baiting the bad guys is not only inappropriate, it’s crazy with a side of stupid. Still not liking it, Teague tells them he’s going for a walk on the beach.

Joel rose as his cousin walked by. “I’m going too.”

“I won’t do anything crazy!”

“Yeah, well I want to go for a walk too.”

Teague couldn’t think of a good argument against, so he agreed. They walked down the stairs, heading to the beach.

“He’s right down there,” Teague said with a groan. “Within reach!”

“No.”

“But he’s—”

“No! Dammit, Teague. Don’t make me drop you.”

“Like you even could,” was the disgusted reply.

Joel moved quickly, grabbing Teague’s arm. He tugged, spun and dropped, pulling Teague to his knees. Another move bought his cousin to the ground. Stunned, Teague lay on his belly. After a moment, he tapped out and Joel released him.

“You aren’t Superman,” Joel said.

“So, folks keep tellin’ me.” Teague rolled his head and shoulders rubbing his neck with a hand.

“Did I make my point?”

“Yeah. Shut up.”

Joel’s face fell, discouraged that Teague hadn’t really acknowledged his ability to take him down or taken his warning seriously. Teague noticed his cousin’s mute disappointment.

“I’m sorry. This gets to me. I don’t do waiting well.”

Joel clapped his hand on Teague’s shoulder. “Come on, I’ll buy you a beer.”

They went to the cabana by the pool. Taking stools, they ordered their beers and sipped them thoughtfully.

“We’re going at this sideways,” Joel mused. “You can’t go at them balls out with both barrels. They want that.”

“So, what do we do? I hate waiting. I waited on Mac and damn near got us both killed. They picked the time and place and were far stronger than I anticipated.”

“You didn’t know he was the enemy. This time, we know the players. We are at a home field advantage.”

“I’m not running away again. I won’t do that.”conduct unbecoming FINAL FRONT COVER large

“Not saying you should.”

“Then what?”

“Go home. Have a beer. Take your lady to bed.”

“That’s nothing.”

“Exactly.” Joel raised his beer at Teague.

“I don’t get it.”

“Do nothing. Go home. Relax. Let them come to you. No hiding, no running.” He shrugged. “Simple.”

Teague grinned. Taking Joel’s head in both hands, he planted a kiss on his cousin’s brow.

“You’re a genius.” Teague ruffled Joel’s hair.

“Been told that.” He rubbed at his head to smooth his waves back into submission.

“Let’s go home.”

© 2015 Dellani Oakes

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Here’s Jasper!

conduct unbecoming front coverI first introduced Jasper Waters in a novel called New at Love (published in Fran Lewis’ MJ Magazine) He wasn’t the main hero, but he certainly was heroic. Jasper had more than a little crush on the female lead, Amanda. Even though it broke his heart, he stepped aside for Derrick.

He popped up again in Undiscovered (coming spring of 2015 from Tigearr Publishing). It’s a small part, but a helpful one. Jasper’s the kind of guy you can count on. He’s appeared in a few of my other unpublished books and I expect he will probably find his way into more. He’s a comfortable fit and the kind of guy who is very likable.

When I introduced him in Conduct Unbecoming, I had no idea he was going to take over and become the male lead. I thought he was going to be the helpful friend who takes Teague to the jetty, flirts with the new cornoner (she’s a hot redhead) and step aside. He didn’t do that. Instead, he jumped in with both feet and hit the ground running, willing to help Nadeya simply because she’s a friend of Teague’s. As Jasper tells her, “Teague knows every damn body, but there are only a few of us he calls friends. You’re one of them—”

Teague has always been a favorite of both me and my fans, but I have to admit that Jasper has also stolen my heart. I liked him in New at Love, now I adore him. He’s funny, smart, handsome, capable, unflappable and pretty much not scared of anything. Jasper will make you laugh, make you sigh and down right steal your heart.

Meet Jasper Waters. Read Conduct Unbecoming.

© 2014

Where It All Began The Ninja Tattoo 

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By the way, Aileen has been after me for book 3. I’m toying with two different names. Which do you like better? Rear View Murder or Rear View?

Conduct Unbecoming Excerpt from Chapter Eight

b477c-conduct2bunbecoming2bfront2bcoverTeague had intended to confront Quartermain and the others, but Nadeya encouraged him not to. She knew he could take Quartermain, but the other two are far more dangerous. Instead, they decide to go back home and let the bad guys come to them.

Their announcement was greeted less than enthusiastically. No one actually protested, but Teague could tell his friends didn’t like the idea.

“After all this running around, you’re just going to go home?” Jasper protested.

“Why not? They won’t expect it.”

“It’s either brilliant or stupid. I’m not sure which,” Jasper grumbled.

“Must they be mutually exclusive?”

Jasper exchanged a look with Aileen and Nadeya. “Apparently not. Okay. But you’ve got company.”

“Why not? Viv loves a crowd.”

They headed back to Teague’s house. The red Pinto was gone and Jasper’s Boss was parked beside the garage. Lights glittered cheerfully in the windows and the music played loudly—Carols Santana, Vivica’s favorite musician. Teague didn’t see Vivica in the kitchen, dining room or living room. The door was unlocked. Worried, he held up a hand, signaling to his friends.

Quietly, they moved to the door. Teague let them go in that way. He moved around to the hidden side door. It was locked, but he had his key. He opened the door slowly noting that the alarm didn’t beep. Deeply concerned, he proceeded down the hall. Vivica wasn’t in the bathroom or bedrooms. He even checked the hall closet—nothing.

There should have been dogs barking too. Where were they? Vivica’s three pets ranged from Rex, the gigantic Irish Wolfhound, Evita a medium sized Beagle mix and Pesky, a tiny Jack Russell. Pesky barked at everything. With two strangers in the house, she should have been going nuts.

Terribly worried, Teague rushed to the living room. His friends stood in a circle around the coffee table. There was a weird smell in the room—sickly sweet, chemical. Teague stopped moving.

“What?”

His friends stepped away, showing him. The three dogs lay on the couch, love seat and coffee table. They were breathing, but unconscious. They’d been shaved with clippers, nearly to the skin.

On the table, next to Pesky, there were photographs. Some were distance shots of Vivica walking the dogs. Two were close ups of her face. Obviously unconscious, she lay sprawled on their bed. He could see the duvet behind her head.

With an outcry, Teague leaped forward. Joel stopped him before he could grab the pictures.

“I called it in,” Joel said.

“If they intended to kill her, she’d be here for us to find her,” Nadeya said. “There’s a note.”

She pointed to a paper attached to Rex’s collar. Without touching it, Teague read it. It was hand printed in black, block letters.

“If you want her back, you know what we want.”

“What do they want?” Teague yelled. Distant sirens grew louder as he fought his cousin to snatch at the note. “What can I give them?”

“Me,” Nadeya said calmly. “The bastards want me.”

The room exploded with sound. All three men yelled at once. Aileen stood quietly, hands in her pockets.

“No, Nay. You can’t,” Aileen stated.

“I have to. You don’t have what they’re capable of. Viv can’t handle it.”

“They won’t torture her. She doesn’t know anything,” Aileen tried to sound reassuring.

“They would do it for fun!” Nadeya cried.

© 2014 Dellani Oakes

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Conduct Unbecoming – Excerpt Chapter Seven

conduct unbecoming front coverNot everyone is a fan of Teague McMurtry. In fact, some people thoroughly detest him. One such is Major Victor Quartermain. Once a rival for Isobel’s hand, Teague maintains that the better man was the one who gave her up—himself. He and Quartermain hate one another, and not just because of Isobel. Victor has a secret that could not just ruin his career, it could get him killed. He will do anything it takes to protect himself.

Moonlight on the water didn’t make him feel romantic. He was too angry to feel anything else. I missed! At that close a range. Unforgivable! He sat on the deck of his boat, cradling his weapon. He broke it down to its component parts and dropped a piece overboard. The boat drifted a little and he dropped another piece. He continued the process until the last part hit the water and sank.

Turning the boat toward land, he muttered and grumbled to himself. “It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Goddammit, I hate that man!” He cut the motor, letting the boat drift in toward the dock. Jumping onto the deck, he tied it off.

A dark car sat nearby. He fished keys out of his jacket pocket, clicking the alarm button as he approached. The lights flashed as the door lock and alarm disengaged. Sliding behind the wheel, he took a deep breath. He held the steering wheel with both hands, a shuddering sigh breaking its way through his calm veneer.

What have I done? Dear God, what have I done?

Starting the car, he pulled out of the parking lot of the marina and headed home. The radio quietly played a haunting, blues tune. He turned it up, humming until it reached the chorus. “Not gonna let ’em catch the Midnight Rider.” Greg Allman’s crooning voice filled the car as he turned off into the Spruce Creek Fly-In in Port Orange.

Turning into his driveway, he pulled into the garage. He shut the car off as the garage door closed. Hands on the wheel, he closed his eyes, muttering what might have been a prayer. He wasn’t entirely sure anymore. It might have been invective hurled at his Maker, it didn’t matter. The damage was done and Isobel was in the hospital. That was his fault too.

“Dammit!” He pounded the steering wheel before getting out of the car.

Entering the house, he stopped before flicking on the light. Something didn’t feel right. Or maybe it was the smell. There was something wrong, but he couldn’t put his finger on it. Trying to shake it off, he headed to the kitchen to get a beer from the fridge. Something still wasn’t right. Determined not to let it get to him, he pulled the door open.

There on his wife’s best silver platter were photos of the dead man from the beach. Something was in the vegetable drawer other than tomatoes and carrots. Cautiously, hands trembling, he reached for it. Thinking better of it, he straightened up. He recognized the smell now—propane. Lots of it. It grew harder to breathe. Clamping a dish towel over his mouth, he ran from the house, dialing 9-1-1. When he hit the send button on his phone, he heard a loud pop behind him.

The hair on the back of his neck tingled and he ran faster, dashing through the front yard as his kitchen exploded. Miraculously unhurt, though somewhat singed, he watched his house go up like a book of matches. The fire department, when they arrived a few minutes later, could do nothing but prevent the houses next door from catching fire.

Rubbing the back of his neck, Quartermain sat on the bumper of the ambulance, cursing Teague under his breath, as the paramedic checked him for injuries.

“You’re fine, sir,” the young man told him. “A few bruises, a scrape or two, but otherwise fit.”

“Thank you,” he muttered, watching his house burn to the ground.

The fire chief and arson inspector came over, standing opposite him, arms folded. Both were massively built men who looked like they could crack his head open with a flick of their fingers. He straightened up, clutching the blanket around him.

“Mr. Quartermain?” the chief began.

“M-Major Quartermain. N-not M-Mister.” His damn stutter returned. He’d been rid of it for 30 years.

“Major,” the chief corrected himself. “Are you all right, sir?”

“My g-goddamn house is b-burning down. How do you th-think I am?”

“I meant are you injured?” The man tightened up, frowning.

“I’m fine. Sorry. My house—” He gestured toward the blaze.

“I’m very sorry for your loss, Major. We’ve found evidence of an explosive device. Can you think of anyone who would want to blow up your home?”

“No,” Victor Quartermain shuddered, shaking his head. “No, no, no. . .n-n-nnn. . . .” The shaking intensified.

The paramedic rushed over. The other two men got out of his way, letting him do his job.

“I have to ship him, sir,” the young man said after a quick exam. “I think he’s having a stroke. Or maybe he sustained a blow to the head. I can’t tell here.”

© 2014 Dellani Oakes

Dellani’s Books Romance with an Edge

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In Her Own Words – Liz Tynon

b477c-conduct2bunbecoming2bfront2bcoverElizabeth Tynon is the confidential aid to Teague’s former CO. She’s here to talk about Conduct Unbecoming.

What is your name?

Elizabeth Tynon, also known as the Ice Princess.

Why do you have that nickname?

Because I’m a cold hearted bitch.

What do you want most?

I want to win.

Why is this so important to you?

Because then I don’t lose.

How do you treat the people in your life?

People are pawns to be used as I need them and disposed of when they are no longer useful.

Can people count on you?

Not if they’re smart.

What makes you angry?

Losing.

Do you stand up for your beliefs?

I believe in myself. I stand up for myself and what I want.

What excites you?

Winning.

What do you do for a living?

I’m confidential aid to General Arnold Shay, US Army.

What kind of books do you like?

I don’t have time to read.

What kind of music do you enjoy?

I don’t listen to music.

What’s the one thing you’d most like to do before you die?

To Win—Everything.

© 2014 Dellani Oakes

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In Her Own Words – Aileen Griffin

author dellani oakes banner with conduct unbecoming from Christina

Aileen is an old Army buddy of Teague’s. She was also one of his lovers. They broke up under difficult circumstances but still hold a mutual respect for one another. In her own words, here’s Aileen to talk about Conduct Unbecoming.

What is your name?

Aileen Griffin, Captain in the US Army.

What do you want most?

I want to get my best friend back safely. Nadeya is damaged. She needs my help.

Why is this so important to you?

She’s the best friend I’ve got—one of the few I have left. The war has taken the rest in one way or another.

How do you treat the people in your life?

I try to treat them well, but I’m sure I don’t always manage it.

Can people count on you?

Yes! I will do whatever I can to help my friends and family.

What makes you angry?

Injustice and senseless violence. I know that’s kind of ironic given what I do for a living. I guess there’s nothing like a war to make you realize how pointless it is.

Do you stand up for your beliefs?

Yes, with everything I’ve got.

What excites you?

Well, I sure didn’t expect to find a small town cop exciting, but wow! Joel took me completely by surprise. I find him fun and exciting—and all kinds of sexy.

What do you do for a living?

I’m a Captain in the United States Army. Until all this happened, I’d thought about making it my career for life. Now, I’m not so sure.

What kind of books do you like?

I love romance novels. I want to read about people falling in love. I guess, until I met Joel, I didn’t really expect that to be me.

What kind of music do you enjoy?

Blues and classic rock. Don’t give me any of that rapper crap. That noise makes me want to unload my service pistol into whatever is playing it.

What’s the one thing you’d most like to do before you die?

You’re going to think I’m really being girly here—I want to find the perfect man and get married. Until I met Joel, that wasn’t even a thought. Now, it’s what I want more than anything.

© 2014 Dellani Oakes

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Conduct Unbecoming – Excerpt

conduct unbecoming front coverThe following excerpt is from Chapter Eight of Conduct Unbecoming. The men in my books talk like my sons, as that’s the example I’ve seen on a daily basis. That being said, they aren’t always nice to one another. In fact, at times, they are down right mean. The same applies to the men in my stories. They may be friends, but they aren’t averse to slamming one another. Teague’s cousin, Joel, has a car that the other men hate. He loves it and isn’t ashamed of his bright blue Civic.

After breakfast, the men went outside for a smoke. None of them did it very often, but this seemed like the occasion to indulge. Not only that, they wanted to talk about their women.

“Teague, dude, you missed out not having sex with Nadeya,” Jasper said. “I’ve had it good before, but da-yam!”

“I beat your record, cuz,” Joel said.

“Record? Which one is that?”

“Getting into Aileen’s panties. She said it took you a week.”

Teague chuckled. “She’d like to remember it that way. I think it was about three days.”

“Still beat you,” Joel replied, proud of himself.

“You did, cuz. That’s very cool.”

“She did it because she feels sorry for you—having that gay car and all—” Jasper teased.

Joel smacked him. “I’m sick of you guys making fun of my car! Some people find it hot.”

Teague and Jasper eyed Joel’s car, raising dubious eyebrows.

“Nope. Sorry, they don’t.” Teague replied.

“Pretty sure that’s a no,” Jasper added.

“What is wrong with my car?”

“The color,” Teague replied without hesitation.

“The purple neon underneath,” Jasper added.

“Spinners.” Teague nodded adamantly.

“Spoiler.” Jasper snapped.

“Name!” they bellowed together.

“I love my car,” Joel said. “Nothing you two say will change that.”

“I’m surprised Aileen still went to bed with you after she saw that,” Jasper said.

“Not funny!”

Vivica came to the door. “You’re going to wake the neighbors,” she said calmly. “What’s all the shouting about?”

“Joel maintains that his car is, in fact, hot,” Jasper said. “We maintain that it’s not.”

“Really? You’re talking about a car after having some of the best sex of your life?” She rolled her eyes with disgust and went inside, slamming the door.

“Good thing you got that sex already,” Jasper intoned. “Cause I’m pretty sure you won’t tonight.”

“Wait until she tells Nadeya and Aileen,” Joel said, eyes wide. “You’ll be in deep shit—both of you.”

“I’ll be deep in something,” Jasper countered. “But it won’t be shit.” He rose, heading toward the door. “Y’all coming?”

“Not yet,” Teague replied, throwing his cigarette butt at Jasper.

“Funny. Very. We need to figure this shit out, man. We have to help Nadeya out of this mess.”

© 2014 Dellani Oakes

 

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New from Dellani Oakes Conduct Unbecoming – A Teague McMurtry Mystery

 

dellani photo dark 2 super cropDellani Oakes makes her home in Florida, but she grew up in Western Nebraska. Before that, she lived in Tennessee, Ohio, Massachusetts and Texas. After graduating from high school, she added Mississippi. The diverse locations gave her a unique perspective on life. Always a people watcher, Dellani put that talent to use when she became an author.

Bitten by the writing bug early in life, Dellani first pursued poetry as her medium of self-expression. Soon, she moved on the song parodies and then short stories and humorous essays. Once she got to high school, it became apparent that she needed to learn to spell when she got a paper back from her English teacher, “For content: A+. For mechanics: F.” That comment changed her life, forcing her to focus as much on how she said things as well as what she said.

Dellani took up writing full time when her youngest son started kindergarten in 2002. Since then, she has published five books. She has two romantic suspense novels are with Tirgearr Publishing and an historical romance and two sci-fi novels with Second Wind Publishing. She has also contributed to several anthologies, MJ Magazine and shares her unpublished works on her blog.

Because she loves to talk to other authors, Dellani hosts two talk shows a month on Blog Talk Radio. Listen in every second Monday of the month at 4:00 PM Eastern for Dellani’s Tea Time, and every fourth Wednesday, at 4:00 PM Eastern for What’s Write for Me.

Armed with bravado and wonderfully supportive friends and family, Dellani has embarked on a journey of self-publication. Conduct Unbecoming is her first venture into this new, and somewhat scary, world.

Author Interview

Where are you from?

I was born in Tennessee, but have lived in Ohio, Massachusetts, Texas, Nebraska, Mississippi and now live in Florida.

What components, in your opinion, make a great story?

A great story needs good conflict, a discernible opposite of the main characters. This can be in the form of an actual person, entity or group. It can also be some hurdle the hero has to overcome. With good conflict comes good characters. They must be up to the task they’ve been presented with, even if they don’t think so themselves. Despite weaknesses, they manage to rise to the challenge and overcome it. Good plot dynamics also add to the story. No good tale can go straight up to the climax and straight down to the denouement. There have to be levels built, like steps, guiding the reader to the conclusion.

What was the hardest part of the story to write?

It was hard to keep the plot fresh and not do a rehash of The Ninja Tattoo. I didn’t want the characters in hiding, as they were before. However, when I thought of a full on confrontation, the characters stopped me. Two of the bad guys were too formidable and unpredictable for a frontal assault. I would have lost all my main characters and had a slaughter of innocents on my hands. Teague was champing at the bit to take the villain head to head and I couldn’t let him. Amazingly, Jasper, who is even more impetuous than Teague, talked him out of it. After that, I let them decide and I like where they went with the story.

What was the easiest part of the story to write?

The love scenes were the easiest part. I love having people fall in love and bringing them together for the first time is always kind of magical.

Was there much research involved?

Since I had already written a story with similar aspects, there was very little research involved. I did ask an author friend of mine, Seth Bailey, for advice on a rifle for one of the scenes. Though the weapon isn’t specifically named, he gave me some useful information. He also told me a real sniper wouldn’t be seen or miss, which was exactly what I was after.

What do you feel is your biggest strength as a writer?

Dialogue, hands down. I wrote plays in college and that has stayed with me. Info dumps, back story, characterization—all this and more can be portrayed through dialogue.

When your first started writing, did anything about the writing process surprise you?

I didn’t think about how long it would take to get from the beginning to the end. I would get these fabulous ideas and couldn’t type fast enough. What I thought would take an hour to write, often took 2 or 3.

Do you celebrate when you finish a story, and if so, how?

I do celebrate a little. I keep my book files separated by Finished and Unfinished files. When a book is done, I move it from one folder to the other and do a little happy dance. Sometimes, if it’s a been a real bear to finish, I’ll have a glass of wine. I love finishing a book, but once it’s done, the real work—editing—begins. I give myself some down time afterward, before I move on to a new project or begin my first phase of editing.

Do you have a set writing routine?

No. My time is too broken up with errands I have to run, needs of my family (buggers have to eat, after all) and all the Mom and Wife stuff I have to do. I try to get in my office by 10:00 most mornings, and put in time on my various projects. Sometimes, it’s editing, other times it’s setting up my blog posts. Other days, I go on Facebook & promote my books or radio shows. I try to put that off until later in the day, though, because it’s easy to get sucked in.

I write or edit awhile, break for a late lunch, watch reruns on Netflix and relax, before going back to work. I take another break to fix dinner. Sometimes, I stop and watch a movie with my family, then I’m back at my computer until around 1:00 a.m. I often have to make myself go to bed. I’m not usually sleepy, but I can’t allow myself to stay up all night, even though I’d like to.

Do you listen to music when you write?

Always! I have to listen to music. It keeps me going and makes me feel energized. It also serves a more mundane purpose, it provides a screen between me and the outside world. Even in my office, the sounds of the rest of the house annoy and interfere. I’ve learned to filter out and ignore some, but I can’t separate myself from it all. Also, I have constant ringing in my left ear. The doctors can’t do anything about it, so I play music to tone that down.

You’re marooned on a desert island. What’s the one book you’d want with you, and why?

Give me unlimited paper & pens, I’ll write my own. The voices in my head won’t shut up just because I’m not at my computer.

What’s next for you? Can we look forward to a new story in the near future?

I’m always working on something. I have several books that I’ve shared on my blog. I plan to get these ready to self-publish. The one I’m currently sharing on my blog, Bad Fall, is actually a companion novel to Conduct Unbecoming. The main character is mentioned in Conduct Unbecoming, and one of the villains is the same. I am also writing a sequel to Bad Fall, and it’s an extension of both Conduct Unbecoming and Bad Fall. The title is A Matter of Time.

What advice would you give an aspiring author?

Learn grammar! I realize that makes me sound like an English teacher, which I am, but it’s important. I just finished reading a wonderful book that had a great plot and held my interest, but the author kept hopping from present to past tense. There were times that she switched from first person narrative to third person in the same sentence. It was a little frustrating. Also, PLEASE learn the difference between LAY and LIE and use them right! That bugs the crap out of me. I despair of ever winning that battle, because nearly everyone does it wrong.

What made you decide to venture into self-publishing?

I love my publishers, but they are busy with other authors as well as me. I have books I really want to have published, but can’t get out as soon as I’d like to. I’ve been afraid to do this until many of my friends encouraged me to try it. Thank you Christina Giguere, Karen Vaughan and Ethel Cook-Wilson for convincing me that I could, and should, give it a try.

 

Excerpt from Chapter Six

“You don’t mind sharing with me, do you?” Joel asked Aileen.

“Do you snore?”

“Not that anyone’s ever told me.”

“Joel doesn’t have sleepovers often,” Jasper said. “He wouldn’t know.”

Joel punched Jasper hard in the chest. “Back the fuck off, Waters.”

Vivica interceded once more. “Do you guys need anything?”

“I’ve got a change of clothing in the car,” Joel said, heading outside to get it. He slammed the door behind him.

Jasper watched him leave, jaw working angrily. Vivica had to speak to him again to get his attention.

“I just need a toothbrush and some boxers. I’m good to go.”

“Teague has some new ones here somewhere. They should fit you. Hang on.” She ducked into the master bedroom and brought out a pair of plaid boxers.

Jasper thanked her and went in the bathroom. Vivica and Aileen made the bed while he took a quick shower. Joel still hadn’t come back in. Concerned, Aileen called him, but his phone went to voice mail.

“I’m going to go look for him,” she said.

Vivica nodded and tucked in the blanket. Aileen went outside. She found Joel sitting on the neighborhood dock, gazing at the moon. He looked up when she sat down on another deck chair.

“He really gets under my skin,” he explained. “And I let him. I want to kick myself in the ass.”

“What’s with you two. You seem to hate each other.”

“No. Jasper’s a good guy, he’s just so competitive. I’ve been on the receiving end more times than I’d like. He’s a sore loser, but he’s a worse winner. Problem is, I am too.” He chuckled, shaking his head. “We’re too damn much alike to be friends. The only reason we tolerate each other is because of Teague.”

“He’s always had that effect, hasn’t he? I’ve never seen someone who can bring people together and get the best out of them like he can. God, he had me charmed and in his bed faster than any man I’ve ever met.”

Joel held up his hand, halting her monologue. “I can handle many things. But hearing how good my cousin is at seducing a beautiful woman is not one of them.”

“Jealous?”

“As all hell,” Joel admitted. He stared across the water.

“I can’t imagine you’ve had much trouble along that line,” Aileen said quietly. She scooted closer, shivering.

Joel flung an arm around her, pulling her closer. “I’d loan you my jacket if I had one.”

“This is good. So, you don’t want to know how he seduced me?”

“Nope. Why would I?”

“Because it might work for you too.”

Joel chuckled, rubbing her arm. “There is that. Maybe I’ll find my own way.”

Aileen gazed into his eyes. They looked silver in the moonlight. “How would you go about it?”

“First, I’d take you for a ride in my sexy car.”

She giggled. “And then?”

“Then I’d buy you a cup of coffee and a slice of the best pie in town.”

“Jasper actually did that.”

“Yeah, but I drove you there in my sexy car.”

“True.”

“Then I’d have me a temper tantrum and storm outside like a three year old.”

“Oooh, be still my fluttering heart.”

Joel turned his face to hers, pulling her close. “Then, I reckon I’d get you by the river in the moonlight and hope you let me kiss you.”

Aileen leaned closer. Joel brushed her cheek, touching her lips with his thumb. His lips met hers—warm and soft and full. She shivered against him, but not because she was cold. Joel’s tongue flickered between her lips and she opened them more. He took full advantage, deepening the kiss. Sighing, they scooted closer together. Joel touched Aileen’s cheek, his fingers winding in her hair. Gradually, his hand dropped to her shoulder before drifting down to her breast. Teasing her, he traced circles over her shirt.

The screen door of Vivica’s house screeched, sounding loud in the still night. Joel’s head snapped around.

“You two okay?” Vivica called.

“Yeah. Be right in, Viv.

Sorry,” Joel replied. He stood, giving Aileen a hand up. Her arm slipped around his waist.

“That was a nice kiss. I’d like to continue that sometime.”

Joel sighed. “But I’m guessing not tonight.”

“Not tonight. But soon.”

She started away from him. Joel caught her hand, pulling her back. The kiss was even more powerful when they were standing. His firm body pressed against hers. It felt good to have a man show his interest so definitively. There were no games with Joel. He liked her, he was attracted. She had no intention of bedding a man she’d known less than 12 hours—though it was damned tempting.

“How long did it take my cousin,” he whispered huskily. His breath tickled her neck.

“A week.”

Joel nodded, smirking. Arm slung around her shoulders, he planted a kiss on her cheek, smirking as they walked to the house.

 

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