Tag Archive | contemporary romance

First Meeting from On the Fairway

first meetingHeath Otts works at a local, very posh and exclusive, golf course as a greens keeper. After work one afternoon, his boss asks him to drop off some bags of pink gravel, which were delivered to them by mistake. He takes them up to the club house as instructed, and looks for someone to give them to.

There was a flurry of activity in one of the private dining rooms. He wandered over, hands in his pockets, shoulders hunched, trying not to look as big and dirty as he was. It wasn’t easy making a man his size inconspicuous. At six foot four, he was broad shouldered, narrow hipped and handsome. Even with a day’s worth of dirt on him, he was eye catching. His wavy brown hair came to the collar of his shirt. His brilliant blue eyes surveyed the room looking for someone in charge.

A tall, well built brunette with shoulder length hair and killer legs stood a few feet away. She wore a bright blue dress that clung invitingly to her tasty curves. Heath watched her ass for several seconds before clearing his throat.

“Excuse me, miss?”

She spun around, her smile faltering when she saw his shabby attire.

“I’ve got the gravel y’all ordered.”

“Oh, of course. Thank you!”

“Where would you like me to stow it?”

She cast about for a moment, then motioned to a table near the door. “Right there is perfect. That will save you a few steps.”

“You got it!” He turned away.

“What’s your name?” she called after him.

“Heath Otts.”

“Essa Jaymes. Nice to meet you. I’m the events planner here.”

“I work greens maintenance. Pardon my stank. I just got off work.”

She reached out the shake his hand. He started to take her hand, realized he was still dirty, even after washing, and jerked it away instead.

“Sorry. I’m real dirty, Miss Jaymes. Nice to meet you, though.”

She grabbed his hand anyway, shaking firmly. “I can always wash. Nice to meet you, Heath.”

“You too. Lemme get that gravel in for ya.” He walked backward, pointing over his shoulder at the back door.

“Sure. Great. Thank you.” She looked baffled by his behavior, but smiled anyway.

So damn outta her league. . . .I’m not even in the same galaxy as her league. Fuck, I’m not even in her universe. God damn that’s a pretty woman!

His unloading went quickly. He had to carry everything in by hand, but he was strong and able to lift two bags at a time. Soon, all ten bags were stacked neatly on the table. He’d been given a paper for someone to sign, so he went looking for Miss Jaymes again. He found her on the far side of the room counting place settings.

“Just need your John Hancock,” he said, handing her a clipboard.

“Thanks again,” she said, scribbling her name. She handed it back to him. Next to it, she’d written her number. Her smile flashed. “Do they let you accept tips?”

“Ma’am?”

“Your boss. Are you allowed to take a tip?”

“I dunno. Only been working two months and no one tried to tip me before.”

She grinned, handing him a folded bill on the sly. “Shh,” she whispered. “Qviet!”

Heath took it from her furtively, turning his body so no one would see the bill exchange hands. “I feel like I’m doing a drug deal,” he murmured.

Essa laughed. “Nothing so sordid, I promise. I know the kitchen staff aren’t allowed to accept tips. It’s built into the bill. I really appreciate you doing that for me. I don’t suppose I could trouble you further? I don’t have scissors and I don’t think I can open those bags with my hands.”

“I’ll slit ’em for ya. Enough you can get your fingers in. Any more than a slit, you’ll be up to your ears in pink gravel.”

She giggled at his lame joke. “That would be super awesome! Thank you.” Essa beamed at him.

“Happy to help a lady in distress.” Heath flipped open his pocket knife and attacked the corner of each bag and stood them upright against the wall, so they wouldn’t spill.

© 2016 Dellani Oakes

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Presenting Room 103

Cover by Suzette Vaughn

Cover by Suzette Vaughn

Deputy Marshal Marice Houston is back in Kansas, attending her college reunion. Staying at a small motel in town, she gets friendly with the owner, Todd Englund. Something about his name resonates with her law enforcement mind. She remembers he was tied to a rape case about ten years ago. Unable to believe he could have committed such a horrible crime, she is even more shocked when he’s accused of murdering the girl’s father. However, when she’s the one who finds him standing over the dead body, weapon in hand, there’s not much doubt. What really happened in Room 103? Marice is determined to find out.

CHAPTER ONE

“I don’t want the money!” the loud male voice boomed out from the motel owner’s apartment.

Eavesdropping shamelessly, I waited to see if it turned ugly, hand on my phone in case I needed to call someone. There was a lot of anger radiating from that room.

“I just want a letter of apology, acknowledgment of what they did to me.”

“Come on, Englund, he wants you to have the money for pain and suffering. A public apology….”

“Would simply open old wounds—mine. I do all right here. I make a decent living. If it’s all over the papers, it makes it fresh. Regardless of the apology, people are stupid and superstitious. I’ll be ruined—again. Only I won’t bounce back a second time.”

“At least take the money.”

“It feels like blood money.”

“It is. Yours. It took a lot of convincing to get old man Roberts to open his tight fist and give you this. I had hoped for more, would have settled for less. Please.” The other man’s voice was calm, conciliatory. “Please. You deserved a better shake, Todd. I couldn’t get it for you then, but you have it now.”

There was a quiet rustle as if an envelope were being opened. A sharp gasp followed.

“This much?”

“It’s still not enough. I tried to convince him that your salary would have increased over the years, but he determined a flat rate, based on your pay at the time. He’s not the most astute businessman in the state for nothing. Your salary, times ten. But I did get a bump to an even six.”

“Even with this money, I can’t afford to pay you, Regan.”

“The judge made Roberts pay me. I earned nearly as much as you, but I refused to take even a penny over. You’re the victim, you deserve the most. Oh, by the way, Roberts wants you to sign a letter of receipt.”

“Not on your life. Not until I get my apology.”

“Exactly what I said. To that end, he wants to meet at his office tomorrow.”

“Not on his turf. I don’t want the officious bastard to sneak in cameras for a photo op.”

“Also what I told him. So, he agreed to meet here, tomorrow at ten a.m.”

“That’s checkout time. Everyone will see him and I’ll be busy. Tell him either six a.m., or ten p.m. His choice. We’re making this easy for me, not him. And he can hand me the check personally, along with my letter.”

The paper rustled again.

“As you wish. I’ll call with the time.”

Their voices sounded closer. I rushed to the inner lobby door and opened it as if I’d just come in. Two men walked out of the back room, looking grim and determined. One was about six foot one, dressed in jeans and a Bob Marley T-shirt. His hair was black and carefully mussed to look casual. Or maybe he simply didn’t care how it looked. The other man was slightly shorter, broad shouldered, blond, clean cut, wearing an expensive suit. Both appeared surprised when they saw me, especially when their eyes took in details and noticed I was sporting a gun. It was clearly visible with my jacket open and my hand on the doorknob. Stopping in their tracks, they each took a step back. T-shirt guy started to raise his hands, his blue eyes riveted on my shoulder holster.

“I’m Marice Houston. I have a reservation. Sorry I’m late. Traffic from Kansas City was a bear.”

T-shirt guy relaxed, smiling. He moved easily to the computer on the counter. “Of course, Ms. Houston. Your room is all set. No feather pillows or duvet and no pets, as well as non-smoking.”

“Thank you.”

“The chairs are vinyl in this room. The blankets are washed weekly and the pillows are fluffed in the drier after every guest. I hope you’ll be comfortable.” He flashed a dazzling smile, his bright blue eyes twinkling behind black framed glasses.

I handed over my driver’s license and credit card. Tall-Dark-and-Blue-Eyes talked easily as he worked, his long, lean fingers stroking the keyboard as he typed. He was breathtakingly handsome and I wondered if he was aware of his own appeal.

The other man stood still, in the relative safety afforded by the counter. His hazelnut brown eyes watched every move I made. I nicknamed him Slick in my mind. He was also good looking and completely aware of it. He dressed for success and that probably carried over to the bedroom. I got the distinct impression that people never said No to this man—especially not women.

Blue-Eyes handed over my license and credit card, flashing another blinding smile. “You’re in room one forty-seven, in the next building down. Third room from this end.” He pulled over a laminated map of the small complex. “You’re here.” He pointed to my room. “The ice machine and laundry are here.” He pointed to the front end of the building. “If it’s out of ice, there’s also a machine here.” He pointed to another area of the map.

I wasn’t looking at the map, but at his hands. He had long, strong fingers, broad palms with a scattering of black hair on the back, and a dash on the lower knuckle. His nails were short and clean—not so much manicured as neatly clipped and filed. I looked up from the map to see him eyeing me questioningly.

“Have we met? You look really familiar. I have this feeling of déjà-vu, like I knew you long ago.”

I cleared my throat, shaking back my hair. I could hardly breathe when those blue eyes focused fully on me. “I—uh—I was in school here. Seems like ages ago.”

“College?”

“Yes. Go Rillas!” I giggled, sounding like a little girl. Suddenly, I’d reverted to the breathless, silly co-ed of nearly 15 years ago.

He chuckled. “I know I’ve seen you before. A face like yours… I couldn’t forget.”

My fingers fluttered to my burning cheeks. His scrutiny was too much for a woman like me. I never did well with male attention. Even though I carry a gun and badge, a handsome, confident man can still make me revert to the shrinking violet.

“I hope that’s a good thing.”

He handed me my key card with a gentle smile, his blue eyes caressing my face. “It’s a very good thing. It will come to me. Enjoy your stay, Ms. Houston.”

“Thank you.”

The other man cleared his throat. “You got a license for the weapon, Miss?”

Slick struck a nerve. Glaring keenly, his square jaw jutted forward. He was ridiculously handsome, but cold. Not like Blue-Eyes, not at all. This was a man of authority who wielded it like a knife.

“I have something better.” I flipped open my jacket, showing the opposite side of my belt. A marshal’s badge glittered in the fluorescent lights of the office. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I want a shower and a meal.”

Blue-Eyes, slightly taken aback by the badge, rallied quickly, handing me a menu. “If you want to order in, the places with a gold star give our guests discounts. Everything from pizza to Thai.”

“Thank you.” I gave him a tight smile, glared at the other man and turned on my heel, marching to the door.

“Did you have to do that, Regan?” I heard Blue-Eyes say as the door closed.

Todd, I reminded myself. Todd Englund. The name resonated in my memory for some reason. Vaguely, faintly, but with an abiding assurance that it wasn’t in a good way.

© 2016 Dellani Oakes

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Something New – Part 33 (Again)

something new coverMy apologies that this part went up a month early. This is what happens when I work late at night. Clearly, that was a mistake!

Although the interview goes extremely well, Austin is so stunned and moved by Liz bringing some of the Magician’s Fund children on the show, he’s exhausted. Instead of going out to celebrate, he simply wants to go home.

“I know it would be fun to celebrate, but I honestly just want to go home and take a nap. That was emotionally draining.”

“Let’s plan on dinner,” Gordon suggested. “You can go home, relax and we’ll all meet up—where?”

“There’s a great restaurant in my building. Owen Rhys is the chef.”

“Sounds perfect,” Elaine agreed. “At eight?”

“I’ll call for a reservation,” Dwight said, taking out his phone. Moments later, he’d confirmed their reservation.

Stu dropped off Dwight and Austin at their building before heading to the Vogel Building. They went up the back elevator again.

“When did life get so bloody complicated?” Austin asked.

“About the time you got famous,” Dwight replied. “My phone is ringing like crazy.”

“I don’t hear anything.”

“Vibrate.” He pulled the phone out of his pants pocket, waving it around. “Only action I’m likely to get for awhile. Maybe I’ll just let it ring.” He winked and went home.

Austin started undressing as soon as he closed his door. He headed to the shower and let the hot water pound his back, unknotting his shoulders. Controlling his emotions had been exhausting. As much as he appreciated what Liz had done, it had brought all the horrors back. How he wished someone had done for him what he was doing for others. If he could save even one child or family from the fear and humiliation he’d felt, he would judge himself worthy.

He dressed in loose fitting jeans and ratty T-shirt. Walking around barefoot, he enjoyed the deep pile carpet. A lunch of Naomi and Dexter’s leftovers filled him up. He sipped a single beer and watched Farscape on DVD. He didn’t watch much television, but he loved to run marathons of favorite TV shows. He was deep into season one when someone knocked at his door. He paused the show and opened the door.

Liat stood there, grinning. “Mind if I join you?” She also was wearing jeans and a baggy shirt.

“Love for you to. I’ve been watching John Crichton whilst deciding whether or not to take a nap.”

“Can I interest you in something other than a nap?” She tugged his belt loops, pulling him close.

Austin smiled down at her, putting his hands on her waist. “I’d like that. I’d love to hope it involves getting naked.”

Liat playfully pushed him away. “I’ve known you since Thursday.”

“So, that’s a no.”

“That’s a be patient.”

Holding her waist, he walked backwards toward the couch. He sat down, pulling her down to straddle his lap.

“After all the sights I’ve shown you. Super novas in the beta quadrant.”

“That was just the light bulb going in one of the lamps.”

“Meteor shower in Sol Bea.”

“Styrofoam rocks hurled at us from the catwalk.”

“Bloody hell, I’m useless.”

“Almost entirely,” she replied, pushing him back against the couch.

“Well, the question burning in everyone’s mind, is this. How much of the last three days may we count as dates?”

She climbed off his lap, sitting close beside him. “Hmm. . . . We can count dinner the first night.”

“How about the snogging in my trailer.”

“Mm, no.”

“But I want to count it.”

“Why?”

“Because it was such fun. And now, may we include now?”

“Maybe. Depends upon what you want to do.”

“I’m a thirty-two year old man in a room with the most beautiful woman in the world. What do you think I want to do?” He loomed over her, his face mere inches from hers.

“Play Trivial Pursuit?”

“Not even close.” He smiled as his lips brushed her cheek.

“We’re having dinner with my parents soon.”

“And?” He nosed her hair, his tongue tickling her ear.

“And, if we do anything inappropriate—Daddy will know.”

He fell back, lying on the couch. “Dammit, that’s done it.”

“What?”

“The cock block I needed after the first time I kissed you. There it is. Your father will castrate me if I even think of shagging you.” He groaned, putting a pillow over his face. He pressed against it as if trying to suffocate himself.

© 2015 Dellani Oakes

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Snowed – Part 1

snowed cover image for blogHAPPY HALLOWEEN! Or should I say HAPPY BIRTHDAY! You’ll find out why in a minute, just keep reading. Welcome to Cheyenne, Wyoming where it’s not unusual for it to snow as early as October. In fact, I had just started writing this story when a friend of mine (who lived in Cheyenne) gave me a call around Halloween. It was nearly 90 degrees here in Florida.

She started our conversation with, “Guess what, it’s snowing! They’re expecting a blizzard!” I started laughing and told her about Snowed. I even read a little bit of it to her. “Sounds about right,” she replied with a laugh. “Let me know how it ends up.”

Sadly, Charlotte died not long after I finished the book and never had the chance to read it in its entirety. I guess it’s just as well, because Big Mike’s antics might have offended her. However, I’d like to dedicate Snowed to her memory. I miss you, Charlotte. This one’s for you!

 

October 31, 2009

“It’s the worst snowstorm of the year!” The radio announced gleefully, waking me up.

What it fails to mention is that it’s the only snowstorm of the year. Like it’s some big thing, like we don’t know. We live in a city where it snows from October to April. For it to be the worst snowstorm, wouldn’t you expect for there to be something to compare it to? Maybe the guy meant to say, “It’s the first snowstorm of the year!” That would make some kind of sense.

Or maybe, and I’m betting on this one, the guy’s a moron. Soon, the phone calls, from other people like me who notice stupid stuff like that, will start up and they will have to amend what idiot boy said. I’m not calling in. I’m going back to sleep. I drive a school bus and school has been canceled by the worst (and first) snowstorm of the year.

Not that I’m complaining. Kids on a day like this, are impossible to control. You’d think they had never seen snow before. They’ve lived here since birth, still snow has this magical effect on them. Not a good one, just magical. It transforms even the brightest child into a complete buffoon. You can see their devious minds working, determined to figure out a way to mess up my bus, or fall under the wheels, or slide into traffic.

I was just snuggling down, going back to a blissful sleep, when the phone rang. Knowing it can’t be good news on a day like this, I hesitated to answer. I can’t stand a ringing phone, so I picked up, running my fingers through my shoulder length, brown hair.

“Mikey?” A shrill, nasal distinctly Brooklyn voice shouted in my ear.

“Ma?” Grumbling, I sat up. I never lie down to talk to my mother, it puts in me in a vulnerable position. “Why are you calling this early, Ma?”

“Happy Birthday to you. . . .” She has a horrible voice and sings off key. Imagine Edith Bunker, only less melodic.

“Yeah, thanks, Ma.”

She didn’t stop. She was starting with, “How old are you?”

“Ma, please. You know how the hell old I am. You gave me life. You were there.”

“Yes, at this time on October 31, I had my bouncing baby boy! Happy Birthday, Mikey.”

“Thanks, Ma.”

I love my mother, but this is why I moved over a thousand miles away to Cheyenne, Wyoming as soon as I had the money. I was on my way to Alaska, figuring putting the better part of two countries between us, but my car broke down in Cheyenne. I couldn’t afford to fix it and couldn’t afford to buy a new one at the time, so I got a job and an apartment and stayed. I’ve been here five years. It’s not so bad if you can handle wide open spaces. If you don’t mind seven different shades of gray in the winter, with no leaves on the few trees there are, with what feels like 90 mile an hour winds and a wind chill factor of 100 below, it’s okay. I’m getting used to it—sorta.

The fact that I am 1,743 miles away from Kings County, New York is a decided plus. My mother hates to fly and there is no way she’ll drive twenty-seven hours just to see me. She can’t stand the bus or the train either and no one in their right mind would travel with her anyway, so I’m safe. Except on my birthday and over the phone.

“So how’s my little Mikey-wikey like being twenty-seven?”

“It’s peachy, Ma.”

“Do you have a girlfriend yet?”

“Mother, please. Do we have to start on that?”

“Your younger brother is married with three kids.”

“I can’t help he can’t keep it in his pants, Ma. I haven’t found the right girl.”

“Are you sure you’re not gay?” The tone was teasing, but the old bitch meant it.

Normally, such a question wouldn’t offend me. Because even if I’m not married with three kids like my brother, I’ve gotten more tail than he’ll ever get. Sweet, luscious, all kinds of sexy tail. . . . And I’m talking to my mother with my balls in a vice. Because even if I’ve gotten more than him, it’s not been so much lately.

“I got to get ready for work, Ma. I got a long day with the bus. Kids got a field trip.”

“I’d think you could give five minutes to your mother.” She sniffled, pulling the New York Guilt Trip on me. “The woman who loves you. The woman who gave you life!” She was really pouring it on, pulling out all the stops. “Who lives so far away, she can’t see her oldest son on his birthday! Her son who is almost thirty!”

© Dellani Oakes 2014

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Bad Fall’s Finished, What’s Next?

Dellani Oakes with glassesBad Fall is over and I am a little bit sad. Of all the romantic suspense novels I’ve written, it’s one of my favorites. Never fear, the characters of Marka and Frank have another shot at action in a work in progress, A Matter of Time.

Liz may be out of commission, but that doesn’t mean that her co-conspirators are. Can Frank and Marka stop them before anyone else dies? Or is it only a matter of time before they, too, become victims?

Usually, when deciding on a new book to share, I ask for input from my readers, but I’ve decided what story I want to use. Snowed a favorite of mine and it’s a little different from my other romantic suspense novels.

 

 

 

snowed cover image for blog

Michael Reuben’s having a birthday. Not quite 30, he never thought he’d be where he is—driving aschool bus in Cheyenne, Wyoming. It wasn’t his career goal, or even his original destination. He planned to drive to Alaska, putting the better part of the continent between him and his interfering mother. His car broke down in Cheyenne and he decided to stay.

Big Mike’s got a problem, several, actually. First of all, his mother has decided to drive from New York to Cheyenne and she’s bringing a friend with her—a man. Second, he’s had the best night of his life with a woman whose name and face he can’t remember (too much tequila can do that to a man). He calls her the Mystery Date. He may not remember her, but she decidedly remembers him! Third, and most important, someone has started harassing him and he doesn’t know why. Since the incidents are escalating, he wants to find out who’s after him before they manage to kill him!

Starting October 31, because that’s Big Mike’s birthday, I’ll share Snowed every Wednesday and Sunday. In the meantime, watch this space for information and excerpts from my newest novel, Conduct Unbecoming which was released October 3, 2014.

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Bad Fall – Conclusion

Bad FallFrank meets his son, Elijah, and has a conversation with Britt for the first time since high school. She tells him what happened that night, that they had both been drugged by other students. He tells her he’ll help out with Eli’s expenses and offers her the job she needed at Sheltering Oaks.

Britt blushed, ducking her head. “Actually, I like women. I did back in school too, but didn’t want to admit it. I think that’s another reason the guys did that to us. They thought it would be funny.”

“I’d like to rip their balls off and stuff them up their noses,” Frank replied calmly. “Do you know who it was?”

“Yeah. But promise you won’t get violent.”

Frank shook his head. “No. That’s behind me. But there are other ways to get even that don’t require violence. I have a few friends in high places who owe me some favors. If you ever want to get even, you let me know and I’ll go Federal on ’em.”

Britt laughed. “You’re a unique man, Frank Atherton.”

“Thanks. You’re a pretty unique woman, Britt.”

Marka and Eli came in, breathless and laughing. “Can we stay for dinner, Mom? Marka asked us. She said they had more food than they could eat in a month and they need my help.”

“Sure! Can I help in the kitchen?” she asked Marka.

“I’d love it. Frank’s a good helper, but right now, he’s more of a menace.”

“Oh, thanks, babe. Love you too.”

Eli plopped down on the couch opposite Frank. He stared at his father. “So, you’re my dad, huh?”

“Yeah, I am.”

“Why didn’t you ever see me before?”

“Your mom chose not to tell me you were born.”

Eli nodded, taking that in. “Did you love my mom?”

Frank wasn’t sure how to answer that, but chose to be honest. “No. We knew each other in school and we were friends for awhile.”

“That’s okay,” Eli said. “Can we be friends now?”

“I’d like that a lot. I think you’ve got a lot you can teach me.”

“Yeah? Like what?”

Frank pulled out the PSP. “Like how to up my score on Grand Theft Auto.”

“Dude, I rock that game!”

Frank tossed the PSP to him. “Good, cause I’m terrible at it.”

He sat by his son and the boy explained different facets of the game. About half an hour later, Marka stuck her head out of the kitchen.

“Dinner’s almost ready. Go wash up.”

Both brown heads popped up, nearly touching. Two pairs of deep brown eyes lit up and they flashed identical smiles. Marka’s eyes watered as she gazed at Frank. He looked so joyful with his son. She wasn’t jealous, she was delighted that he’d found the boy after so many years. She looked forward to the time when they would have their own children and they would grow up, knowing their older brother.

“Yes, ma’am,” Frank said. He tousled Eli’s hair.

The boy ducked his head away, laughing. “Yes, ma’am? What are you, in the Army?”

“Yeah.”

“Did you ever shoot anyone?”

“One day, I’ll tell you all about it. Meanwhile, I’m hungry and the women will be angry if we don’t hurry up.”

“They won’t mind.”

“Son, first rule of dealing with women, do what they tell you when they tell you.”

“Why?”

“Because they will make you miserable if you don’t.”

“How?”

Frank laughed, winking at Marka. “One day, I’ll tell you about that too.”

THE END

Bad Fall – Part 101

Bad FallHome and settling in, Frank takes a rest. When he wakes, Marka tells him he has guests.

Frank walked into the living room a few minutes later, his hair and teeth brushed. A vaguely familiar blonde sat on the couch next to a dark eyed teenager. She stood when he came in the room, looking ready to bolt. Marka took her hand and she sat again.

“Hi, Frank.”

“Britt?” He smiled, walking over to her. He took her hand, shaking it. “It’s strangely good to see you.”

“I have someone you need to meet,” she said shyly. “This is Elijah. Your son.”

The boy stood, holding out his hand. He looked so solemn, Frank tried to match it. He took the proffered, shaking it firmly.

“Hello, Elijah. It’s good to meet you.”

“Hi.”

“I’m sorry I never told you, Frank. After what happened. . . . I was too embarrassed. I was too ashamed to admit.”

“Britt, it’s okay. . . .”

“No, it isn’t! I’m sorry.” She turned to Marka. “Would you mind taking Eli outside? I need to talk to Frank.”

“I’d be happy to. Do you like horseshoes, Eli?”

“I never tried.”

“I’ll teach you.” She took him out.

Once the door closed, Britt relaxed a little, but she sat with her hands in her lap, wringing her hands.

“You need to know what happened that night. It wasn’t your fault—and it wasn’t mine. Some of the guys thought it would be funny to drug us. They gave you god knows what in your drink and they gave me something too. I don’t know what it was, but it made me wild. I did unspeakable things that night. I know I traumatized you, because it traumatized me too. I almost aborted Eli, but I just couldn’t do it. My parents wanted me to put him up for adoption and I almost did.”

She started to cry. Frank found tissues and gave her the box. Britt blew her nose and dabbed her eyes.

“See, he wouldn’t eat. The nurses and the adoptive parents all tried. He refused to eat and they were afraid he’d die. So they brought him to me. I gave him his bottle and I bonded with him. I had to keep him after that.”

“That had to be hard.”

“It was. My parents and aunt helped me a lot, but it was difficult to go to college and be a new mom. I finally dropped out. When he got into school, I went back and finished my degree. But I couldn’t get a job anywhere.”

“So you came home.”

She nodded, sobbing. “And I applied for a job at Sheltering Oaks. I didn’t know you were working there. When I found out I’d have to interview with you, I panicked.”

“I’m sorry you thought I wouldn’t help,” he said gently. “If you’d just told me, Britt.”

“I know. I see that now. But I didn’t know what you were like anymore. You were such a nice guy in school. But nice teenagers don’t always grow up to be nice men.”

Frank nodded, chuckling. “True.”

“But Eli has some weird health problems. The doctor finally told me he has hemochro. . . . hemo. . . .”

“Hemochromatosis.”

“Yes, how did you know?”

“I have it. It’s hereditary. Is it bad?”

“No. With medication and diet, we can control it. But it gets expensive, all the doctors.”

“I know. I want to help out, Britt.”

“I don’t want you to think I’m just after you for money. I don’t want child support, Frank. That’s not why I’m here. I heard about what happened. I thought Eli should meet his father. I kept you two apart too long. I’m sorry. That was my own fear and insecurity. A boy should know his father.”

“I agree.”

“Do you think Marka will mind?”

“She won’t mind. I’ll be willing to bet they’re best buddies before they come in.”

Britt smiled. “I still need that job, Frank. I’ll work hard. . . .”

“It’s yours. Whatever you applied for. I’ll put Eli on my insurance and help with medical expenses.”

“You don’t have to, Frank.”

“I want to. After everything that’s happened, I’ve figured out how important family and friends are. I mean, I knew before, but when someone steps in and saves your life, it gives a different perspective. I want to help and I want to give my son the advantages I had. It doesn’t matter how we conceived him, he’s a part of us.”

“You’re a good man, Frank. Marka is a very lucky woman.”

“Thank you. I hope you’ll find the right man one day.”

© Dellani Oakes

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Bad Fall – Part 100

Bad FallFrank is on the mend, but not quite able to return to work. However, as predicted, he’s already driving Marka crazy and going stir crazy.

They drove in the gate of Sheltering Oaks and the road was lined with signs and banners of all sizes and colors. Each of them welcomed Frank home. They drove up to the small house. Several people stood in the driveway, among them were Paula, Jennifer and her two boys. Friends and family did their best to get Frank in the house and settled. They didn’t stay long, knowing that he was tired, but stayed longer than he wanted.

They had enough food to feed an army for a month as well as all the comforts of home. Someone had even picked up Frank’s dry cleaning, so he had a few clean suits for when he went back to work. There was a note there from Mabel, asking him to call when he felt up to it. Rather than wait, he gave his great-grandmother a call.

“So, you’re really all right,” she said by way of greeting.

“I really am.”

“Don’t scare an old lady like that, Frankie.”

“Never my intention, Mabel. You know I love you.”

“I do. And I love you, my darling boy. When you’re feeling well, you bring that lovely girl here to see me. I have something for you.”

“Will do, Mabel.”

“Love to you!” She hung up.

Frank did well for two days of confinement. By the third, he was champing at the bit to be active, so Marka got him tucked into the car and drove him to his office. He was greeted like a king and ushered into Jeff’s office.

“What the hell?” He was shocked when he saw his name on the door.

“You got a promotion yesterday,” Marka said. “Mabel talked to the board and convinced them to give you Jeff’s job. You did it anyway and now that he’s in jail, the position came empty.”

“Who has my old job?”

Kenny waved from the doorway. “Seems I’m overqualified for maintenance.”

“Couldn’t have picked a better man. Good to have you on board.”

“Your first official day back isn’t until Monday,” Marka reminded Frank as he headed to his desk. “And all that can wait until then.”

“You take all the fun out of a day out,” he pouted.

“We’re due to see Mabel. So hoist up your tight tush and come with me.”

“Yes, ma’am. I know better than to argue with you. You’ll kick my tight tush from here to Alabama and back.”

“And don’t you forget it.”

They walked over to see Mabel. By the time they got there, Frank was hurting. He sank gratefully into Mabel’s comfortable recliner. Rachel was there and served tea on Mabel’s China. Frank sipped from the delicate cup, worried he might drop it. Marka and Rachel pulled up folding chairs next to him.

“I’ve called you here for several reasons,” Mabel said. “For one, I’m making you executor of my will. Not that I expect to die anytime soon, but it’s best to plan ahead. I’ve also split my money between you, your sister and your three cousins. I’ve also left money in trust for their children and any you might have.”

She smiled, her eyes twinkling as she gazed at Frank and Marka. “Now, for the fun part. Rachel?”

Rachel reached into the drawer of Mabel’s dresser and handed Frank two boxes. “Open the blue one first.”

Inside was a lovely ring set. One band was platinum and crusted with rubies. The other ring was also platinum and had a large, circular diamond in a Tiffany setting. On either side, more ruby and diamond chips glittered.

“This was my ring set when I married my Tommy. I want you to have it for Marka. Now, open the other one.”

Inside was the huge ring from Tom. “I know you don’t want to wear anything that big,” Mabel told Marka. “But I wanted you and Frankie to have it. For one thing, I know he’ll keep Ralph from getting his chubby hands on it. Now that you’ve got a ring, my lad, you make this official.” She folded her hands in her lap, staring expectantly at Frank.

“I can’t get down on one knee right now, Mabel. I’ll fall down.”

“The position isn’t as important as the words.” She pursed her lips and nodded at him.

Frank laughed. Taking the engagement ring from the box, he held Marka’s hand in his. “Marka Ventimiglia, will you do me the honor of becoming my wife?”

“Francis Atherton, I’d be delighted.”

He slipped the ring on her finger and kissed her. Mabel and Rachel clapped. They didn’t stay long. Frank could tell Mabel was tired after the excitement. To be honest, he was tired himself. He agreed to let Marka borrow a wheelchair to take him to the car. When they got home, he lay down on the bed and fell asleep. Marka woke him a few hours later.

“Hey, love. We’ve got company.”

“Yeah? Is it my folks?”

“No. I think you need to come out and see.”

“Let me brush my teeth. I’ve got megadeath breath.”

“Okay. We’ll be waiting.”

© Dellani Oakes

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Bad Fall – Part 99

With Liz in custody, Frank and Marka can finally relax a little. He’s still in the Bad Fallhospital, but decidedly on the mend.

“Where is Liz?” Marka asked.

“On her way to Elkton Federal Correctional Institute.”

“That’s a men’s prison,” Frank said.

“They’re doing me a solid,” Shay replied. “They’ll keep her there until she can be transferred to the nearest women’s facility. Meanwhile, she’s out of our hair.”

“Any clue yet who she was working with?”

“None. But you can be sure that when she sees what kind of time she’s facing, she’ll talk. Meanwhile, more interesting things to talk about. Clark, tell them about Ralph Penwarren.”

“Seems our Uncle Ralphie has been playing high and loose with his mother’s money. Fortunately, enough of her assets are tied up in investments, he couldn’t get his hands on it all, but he put a sizable dent in it.”

“Mabel’s not broke, is she?” Frank asked, worried.

“Not by a long shot, but she did drop from billionaire status. Not by much and should pop back in a couple years.”

“Why was he after the ring?”

“Seems he invested poorly—his horses failed to come in. He’d run up a lot of debt. The ring would have made him enough money to clear his debt and live high for quite awhile. Unfortunately, he couldn’t get it and his contact wanted to make a point. So he pushed him off the balcony. We checked the video feed.”

“I don’t remember a camera in that stairwell.”

“There’s not. It’s outside, but covers the door. All that glass, though, it got a clear shot.”

“It wasn’t Jeff?”

“No. He’s a vandal, but he’s not an attempted murder. He was syphoning money out of dozens of accounts and we’ve put a stop to that.” He wiggled his fingers as if typing on a keyboard. “I have a few mad skills left.”

“How are Brad and Cherry?” Marka asked.

“They’ll be okay. They’re in the ICU for the night, but the doctor is confident they’ll pull through.”

“Excellent news.”

“Now it’s time for us to go,” Shay said. “We have an investigation to run and heads to lop off at the shoulder.” He rubbed his hands together. “What fun!” He gave each of them a hug. Marka, he gave a kiss on the cheek. “You take good care of our Frank. Oh, by the way, where did you leave the journals?No one can find them.”

“I dropped them off at the bank. They have a secure holding area for sensitive items and I asked if they would let me leave something for a couple days. They said sure. We can retrieve your evidence tomorrow.”

“Quick thinking, Marka. Thank you.”

Clark shook Frank’s hand and hugged Marka.

“Thank you, Marka. You’ve been a great help.”

“Thank you too, Clark. You’re a pretty nice guy—for a spook.”

“We’re really going to have to upgrade your vocabulary one of these days.” He kissed her cheek. “You kicked some serious ass, lady. Remind me never to make you that mad.”

“I don’t think you possibly could.”

The men bid farewell and left. Frank patted the bed.

“Where were we?”

A nurse popped in, smiling. “Time to check your vitals, Mr. Atherton.”

“Are you all ever gonna leave us in peace so I can give my woman a kiss?”

The nurse grinned. “No. This is a hospital. You want privacy, go to a motel.” She giggled when Frank grumbled. “You’re gonna have fun when you get him home,” she said to Marka. “He’s gonna be a great patient.”

“No, he’ll be horrible, but he makes up for it by being adorable and very good in bed.”

“You have to tell the nurse that?” Frank flopped back on his pillows.

“Why not? The Alzheimer’s group already knows and the girls at the facility figured it out.”

“I don’t really want the entire world to know, okay?”

“Why not? I thought you’d be pleased.” Marka fixed him with her dark eyes, arms crossed over her chest.

“Don’t want a bunch of pushy, jealous women up in my bidniss,” Frank teased.

“You’d love it.”

“Probably.”

Once the nurse left, Marka dimmed the lights and cuddled up next to him until he fell asleep. She made up her bed and lay down, trying to get comfortable on the hard mattress. Eventually she slept, marginally aware of the people who came and went during the night, checking on Frank.

In the morning, Paula and Tom showed up with breakfast. Rochelle dropped by later with Marka’s keys and James brought a basket of goodies from the police department. The doctor dropped by around noon and started the check out process. James and Tom showed up in order to give them a ride home.

© Dellani Oakes

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Bad Fall – Part 98

Bad FallKnowing they have nowhere to live, James is trying to figure out where Frank and Marka can actually go home to when Frank is released from the hospital.

“I think that’s up to Frank and Marka,” Tom said.

“I hadn’t thought that far. I hate to take him back to the tiny apartment,” Marka said.

“Kenny told me that one of the villas is empty right now. The new residents won’t be moving in for a month. If you don’t mind camping with secondhand furniture, he and the maintenance crew can get stuff and furnish it for you and move your stuff,” James told them.

“James, that would be wonderful. Tell Kenny thank you.” Marka kissed his cheek.

“You got it. What are best friends for?”

Marka took him in her arms, holding him close. “You’re the best friend ever. You helped save his life today. Thank you.” She kissed both his cheeks and planted a lingering one on his forehead. “Thank you.” She burst into tears, her hand over her mouth.

Paula enfolded her in her arms and the two women cried while the men looked on.

“I’ll never understand why they’re crying now,” Tom said quietly. “The worst part is over.”

James grinned, shaking his head. “I dunno, man. But does it matter?”

“No.” Tom laughed.

The two men went outside for James to make his phone call and Tom to get a smoke. When they came back in, the women were dry eyed and smiling. Rochelle had helped to calm them down. She offered to drive Marka to the facility to get her things for the night.

“Oh, my car!” Marka suddenly remember that it was still in Canton at the courthouse.

“Give me your keys, sugar. I’ll have a friend of mine help me get it back here.”

“Thank you so much, Rochelle! You’re a wonderful friend too. I don’t know how to thank you.”

“You invite me to the wedding.” She smirked.

“Better yet, you’ll be the maid of honor. We haven’t set a date yet. We aren’t even officially engaged.”

“You will be. You give that man a chance to heal up. You’ll be engaged all over the place.”

When Marka got back to the hospital, Frank was in his room. He was asleep when she came in, but woke while she was getting ready for bed. He held out his hand to her.

“Hey, babe. I’m glad you’re back.”

“Miss me?”

“Like you wouldn’t believe. You know what’s amazing? I don’t feel her in my head anymore. All this time, she’s been there—all these years. I remembered what really happened that day. I made all the plans, I oversaw it all, but Liz wanted to be involved. I told her I had it under control, but she insisted that Shay wanted her to.”

“You know he didn’t.”

“I know that now. At the time, I assumed she was telling the truth.”

“So, she’s the one who set up Clay and the others.”

“Yes. I still don’t know who she’s working with. I never knew that. But I remember that now. I also know where they took me for three days and what they did.” He shuddered, going pale. “I hope one day I can forget that. No one should have done to them what they did to me. Not even the Devil himself deserves that. It’s amazing I came back with any mind at all.”

“You don’t have to talk about this right now, Frank.”

“No, but I will one day. I’ll tell you everything. I just wanted you to know that I remember.”

“I’m glad.” She cuddled up next to him.

“I remember something else,” he said, his voice deepening.

“Yeah, what’s that?”

“I remember what it’s like to make love to you. To hold you and kiss you and make you scream.” His lips brushed hers.

The door burst open and Colonel Shay marched in with Clark behind him. “Frank, glad to see you’re on the mend.”

“Who let you in?”

“I let myself in. You gonna throw me out?”

Frank laughed as Shay shadowboxed. Marka hadn’t noticed before, but most of the Colonel’s bulk was solid muscle. He wasn’t in uniform. He and Clark wore civilian clothing and looked oddly uncomfortable. Clark handed Marka a bouquet of flowers and he handed Frank a small package. When he opened it, Frank found a PlayStation Portable and a variety of games. Frank laughed, holding up the PSP like a badge of honor.

“You remembered! I remembered!”

“That’s what friends are for, Frank. We used to share one when we were working together,” Clark explained. “Frank held the record for lamest score possible in Grand Theft Auto.”

“Untrue, that was Phil. Mine was second lowest.” His eyes saddened. “Is he okay?”

“He will be, in time,” Shay replied, his voice soft. “He’s in the psych ward at the V.A. Hospital. I wanted to pick Marka’s brain in a few days, have you do a consult with the doctors there.”

“You know I’ll do anything to help him. He came through for me when I needed him most. Liz and her goons would have killed me otherwise.”

“He’s not gonna do time?” Frank sounded worried.

“No. We all know Liz did something to him, just like she did you.”

© Dellani Oakes

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