Tag Archive | Dellaini’s Quote of the Week

Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 54

“Deacon, I’m sure you realize how difficult this is for us. We had no idea….” Mrs. Du Champs said.

“It’s rather a shock,” her husband added faintly.

“A surprise for me too, to realize I had an exact double. He sounds like he was a pretty terrific man. I’m sorry I’ll never get to know him.”

“It’s curious to me that you were both so interested in the theatrical life. Did you know that Peter’s birth mother, that is to say your mother, is an actress?” Mrs. Du Champs stumbled over her words a little.

“No, I had no idea. I don’t know anything about my real parents.”

“Peter met his…your mother. She is a very kind person. I believe she’d like to meet you,” Everett Du Champs interjected quietly. “She lives in Mobile, now.”

Nancy clutched his hands, tears falling. “If we had only known there were two of you, we would gladly have taken you both! The adoption agency gave us to understand there was only one child. I shudder to think what kind of life you must have led, in foster care all your life.”

“It wasn’t too bad, really, Mrs. Du Champs.”

Tears welled up in her eyes. “Please call me Nancy, and my husband goes by Ev.”

Deacon nodded, a nervous smile tugging his lips. “I answer to pretty much anything, including hey you,” he said, trying to lighten the mood.

“Kacy told us of your bravery and rescuing her. What a dreadful ordeal for you both,” Nancy said.

“It could have been much worse. If that wall had been sheet rock instead of plasterboard, I hesitate to think what would have happened.”

They chatted politely, not lingering on any subject for long. Deacon didn’t get the impression that the Du Champs were quite used to him yet. From time to time he would do or say something, causing Nancy to wipe her eyes and sniffle. She kept commenting to Ev, as if Deacon were not in the room, “Oh, Peter used to say things just like that. How alike they are!”

Kacy could see the visit was tiring him, as well as making him uncomfortable. When the nurse came in to give him his medication, she made the excuse for the three of them to leave.

Kacy leaned over, kissing Deacon gently and chastely on the lips and he whispered to her.

“Come back later, alone, if you can, okay?”

“I’ll try. Rest well.” She slipped an envelope out of her purse and put it into his hands, kissed him again and left.

The nurse cleaned the port and gave him his medicine. He relaxed into a semi-drugged stupor. The card in his lap caught his attention, so he opened it. Kacy had made him a silly get well card, painted and hand lettered. It was of a very personal nature, no wonder she hadn’t wanted the parents to see it. He tucked it into the art supply basket by his bed, settled back and rested until lunch time when Karmina sneaked in with more home cooking.

“You know,” he said, his eyes growing heavy with medication and good food, “I could get to like it here.”

Laughing, she cleared away his uneaten food and giggled all the way to the next room.

The next day was a blur of visits from well wishers, bad meals and care packages from Karmina. The highlight of his day was the visit with Kacy, alone. Pete’s parents had decided to shop for a condo, while in the area, and she used the excuse to go to the hospital by herself.

“They are such nice people,” she told Deacon, “but I feel like such a hypocrite. I took their son from them, and they love me anyway. Now I’ve found a replacement son, of sorts, and because of me you’re in hospital. If I just hadn’t wanted to paint that bloody office!”

“It looks good though,” Deacon said, fending off a bout of hysteria he heard in her voice.

“Yes, it does look good. Some of the girls helped me paint your office as well and we did the whole thing with stencils. No worries,” she caught his expression of disbelief. “It’s not girly in your office, I promise.”

All too soon she had to go, Kissing him with abandon, her eyes were full of tears. Deacon worried she was going to break down completely, but she held it together. As Kacy was leaving, she bumped into Dr. Connors as he walked through the door.

Deacon introduced them. “Yes, I met your lovely wife already, before surgery. She and your brother were very concerned about you that night. Good to see you again, Mrs. Stewart.”

“So what’s the good word, Doc?” Deacon asked.

Deacon was itching to be out of the bed, he hated being flat on his back. The doctor took his time answering, looking at Deacon’s chart and examining his leg. It was wrapped in layers of ace bandages, the pins sticking out at odd angles. It was braced by a stiff, padded splint.

“You will both be happy to know that I am signing you out today. I caution you, however, not to be too active for the next week.” He raised an eyebrow, looking at them both. “I know how newlyweds are, I remember it well. But Deacon and I have discussed this to great length.” He winked, chuckling at Deacon.

Kacy blushed, looking away from the two men.

“I am sorry, I’ve said too much. I am a man whose mouth outruns his common sense. I apologize, but it was of some interest to your husband, and something of which you both needed to be cautioned. That being said, I’ll see to the paperwork. Any other questions?”

Neither of them had anything else to ask, so he left, with a last wink at them both.

©2021 Dellani Oakes

To Buy Dellani’s Books

For More About Dellani

Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 53

They hung up simultaneously. Deacon settled back, trying to think. His breakfast tray had come in while he was on the phone, but he hardly noticed.

Karmina came in to collect the untouched tray and stopped just inside the door. “You okay, skinny boy?”

Deacon forced a smile. “Yes, ma’am, I’m okay. Thank you for the care package, it was fantastic.”

“You have become my own personal project. I’m gonna get meat on you before you leave this place if it kills us both!” Chuckling, she went to take the tray. Wrinkling her nose, she sniffed the tray, then sniffed carefully near Deacon. “You are one smelly fella, and that’s for sure! We need to get you a bath! You sit tight, I’ll take care of this.”

“I don’t get one of those nasty sponge bath things, do I?”

“I’ll have the nurse check doctor’s orders, but I think you’ll be able to take a shower. The bathrooms on this floor are built to accommodate chairs and walkers. Since you aren’t in a cast, just stapled and pinned, I think you’ll be okay.”

“Thanks, Karmina, I appreciate it.”

“Don’t worry about thanking me! I am doing this for my own self-preservation! Besides, can’t be scaring off that pretty bride of yours, can you? She gets one whiff of you, she’ll divorce you!”

Deacon’s chuckle followed her out the door and down the hall. A few minutes later she was back with an orderly to get Deacon cleaned up.

“You want to shave?” The orderly, a muscular white man about Deacon’s own age offered to help him. Deacon scratched the stubble.

“Does it look bad?”

The orderly held up a mirror and Deacon saw himself for the first time in days. He was pale, his skin drawn tightly over his features with pain and worry. The growth of beard on his chin aged him about ten years. The face gazing back at him looked like a hollow eyed old man.

“God, I look like death on a hot plate!”

“That’s a new one. I like that.”

“Feel free to use it.”

The orderly chuckled. He had white, even teeth, and a build like Mr. Clean. He sported three earrings per ear and admired Deacon’s plugs.

Steve, the orderly, ended up shaving Deacon, whose hands wavered so much, he was afraid he was going to cut his own nose off. Afterwards, he felt much better and got back into the bed mostly under his own power.

Kacy came in a little before ten, looking haggard and wan. Her smile was warm and welcoming as she came over to the bed, bending over to kiss him deeply.

“You look fantastic, good morning,” Deacon said softly.

“I look dreadful. My mum always says, Well, you’re no oil painting, but you’ll do. I feel that way today.”

“Dino told me what happened. Are you all right?”

“Spooked as hell, but otherwise hale and hardy. I’ve Pete’s folks with me. They’re in the waiting room down the hall, and will understand if you don’t want to see them.”

“Did you tell them about me and Pete?”

She nodded.

“How about you and me?”

Another nod. “It all burbled out when we got home, and discovered the break in. I’m afraid I was rather hysterical. Nancy seemed pretty understanding. I’m not overly sure of Everett. He and Pete were so close.” She hung her head, seemingly ashamed of herself.

“I’m glad you told them. I couldn’t have pretended not to love you. I don’t think I could have kept my hands sedately to myself, either.” He tickled her, holding her closely so she couldn’t get away from him.

“Oh, Deacon, I am too! Let me go get them, they’re probably wondering what’s keeping me.” She hopped up, moving quickly toward the door.

A few minutes later, she came in with a couple who looked to be in their late fifties or early sixties. The woman was pale, and had once been a great beauty, which had faded only slightly over the years. Deacon thought that her son’s ordeal had probably weighed heavily on her, aging her prematurely. The man was robust and dark haired, handsome in a severe and intimidating way. He wore a mustache and Van Dyke beard. It was shot with gray and an attractive blaze of gray adorned each temple.

With a gasp, the woman stopped inside the door, apparently frozen to the spot, her hand to her throat, face going even more pale. Her eyes were dark brown, in sharp contrast to her pale blonde hair.

“Oh, my God, Everett, she wasn’t exaggerating!” She burst into tears, holding her husband in a clumsy embrace. “For a moment, I thought it was Peter.”

The man looked equally taken aback, but determined not to make a scene. He led his wife further into the room so that the door could shut. Kacy led them to the chairs next to the bed and perched on the side facing them, Deacon’s hand in hers. There was an uncomfortable pause finally broken by the woman.

“Please forgive us, young man,” she began.

Kacy interrupted, “Deacon, Mom.”

©2021 Dellani Oakes

To Buy Dellani’s Books

For More About Dellani

Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 52

“Me too, Kacy. I can’t stand not being with you, kissing you….”

He got interrupted by the nurse putting her head around the door. “Mrs. Stewart, I have to ask you to go, the supervisor got here a little early.”

“I’ll call you when I get home.” Her kiss held promises he wished he could collect on. “Night, love.”

“Night, baby.”

She left reluctantly, blowing him a kiss from the door, and was gone. Deacon fell asleep again and slept for several hours. He woke around two o’clock feeling vaguely disturbed about something, and it occurred to him that he hadn’t heard from Kacy. Groggy, he could hardly see the numbers on the phone. It was a dial rather than a key pad, which presented its own complications. After trying a few times, he gave up, setting the phone beside him on the bed, so if it rang, he’d be able to answer it right away. He dozed off again, the phone never rang.

Next morning, he woke with a start when his door opened surreptitiously. The black aid, Karmina, popped quickly in with a care package consisting of cranberry orange muffins and a small thermos of fresh coffee, extra sweet and just the right color.

“I’ll come pick that up, when I go off shift. You enjoy now.” She scooted out again as quickly as she had come in.

After eating, Deacon tried calling Kacy again, while he was still conscious. The drugs had worn off almost completely. He was starting to hurt, but he knew if he waited to call he’d have trouble. The phone rang about twenty times with no answer. He tried her cell phone and left a voice mail, then decided to try Dino’s. Dino answered on the third ring, sounding chipper and wide awake. Did the man ever sleep?

“Hi, Dino, it’s Deacon.”

“Hello! Good morning!”

He sounded a tad too bright and cheerful, Deacon suspected some of it was feigned, but didn’t know why.

“I can’t reach Kacy. I’m really worried. She was supposed to call when she got home.”

“Well, there’s a reason for that, Deacon.”

“Is she okay? What’s happened?” He could tell by the edge in Dino’s voice that he was concerned.

“When she got back last night, Pete’s folks and I were just pulling up. We went to the guest house, it had been broken into! Stuff was kind of tossed around, a few things broken. It spooked her pretty badly, so I insisted she and Mr. and Mrs. Du Champs stay here last night. I guess in the excitement, she just forgot. Maybe she didn’t want to alarm you.”

“Is she there, can I talk to her?”

Dino sighed heavily. “She’s here, but she’s sleeping. I called Doc Cooper. He came over and gave her a sedative to help her rest. She was pretty hysterical. She didn’t feel safe in the second guest room by herself, so Nancy stayed in with her, and Ev stayed in the other by himself. It was pretty alarming for all of us.”

“You’re sure nothing was taken?”

Dino paused. “Now you mention it, Kacy said she thought the original plans for the set and the blueprints were missing. It was a little freaky and didn’t seem too important, so we didn’t really think too much about it. I’ve still got the new plans and another set of the blueprints. We called the police. Detective Reyes came over personally. Something very weird is going on, Deacon. This is starting to get dangerous. Maybe we should just postpone opening until this is cleared up.”

“Dino, if we do that, we may never find out who is doing this. If we keep going like normal, stay on schedule as much as we can, maybe we force him to make a move he’s not planned out.”

“I won’t use any of our people as bait, Deacon.”

“I’m not saying that. If anything else happens, then we close down and wait it out.”

“The next thing to happen could be someone getting seriously hurt. I’m not willing to risk that.”

“No one has been yet. So far it’s been pretty low key. We’ve not even gotten any threatening calls or anything.”

Dino paused, it lengthened to a disturbing amount.

“Have we?”

“Not exactly, no. But I’ve gotten a lot of calls where the phone rings, I answer and then they hang up. Sometimes two or three a day.”

“Did you tell Reyes?”

“Yes, he’s put a tap on my phone.”

“This just gets weirder all the time. Listen, Dino, don’t keep those plans at the house. Put them in the safe at your office.”

“Why, Deacon?”

“Just a dumb hunch.”

“I’ll do that today. Reyes might be dropping by. Kacy is going to be there around ten, with Pete’s folks.”

“Thanks for taking care of her, Dino. I feel totally helpless here.”

“No problem, buddy. You get better. I’ll see you later.”

©2021 Dellani Oakes

To Buy Dellani’s Books

For More About Dellani

Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 51

All but the Coopers left, chattering happily. Dr. Cooper examined Dr. Connors’ handiwork.

“Admirable job! You shouldn’t have a bad scar, once this heals. I venture to say very little. He missed his calling as a plastic surgeon.” He grinned. They bid farewell to Deacon and Kacy, leaving more quietly than the others.

Just before the end of visiting hours, the construction crew came in. Their manner was subdued, as if they were visiting a death bed. Mac and Dexter led the crew, carrying a large basket of drawing paper, pencils, paints and other art supplies artistically arranged to resemble a turkey.

“Miss Kacy told us you were bored, when we called. We raided the local art supply store right as they were about to close. I don’t think they were too happy, till they saw how much we spent,” Dexter told him cheerfully.

“Deacon, the boys and me took care of the doors and loosened up the windows and took those bars off. No reason for them, I think they were mostly just decorative. We had Dexter and his team wire in an alarm system that Mr. Sawyer bought. I feel bad about this whole thing, like I’m responsible.”

Mac looked so forlorn, Deacon held out his hand to the him.

“Mac did you have any idea anything like this would happen?”

“No, Deacon, how could I?”

“Exactly, no one could. So why are you taking blame for something that’s not your fault?”

“Well, when you put it that way, I guess it’s kind of silly isn’t it?” He chuckled. “When are you coming back to work?”

“I’m not really sure, depends on when the doctor cuts me loose. He told me I have to behave myself for a week, then by damn I’m back there. I’m bored out of my mind!”

“I brought you something else, Deacon.” Dexter shouldered his way through the crowd. “I borrowed this from my kid. He’s outgrown his Game Boy, and he said you could use it till you feel better. I know it’s old, but it still works great. I think he’s got about fifty games, so there ought to be something you like in there.” He set a black gym bag down on Deacon’s lap.

Speechless for a moment, unused to such an outpouring of friendship, Deacon stared at the bag and basket. “I don’t know what to say. Thank you all. It feels like Christmas, only I never had a Christmas this good in my life!”

Never one to show his emotions, Deacon honestly wanted to cry. He was overwhelmed by the show of caring and support given him by these people who hardly knew him.

“Thank you, thank you so very much.”

Kacy, noting his discomfort, scooted them all out the door. Their voices dropped to near silence when they got to the hallway, fading rapidly away.

Deacon still didn’t want to show his feelings in front of Kacy, but was simply too tired and sore to cover it any longer. Tears welled up and dribbled down as he hung his head, trying to conceal his face. She walked to the sink to refill his water pitcher. With a massive sniff, he got himself under control and was ready to face her when she turned around.

“I’m acting like a big baby, I’m sorry.”

Kacy sat on the edge of the bed, taking him gently in her arms.

“I never had a lot of friends when I was growing up. Now, I have so many, I can’t even count them all.”

“It’s not childish to have feelings, you know.”

“This is going to sound crazy and, given my history, strangely appropriate,” he was babbling a little with overwhelming emotions. “But I feel like I’m finally alive, like the last twenty-seven years were just practice. The best thing that ever happened to me was having that breakdown. I guess I really did get in touch with myself.”

An announcement came over the intercom that visiting hours were over. Kacy looked at him in alarm, their private time together gone in a flash. A nurse came in to give him another shot, assuring Kacy that spouses were allowed to stay longer.

“Just not too late, or the night supervisor will crawl my butt.”

“Only a little longer, I promise. I’ll be gone by ten thirty, so you don’t get in trouble.” She crawled up beside him again, her head on his shoulder. “It’s amazing how empty that big bed feels without you. I cleared out your things and put them in my old room, it’s a bit easier to get in and out of, I’ve moved down the hall and Mom and Dad will be in the master bedroom. I hope that’s all right.”

“However you want to do it, Kacy. It’s as much your home as mine.” He kissed her gently on the cheek. “I’m gonna go stir crazy in this place, I hate hospitals. I had my tonsils out when I was twelve, and had to stay in a couple days. I was driving the nurses crazy by the end of the first day.”

“I’ll be back tomorrow, and I’ll bring Pete’s parents by. Dino is going to pick them up and take them to dinner, but they will be at the house any minute. I suppose I ought really to be there to meet them.”

“They will understand your being here, won’t they?”

“I suppose so. Oh, Deacon, I just wish they hadn’t come at all. They are lovely people, but a bit odd, in some respects.”

“Do you think they’ll understand about us?”

“I don’t know. I don’t think I’ll tell them about that right away. It’s chicken hearted of me I know.”

“What happened to the old stiff upper lip, Ms. Du Champs?” he teased gently.

“It got thrown out with last night’s supper,” she grinned. “I’d best be going, I promised to be out of here by ten thirty and it’s twenty-five past. I love you and I’ll miss you, Deacon.”

©2021 Dellani Oakes

To Buy Dellani’s Books

For More About Dellani

Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 45

She remembered a time in college when she was painting in the box office. The large window was uncovered, opening onto the lobby. Her current boyfriend, who had just become box office manager, went out of the room. She thought she saw him in the corner of her eye, standing in the lobby looking up at her, hands on hips, as if deciding whether she was doing a good job or not.

Losing her temper with him, she fussed for him to quit standing around and help her, only to have him respond from behind her that he was painting the base boards, and had been for some time. She never lost that sensation of being watched the rest of the evening, and into the late hours of the night. Walking back to Ronnie’s car, she’d felt as if dozens of eyes watched her, and could almost hear another set of steps behind them. She’d stayed spooked about that for weeks. She had the same sensation now.

The lamp next to her blinked twice and went out. Trapped in the dark, she stifled a scream. No one could hear her outside and it would only alarm Deacon if he did hear it. She was sure he was looking for a way out, maybe he’d called someone on his phone. She could only pray.

“Why didn’t we tell someone where we were going?” she whispered. “Because we’re bloody fools, that’s why. Bollocks.”

Disturbed by the silence and the dark, she started singing to drive the demons away. Singing one hymn after another, she felt a tiny bit better, but wasn’t comfortable until she wrapped Deacon’s sweater around her head and shoulders and sat on the floor with her back against a blank wall, the door and windows in plain sight.

Deacon sat down in disgust, sighing heavily. He reached for a cigarette, then decided against it. He didn’t dare light anything in this old, wooden building. He hadn’t let the crew smoke in here, he wasn’t about to break his own rule. Leaning back against the wall facing the door, he tilted his head back, hands propped on knees, and tried to relax and think.

How long had he been in here? What about Kacy? She must not have been able to call anyone. He was sure that if she were able to, she’d have been at the door, letting him out. All sorts of visions of her being murdered, or raped, or both, flashed in his mind like a macabre strobe light.

Surely he’d have heard if something was seriously wrong. But he knew that was stupid. A bomb could go off outside, they’d hardly have heard it. He could barely hear cars go by on the busy street a few yards away.

Resting his head against the wall, he gazed upward and stopped mid sigh. Of course! Banging his head on the wall, he looked around for something to climb on. The ceiling was a dropped acoustic tile, making the height somewhat lower than the one in the hallway. He figured it was probably because the air conditioner ducts were put in well after the building was erected. However, if air ducts could fit up there, so could he.

The idea of crawling around in the filth and dark wasn’t very appealing, but it beat being trapped all night in the bathroom, with Kacy across the hall afraid or hurt. He had to take care of her. He pushed the apprehension aside and found a broom. With it, he managed to knock a tile over the sink out of the ceiling, exposing a slit of utter blackness. Fingers of doubt tickled his spine, as he remembered how many nasty spiders liked dark attics, but after the tenting the exterminators had done, it was unlikely to be infested at the moment.

Popping the tile harder, he cracked it and was able to pull it free while standing precariously on the sink. It creaked ominously under his weight, but held. Grabbing the wooden beam and peaking through the hole, he hauled himself upward, gaining a purchase for his feet against the wall. His habit of wearing hiking boots paid off, the rubber cleats grabbed, and kept him from slipping on the wooden paneling. He levered himself through the hole, slithering slowly and cautiously onto the cross beams.

A glance out the hole to orient himself, he set off crawling on the beams, running perpendicular to the direction he wanted to go. Keeping himself at right angles to the beams, he should progress into the foyer and prayed he could get out on the other side. He wouldn’t let himself consider the possibility of being trapped in this dark and spooky space with no way out.

It was awkward crawling, holding a flashlight in one hand, so he set it an arm’s length ahead, crawled up to it, repeating the process until he got to the end. He saw a lot of old spider’s webs in the small space, but none of them were occupied. Judging by the number of crumpled forms he saw on the old insulation below, there were no current occupants. For that he was grateful.

Just as he feared, he saw the way blocked by a wall separating the bathroom from the lobby. Letting out a string of curse words, which would have set Mrs. Sanderson on her ear, he studied the wall carefully. From what he could tell, it wasn’t sheet rock, but plasterboard. His adept fingers felt the surface, searching for a seam. If he could find that, perhaps he could kick part of it free and climb out the hole, dropping to the lobby below. Dino wasn’t going to be very happy, but then he would rather not have his friends trapped overnight in the theater, either.

Luck was with him and he found a seam. There were studs here, but this hadn’ not been hammered into one, just stapled together. For once, Deacon was happy to find shoddy workmanship.

He leaned back on a beam, supporting himself carefully. Pulling his legs up in front of him, he grimaced. His sore leg had felt fine until now. Suddenly, it gave him a clear message that he was overdoing it. Ignoring the discomfort, he pulled his powerful legs back to his nose. Lying on his back as well as he could, he kicked both feet at the plasterboard wall. The noise of impact echoed sounding like a gun had gone off. He heard Kacy scream his name, but couldn’t stop to answer her. Again and again, he hit the wall with all his strength, until he had a hole he could fit through. It was going to be uncomfortable, but he would make it.

©2021 Dellani Oakes

To Buy Dellani’s Books

For More About Dellani

When Tis Done – Part 42

When Tis Done coverJordan invited the new students to go for ice cream, but it went badly. Jian is decidedly interested in Jordan, and Brian wasn’t happy about that. When Jian grabs his sister’s hand in a painful grip, Jordan steps in, doing the same thing to him. Later, she and Brian are talking about the incident.

“Because she’s scared of something. And because he’s a jerk. I’m not sure he’s the one she’s afraid of—entirely. There’s a shadow around her. Didn’t you see it?”

Brian shook his head. “I was too busy being battered by Jian’s bad vibes. We had a moment when he told me about his father’s pottery business, then he focused on you and asked if you had a sister who liked Asians.”

“Is that what you got so angry about?”

“You didn’t see the look on his face. Like he wanted to eat you, in a totally non-cannibalistic way.”

“Oh, my God. Ew! Seriously!”

“He practically licked his lips. I wanted to clock him. But he’s been an ass since I met him. Second I walked in the room, he took offense and nothing I said made any difference. He’s all about challenging.”

“You’re a very confident man, Brian,” Jackie said from the doorway. “You have an aura about you of strength and power. If he’s at all sensitive, he’d feel that. To some men, that’s a challenge of itself. It wouldn’t matter what you did or said, it would be seen as a threat.”

“Well, I’m sure he’s just wild about me,” Jordan said. “Since I nearly broke his hand.”

Brian pressed his lips tightly together, meeting Jackie’s knowing glance. “Actually.” He cleared his throat sharply. “I think it turned him on.”

“Oh, yuck! Guys are so weird! Would that excite you?”

Ears burning, he turned his head aside. Jackie smirked.

“Honey, how do you suppose he knew?”

“Oh, my god, Brian. Seriously?” She punched him in the chest.

“Strong women are my weakness,” he admitted. “I always had the hots for Wonder Woman.”

“You’re freaking weird. I want you to know that.” She smacked him again.

He shrugged, smiling. “I’m a guy. Sue me.”

“Honey, stop hitting the boy.”

Jordan paused, her hand halfway to Brian. Blushing furiously, she hopped up and ran to the small bathroom under the stairs. Strange sounds came from inside. Brian couldn’t tell for sure, but he thought she was giggling.

“Yeah, laugh at my pain,” he mumbled, adjusting his jeans.

“This is awkward for her, too,” Jackie said quietly. “In many ways, she’s still a little girl. She isn’t used to a man’s interest.”

Brian nodded, swallowing hard. “Excuse me.” He walked out to the front porch and sat on the swing.

Jackie let him go, watching to be sure he was safe. She knew he could defend himself, but she still worried. Part of that was normal motherly concern, the rest was very real fear for his safety. Something in the atmosphere had become super charged in the last few hours. From what she could tell, it coincided with Brian meeting Jian and Lien. She hoped she was wrong, that it was some coincidence, but she’d given up believing in those decades ago.

Dinner was delicious, but conversation was somewhat subdued. Brian, as always, helped clean up afterward, thanking Jackie politely for the meal. Heath still wasn’t home, but they’d been told he was working with Neil.

“Your folks should be back soon. Do you want to take Elise home?”

“I don’t have a carseat at the moment. She did a nuclear poop in it and I had to wash it out. Forgot to put it back in.”

“Okay. Do you want to stick around until they get here?”

“Yeah. I don’t feel like going home to an empty house tonight.”

“I could use more math help,” Jordan hinted.

“Babe, you need more than just math help, but I’m not here to criticize.”

Jordan raised her fist to punch him, but rethought that action. Instead, she scurried ahead and got out the paper and math book.

Her father had converted the formal dining room to a study space and office, with Brian’s help. It was a blend of antique furniture and high tech equipment that was very comforting and welcoming. With the exception of the crystal room, this was Brian’s favorite spot in the Barrett house. The walls were a creamy yellow above and dark wood wainscoting below. The floor was red oak, covered with a Persian style carpet that picked up the warm browns and yellows of the room, adding brilliant red, blue and green to the mix. The walls were covered with family portraits going back to when Jordan was a little girl. Her brothers were in their teens and she was in elementary school. Brian loved to see all their faces smiling at him.

“Scott and Ryan are coming for Thanksgiving,” Jordan said, standing at his elbow. “Ben can’t make it this year. He’s going to be in Japan on unavoidable business, but his wife and their kids are coming.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

To Buy Dellani’s Books

When Tis Done – Part 41

When Tis Done coverJordan meets the Fēngs and invites them to go get ice cream. She takes Lien around, leaving Jian and Brian together. The two boys aren’t happy with one another’s company, but find that they have a little bit in common after all.

“I’d like to see his shop sometime,” Brian said, glad to have something to talk to the other boy about that wasn’t full of resentment.

“He is very secretive, but perhaps he can be persuaded.”

“I don’t want to invade his privacy. I’m simply interested. If I weren’t learning woodworking, I’d learn that. Just there weren’t any potters around until now.”

Jian flashed a quick smile. “I will speak to him.” He watched his sister with Jordan. “She is a very kind person,” he said, lifting his chin at Jordan. “Have you been dating long?”

“We’ve known one another two years, dating for just over one.” His smile softened as he watched her talking to Lien and some others. “There’s no one quite like Jordan.”

“You are in love with her?”

Brian blushed, ducking his head. “I guess it’s obvious, huh? Head over heels.”

“I don’t suppose she has a sister who likes Asians?” He smirked, his dark eyes watching Jordan with a hunger that Brian didn’t like.

“Only brothers,” he said sharply. “All older and very protective. I couldn’t tell ya how they feel about Asians. I never asked.”

“You don’t like me much,” Jian challenged.

“You haven’t exactly made yourself likable,” Brian countered. “I’m trying to be civil, but you aren’t even trying to be polite. So I’ll ask again, you have a problem with me, Fēng?” His voice was louder than he’d intended.

Jordan and Lien turned suddenly, drawn by the sound. Brian leaned back in his chair, arms folded across his broad chest, legs splayed, ready to leap to his feet. Jian was in a much more relaxed position, watching carefully, his dark eyes taking in details. A sly smile played at his lips and Brian knew he’d been tested and probably found wanting. Suddenly, Lien was at her brother’s side.

“Be nice!” She smacked his arm.

His grin turned into a grimace. Snatching her hand, he twisted, making her cry out. Jordan stepped up, taking his other hand in a similar hold, twisting sharply. Jian flinched, but didn’t make a sound. He released his sister.

“That shit might be okay where you come from,” Jordan said, increasing the pressure on his hand. “But here, that’s considered abuse and assault.”

“And what you are doing, is not?” his voice was tight with pain.

“I’m defending someone else. The police would see it as a public service.” She leaned closer. “They take domestic abuse very seriously here in Mississippi.”

Jian looked like he wanted to spit in her face. Instead, he jerked his hand away from her, standing quickly. “Come, Lien. Time to go home.”

Lien followed reluctantly, dragged from the building by her brother. Everyone watched them go and burst into chatter as soon as the door closed.

Who is that guy? What’s his problem? Were he and Brian going to fight? Did he really do that to his sister? Damn, Jordan rocks!

After much congratulations, Jordan and Brian went back to her house to study and have dinner. He was surprised to find his sister there with Jackie.

“Your folks had some things to do in Jackson today. Didn’t they tell you?”

“No. But I got up way before they did. Hey, Munchkin!” He lifted his sister, swinging her around.

Elise giggled, tipping out of his arms to see Jordan, then lunged once more at her brother. She used him like a jungle gym while he lay on the floor talking to Jackie and Jordan. They told her about the new students.

“What was with Jian?” Jordan asked. “He was being so weird!”

“He’s a conceited ass. He’s got the hots for you, by the way. If he comes near you….”

“I’ll put the creep in a headlock,” Jordan finished. “You don’t have to defend my honor.”

“Well, I want to. May I?”

“If it makes you happy,” she said, giving him a kiss. “But you don’t have to.”

“That’s the only problem with having a girlfriend who’s a bad ass,” he remarked to Jackie. “Can’t protect her.”

“You can still do it,” Jackie said. “A girl likes to know the man she loves will take care of her. And she can take care of you, too.”

“She’s good at that,” Brian said, his expression dreamy as he looked at Jordan.

Jackie picked up Elise, whisking her away to the kitchen. Jordan crawled over to where Brian lay. He propped himself on his elbows as she kissed him. Nothing but their lips touching, it was one of the best kisses, to date, that Brian had ever experienced. He felt his love for her flow from him and felt hers in return. Jordan rested her forehead on his, licking her lips with a smile.

“Why did you invite them along?” Brian murmured. “I mean, Lien, she’s nice enough. But Jian is a jerk.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

To Buy Dellani’s Books

When Tis Done – Part 40

When Tis Done coverAfter school, Brian meets Jian and Lien Fēng at the debate club. Lien seems to like him, but Jian doesn’t. After the meeting is over, he confronts Jian to find out why the other boy is angry with him.

Jian’s lips twitched and a shy smile flickered. “My sister has a way of making friends instantly. She’s never met a stranger. Walk in a group like this, she’s everyone’s best friend when she leaves. She instinctively attaches herself to the alpha male.”

“And you think that’s me.”

Jian shrugged, shaking his head. “Aren’t you? You walk in like you own the room. Everyone listens when you speak.”

Brian was surprised. He’d never considered that before. He knew he’d changed from the shy freshman he was three years ago, but had no idea it was so much.

“Wasn’t my intention to offend,” he apologized, bowing slightly. “We’re all equal around here.”

“But some garner more respect than others.” Jian challenged, moving into Brian’s personal space.

Exasperated, Brian moved back half a step, stopping before he retreated too far. He wasn’t scared of this young man, and he didn’t want to give that impression. He was more afraid he’d lose his temper and hurt him.

“You think whatever you want, Fēng. You’re going to take offense to anything I say. Fine. I’m trying to be polite and welcome you to the team.”

“You are so sure of yourself, so cocky.”

“If my confidence offends you, you’re welcome to leave. I’m not keeping you here.” Brian spread his arms, taking a step forward, sending an unspoken challenge to the other boy.

Fēng Jian straightened, his dark eyes flashing dangerously. He took a step toward Brian, who held his ground.

“Brian, who’s your new friend?” Jordan said from behind him. “Hi, I’m Jordan Barrett, Brian’s better half. And you are?” She held out her hand to Jian, smiling and bubbly. It was an act, but a very good one. No doubt, Jian had no idea.

“Fēng Jian,” he replied, bowing over her hand. “A pleasure to meet you, Jordan Barrett.”

Lien walked over, smiling, angling for an introduction. Her brother did the honors. Brian was too annoyed to do the polite thing.

“Do you two know your way around?” Jordan asked. “Maybe you’d like to go out for ice cream?”

“Today?” Brian asked, hardly able to contain his irritation.

“Sure, why not?” Jordan asked. “Do you have a car? Do you need a ride?” she asked Jian.

“I have a car. I drive,” Jian replied with pride. “Lien hasn’t been taught.”

“Don’t feel bad,” Jordan said, taking Lien’s arm, propelling her toward the door. “I don’t get to drive either. Brian always drives.” She wrinkled her nose.

“But you know how?”

“Yes, Dad taught me. Mom is far too emotional to do something like that. She took me out once and I thought we were both going to die of a fit of vapors.” Giggling, she tipped her head at Brian. “You should see about signing up for driver’s ed.”

“I don’t have a permit and Papa won’t allow it.”

“Oh, well. Nice idea. You guys coming or not?” Jordan cast over her shoulder at Brian. “I hear a hot fudge sundae calling my name.”

The Fēngs’ car wasn’t far from Brian’s, so Jordan walked the entire way with Lien, leaving Brian with Jian. The two boys didn’t talk much, each quietly taking the measure of the other. Brian still couldn’t get a firm read off Jian, but he was pretty sure the other guy was used to being the alpha male, as he’d labeled Brian. That being the case, he was probably going to fight for the position all year. It wasn’t so much that Brian wanted the spot, he was annoyed that someone wanted to challenge him for something he cared so little about. It got his back up.

Jian followed them to the ice cream parlor where Jordan introduced Lien to everyone. Jian stood by, looking sullen and frustrated. Brian didn’t feel compelled to take him around. If Jordan wanted to, that was her prerogative. He ate his hot fudge sundae in silence, watching Jordan with Lien. He had no idea why she was so taken with the girl. She seemed nice enough….

“Do you work?” Jian asked rather abruptly.

“I work with a carpenter part time on weekends and pretty much full time during the summer. He wants me to apprentice with him when I graduate.”

“You will not go to college?”

“Yes, I will. But every man needs a trade, something to help support his family if things go to shit. People always need builders.”

Jian nodded. “That makes sense. My father is a craftsman. He makes pottery. Some is art, but he has contracts with many restaurants all over the world. He has been teaching me.”

“That’s a pretty cool trade,” Brian admitted. “Something about shaping earth that’s very satisfying.”

Jian’s expression changed to one of surprise. “Yes. He fires his pots in a pit or an outdoor oven, the old way. They have more character that way.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

To Buy Dellani’s Books

When Tis Done – Part 39

When Tis Done coverWhen Brian and Jordan get to school, they are greeted by Marissa, who is furious with Brian. Jordan tells her to get over herself, and channel the energy into working through her problems with Chase.

Brian planted a soft kiss on her forehead. They tried to avoid too much intimacy at school, but he couldn’t keep from touching her. “Have I told you lately just how incredible you are, Jordan Barrett?”

“Nope. Slacker.” She grinned up at him, making a kiss face at him.

She opened her locker as he fiddled with his. There was a note in his locker, his name written in scraggly, black pencil. He didn’t touch it, examining it with his powers first. Determining that it wasn’t something tainted, he flipped it open with a pencil.

“I’m watching you,” it said. That was all.

“What’s that? Fan mail?” Jordan asked, ducking under his arm.

“No idea. See anything?”

He said see in such a way, she knew what he meant. Examining it with her own powers, Jordan sensed something, but couldn’t pinpoint what.

“I think this is just some garden variety weirdo. Doesn’t mean that it’s not something to watch.” Pulling her sleeve to cover her fingers, she plucked the note from the locker and put it in a clean Ziploc bag she had in her purse.

“You always come prepared with evidence bags?”

Jordan giggled. “No. Just happen to have one today.” She sealed the bag. “And isn’t it handy that I did? Put that in your backpack and we’ll have Mom look it over later.”

“Thanks.”

“No problem.” She popped it in the pocket of his backpack and they walked to class together.

The storm intensified around noon, making the lights flicker unpleasantly. Marissa wasn’t in any of their classes, as she should have been. They found out later she’d gone home before school started. Chase wasn’t around either. Brian hoped that meant they were together, working it out. He felt uneasy about it, but he had quizzes all day and didn’t have time to stop and worry.

The bell rang to end school. He and Jordan met up at their lockers. She had drama and he had speech and debate. She’d talked him into joining the speech team the year before. Finding he had a facility for it, he’d continued in their senior year. He walked her to the drama room and wandered to the debate coach’s room, two doors down. The coach, Mr. Wymore, was talking to a couple of dark haired students. Their features, especially the eyes, pegged them as Asian. A boy and a girl, they looked so close to identical, Brian figured they were twins.

The girl smiled when he walked in. She was very pretty, in a China doll sort of way. Her brother was handsome, but he wasn’t a smiler. Instead, he glowered, pulling a face when Mr. Wymore introduced them.

“Brian, meet Lien and Jian Fēng. They’re new to school this year and are thinking about joining debate.”

“You are good at debate?” Lien asked, tossing her waist length hair.

“I’m learning. Won’t say I’m the best, but I hold my own.”

“He’s being modest,” their teacher said. “He’s quite good and came in second at the state competition. We’re expecting first from him this year. No pressure, or anything.” He chuckled.

Mr. Wymore was in his early thirties. Also the tennis coach, he was tall and lean muscled with brown hair and blue eyes. He looked like he’d stepped out of the 1970s because he sported full sideburns, his hair brushed his shirt collar and he wore vintage bell bottom pants a lot. Today’s were an eye-assaulting dark mustard yellow and pond scum green. His shirt was dark red and he wore a hemp necklace with ceramic beads and shells on it. Since he was one of the smartest men Brian had ever met, he figured the guy was entitled to his eccentricities.

The rest of the team arrived and the twins were introduced all around. Lien seemed taken with Brian and stayed close to him the entire time. It made him somewhat uncomfortable, because she was very touch oriented. He knew that Jordan would sense it, but he didn’t know a good way to tell Lien to back off. Her brother was sullen and kept to himself, glaring frequently in Brian’s direction. Determined not to start the year off badly, Brian decided to talk to him after practice. Lien was talking to some of the girls, so Brian approached her brother.

“Did I do something to insult you, Fēng Jian?”

The Asian boy was surprised by the formal address. He tilted his head, meeting Brian’s gaze with his own. He was several inches shorter, but Brian sized him up as having more muscle to him than he seemed.

“Why would you ask such a thing?” Jian countered.

“Because you’ve been giving me the ugly eye since I walked in. I’m not in the habit of insulting folks, so I wondered if I’d done something by accident, or if you just didn’t take a shine to me, Jian.”

Jian’s lips twitched and a shy smile flickered. “My sister has a way of making friends instantly. She’s never met a stranger. Walk in a group like this, she’s everyone’s best friend when she leaves. She instinctively attaches herself to the alpha male.”

“And you think that’s me.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

To Buy Dellani’s Books

When Tis Done – Part 38

When Tis Done coverBrian has a conversation with his grandfather, who tells him that he did the right thing with Chase and Marissa. It makes him feel better about the decision. After they hang up, his grandfather decides that he and his wife need to go for a visit.

Jordan answered the door, smiling up at him. Going on tiptoe, she planted a kiss on his lips and pulled the door to her house shut. “Sleep okay?” she asked when they were both in the car.

“Better than I have in a long time. Had a late night chat with Granddad. Gave me some perspective.”

“Good.” She touched his cheek tenderly. “You look better. I worry about you.”

He kissed her palm, closing his eyes. “I worry about you, too.” He put the car in reverse and backed out of the driveway.

“I had a long talk with Marissa last night. I hope I said the right things—what she needed to hear. It wasn’t an easy conversation. Apparently, Chase dropped your bombshell. He tried to be kind, but there’s not an easy way to say any of that.”

“No, but maybe it will shake them up enough to make them try.”

The first drops of rain started falling. Jordan swiped the windshield clear, using her powers. Brian winked at her and started the wipers.

“Won’t it look weird if we’re the only car with a dry windshield?”

“We tell people you use that rain ban stuff. Besides, no one’s around. I’ll let it gather when we get near school.”

“Gross misuse of powers, Miss Barrett.”

“Like you don’t ever.”

He chuckled, nodding. “I had an hour long shower with constant hot water last night. Needed to think.”

“Water always calms you down.”

He silently agreed. His needs and habits weren’t what was most on his mind, however. “Tell me about Marissa.”

“She’s furious with you.”

He shrugged. “I’m a big boy, I can take it.”

“I tried to tell her that she needed to channel her energy into working things out with Chase. They both seem to think the only way to do that is to have sex, and she’s unbending on that point.”

“They need to communicate,” Brian said. “Honest to God, Jordan. I don’t want to throw her out, but I will.”

“Hurricane Marissa on the starboard bow,” she said as they pulled into the high school lot.

Marissa stood between her car and Brian’s, arms crossed, brow lowered in fury. Her blonde hair whipped around her in the wind, though the heavy rain hadn’t soaked her. Brian had cautioned his friends about that sort of thing, but he figured she was so angry, she hadn’t thought about it. Prepared for an attack, he got slowly out of the car, keeping the vehicle between him and the angry girl.

Jordan let herself out, closer to Marissa than she cared to be. At least none of the anger was directed at her. However, the wind picked up and the rain grew sharp, when Brian appeared. She stepped forward, catching the other girl’s arm.

“Not here,” she scolded. “What are you, five, having a temper tantrum? Do you want everyone to know?”

“I don’t care if anyone finds out. How could you, Brian? How could you say that? I was up half the night, just fussing at you!”

“You should have been up half the night trying to figure out how to make it work with Chase, not mad at me. I’m not in this equation. It’s you and him, but you’re too damn stubborn to figure that out. It’s someone elses fault, it always has been. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to get to inside. If you haven’t noticed, it’s pissing rain.”

Air slammed into Brian, knocking him back as Marissa faced him, an angry snarl twisting her lips. Jordan got between the two of them, pushing Marissa back with her hand, breaking the other girl’s concentration.

“Stop that! I won’t have you endanger the rest of us by having a snit. Go inside and dry off—the old fashioned way. And stop acting like a spoiled, self-centered brat! Think about what he said and why he said it, not about anything else. You’ve used up half a day being angry with the wrong person.”

“And who’s the right person? Hm?”

“Got a mirror?” Jordan crossed her arms, tilting her chin. Marissa was a few inches taller, but Jordan managed to make herself seem bigger and more intimidating.

Grabbing Brian’s arm, Jordan shoved past Marissa, who was now soaked. Jordan and Brian remained remarkably dry, only mildly damp when they got inside. Stamping and shaking off the moisture, they walked to their lockers.

“Thank you. I’ve never hit a girl, but I was about to.”

“I begin to see what you mean. Not that I disagreed…. Just, wow.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

To Buy Dellani’s Books