Tag Archive | Dellani Oakes

Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 4

Deacon went on in some detail watching Dino’s smile suddenly fade rapidly. Turning around, he saw a petite, auburn haired woman glaring up at him. She held three or four large bags, which she dropped almost on Deacon’s feet.

Dino’s smile was artificial, his tan turned a few shades lighter. “Deacon Stewart, I’d like to introduce you to our lighting designer,” he gulped. “Hillary Du Champs.”

Deacon held out his hand, taking his cap off his head. “Pleased to meet you, Ms. Du Champs.”

She glared at him and didn’t take his proffered hand. “Don’t mind me,” she said with a strong Australian accent, “I’m just a little, old French lady with a bad accent!”

Deacon sighed, realizing he had put his foot in deeply this time. As penance, he picked up three of the bags, Ms. Du Champs snatched the smallest off the floor before he could touch it.

“Who’s the flunky?” she directed impolitely at Dino.

She walked ahead of Deacon, beside Dino who shortened his stride to compensate for her lack of stature. She couldn’t be much over five feet tall, Deacon thought. He’d never gotten along well with little women. They tended to be bossy and arrogant, with something to prove.

Deacon was around six foot three and lanky of build. His dark blond hair was curly, unruly and a constant source of aggravation to him. His blue eyes were rimmed with dark eyelashes, giving him a sleepy look. In high school, he’d been mistakenly accused of being stoned more often than he could count.

In an act of defiance of his military foster father, he’d gotten plugs in his ears and an eyebrow pierced. Several tattoos decorated his arms and another on his right buttock, a challenge from a college roommate, one night when they were too drunk to give a shit. He was sure he presented a bedraggled figure to the compact, attractive and well groomed woman ahead of him. Not quite the picture of a well qualified professional man.

He noted, absently, that she had a great figure and a nice, tight ass, which distracted him so much, he nearly ran into the door jam as the automatic door slid open. He set the bags down as they waited for the elevator, and looked down at Hillary.

“I’m sorry about what I said. I didn’t realize you were there.”

“And that makes it all right to insult me, as I can’t hear you? You’re an uneducated buffoon, Mr. Whatever. I hope to have as little contact with you as possible. So just do your job, tote the bags and don’t talk to me!”

Deacon’s temper nearly got the better of him, but the elevator arrived, giving them a few moments of struggle as they pulled her bags on board. Dino hit the button for the parking garage.

Getting to the car, Dino opened the back, and Deacon loaded the bags into the luggage space. He tried to open the door for Ms. Du Champs, but she walked pointedly away from him. He slid in the front seat himself, shutting the door in her face.

“Now see here,” she reprimanded him. “Since when does the flunky sit in the front seat and the professional woman sit in the back seat with the cooler?”

Deacon rolled his eyes in her direction, giving her a scathing look before lowering the brim of his cap over his eyes, resuming his relaxed travel position. “Since the flunky is the technical director of the theater, and the professional woman is being a snooty bitch.” He said firmly, fastening his seat belt with an abrupt snap.

“Well, that’s some nerve!” She climbed into the back seat, slamming the door louder than was necessary. She muttered incoherently as she fastened her belt and situated herself.

Dino started the car and took off in his usual cavalier style. Ms. Du Champs was silent for some time, just trying to stay in an upright position while Dino drove down the ramps at forty miles an hour. He cut into the outgoing traffic and sped into the night, zipping in and out of traffic seemingly at random.

“Really, Dino, do you have to drive so carelessly?” she griped at him now, letting Deacon off the hook, for the time being.

“It’s better when you don’t look,” Deacon murmured, sliding lower into the seat.

Deacon turned up the CD player, now playing his favorite Kenny Wayne Shepherd song, Electric Lullaby. He liked the guitarist’s smooth, jazzy blues. It was relaxing, something he needed just then.

Ms. Du Champs complained about that, too, so he turned it up some more to drown her out. Dino looked as if he were trying to set a speed record to get home. After a while, Ms. Du Champs decided that bitching was only making him drive faster. She sat back, lips clamped tightly together and made the best of things. When they’d arrived, Deacon got out of the car and walked into the guest house without offering to get Ms. Du Champs’ bags from the back, leaving that dubious honor to Dino.

He walked to the refrigerator, grabbed a bottle of imported Lager, and sat down in front of the TV. Commotion at the door caused him to rise. Walking over, he opened it to see a red faced Dino on the doorstep, bags in hand.

“Move! I think I’m getting a hernia!” he wheezed, shoving by Deacon and dropping the bags on the floor.

“She’s not moving in here, is she?” Deacon was horrified.

Dino’s plaintive look told Deacon the frightening truth.

“Jesus, Dino, she’s a menace! What were you thinking?”

“I was thinking that it’s a big house, and the two of you could share, at least for now.” He looked pained. “I’m sorry, Deacon, I honestly had no idea….”

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 4

Deacon went on in some detail watching Dino’s smile suddenly fade rapidly. Turning around, he saw a petite, auburn haired woman glaring up at him. She held three or four large bags, which she dropped almost on Deacon’s feet.

Dino’s smile was artificial, his tan turned a few shades lighter. “Deacon Stewart, I’d like to introduce you to our lighting designer,” he gulped. “Hillary Du Champs.”

Deacon held out his hand, taking his cap off his head. “Pleased to meet you, Ms. Du Champs.”

She glared at him and didn’t take his proffered hand. “Don’t mind me,” she said with a strong Australian accent, “I’m just a little, old French lady with a bad accent!”

Deacon sighed, realizing he had put his foot in deeply this time. As penance, he picked up three of the bags, Ms. Du Champs snatched the smallest off the floor before he could touch it.

“Who’s the flunky?” she directed impolitely at Dino.

She walked ahead of Deacon, beside Dino who shortened his stride to compensate for her lack of stature. She couldn’t be much over five feet tall, Deacon thought. He’d never gotten along well with little women. They tended to be bossy and arrogant, with something to prove.

Deacon was around six foot three and lanky of build. His dark blond hair was curly, unruly and a constant source of aggravation to him. His blue eyes were rimmed with dark eyelashes, giving him a sleepy look. In high school, he’d been mistakenly accused of being stoned more often than he could count.

In an act of defiance of his military foster father, he’d gotten plugs in his ears and an eyebrow pierced. Several tattoos decorated his arms and another on his right buttock, a challenge from a college roommate, one night when they were too drunk to give a shit. He was sure he presented a bedraggled figure to the compact, attractive and well groomed woman ahead of him. Not quite the picture of a well qualified professional man.

He noted, absently, that she had a great figure and a nice, tight ass, which distracted him so much, he nearly ran into the door jam as the automatic door slid open. He set the bags down as they waited for the elevator, and looked down at Hillary.

“I’m sorry about what I said. I didn’t realize you were there.”

“And that makes it all right to insult me, as I can’t hear you? You’re an uneducated buffoon, Mr. Whatever. I hope to have as little contact with you as possible. So just do your job, tote the bags and don’t talk to me!”

Deacon’s temper nearly got the better of him, but the elevator arrived, giving them a few moments of struggle as they pulled her bags on board. Dino hit the button for the parking garage.

Getting to the car, Dino opened the back, and Deacon loaded the bags into the luggage space. He tried to open the door for Ms. Du Champs, but she walked pointedly away from him. He slid in the front seat himself, shutting the door in her face.

“Now see here,” she reprimanded him. “Since when does the flunky sit in the front seat and the professional woman sit in the back seat with the cooler?”

Deacon rolled his eyes in her direction, giving her a scathing look before lowering the brim of his cap over his eyes, resuming his relaxed travel position. “Since the flunky is the technical director of the theater, and the professional woman is being a snooty bitch.” He said firmly, fastening his seat belt with an abrupt snap.

“Well, that’s some nerve!” She climbed into the back seat, slamming the door louder than was necessary. She muttered incoherently as she fastened her belt and situated herself.

Dino started the car and took off in his usual cavalier style. Ms. Du Champs was silent for some time, just trying to stay in an upright position while Dino drove down the ramps at forty miles an hour. He cut into the outgoing traffic and sped into the night, zipping in and out of traffic seemingly at random.

“Really, Dino, do you have to drive so carelessly?” she griped at him now, letting Deacon off the hook, for the time being.

“It’s better when you don’t look,” Deacon murmured, sliding lower into the seat.

Deacon turned up the CD player, now playing his favorite Kenny Wayne Shepherd song, Electric Lullaby. He liked the guitarist’s smooth, jazzy blues. It was relaxing, something he needed just then.

Ms. Du Champs complained about that, too, so he turned it up some more to drown her out. Dino looked as if he were trying to set a speed record to get home. After a while, Ms. Du Champs decided that bitching was only making him drive faster. She sat back, lips clamped tightly together and made the best of things. When they’d arrived, Deacon got out of the car and walked into the guest house without offering to get Ms. Du Champs’ bags from the back, leaving that dubious honor to Dino.

He walked to the refrigerator, grabbed a bottle of imported Lager, and sat down in front of the TV. Commotion at the door caused him to rise. Walking over, he opened it to see a red faced Dino on the doorstep, bags in hand.

“Move! I think I’m getting a hernia!” he wheezed, shoving by Deacon and dropping the bags on the floor.

“She’s not moving in here, is she?” Deacon was horrified.

Dino’s plaintive look told Deacon the frightening truth.

“Jesus, Dino, she’s a menace! What were you thinking?”

“I was thinking that it’s a big house, and the two of you could share, at least for now.” He looked pained. “I’m sorry, Deacon, I honestly had no idea….”

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 3

Deacon popped the can open and set it in the cup holder between the seats. Before opening his own, he held it against his forehead, letting the condensed water on the outside pool on his forehead and run down his nose.

“You okay, Deac?”

“Yeah, just looking over everything that has to be done. It’s a hell of a job, Dino. I’m not sure we’ll make opening. Are you sure you want to try for that?”

“Well, it’s keeping in the whole rebuilding the theater thing, Deacon. That was the original show date six years ago. I’d like to keep to that. We can get more men, got to be plenty of out of work construction people around.”

“We need some experienced set painters, lighting and sound techs. Construction guys can’t do that. They’ll do fine with the actual construction, but not the decoration.”

“I’ve got a deal with the local college. They’ll be sending over their junior and senior students, who need some practical experience. They are working for a minimal stipend, and the glitz on their resumes.” He flashed a five star smile.

Dino would spend money like water, but if he could get something cheap, he took it. Deacon laughed. The alternative wasn’t pretty. He didn’t want an argument with his new boss.

“Okay, so you have me a tech crew of green kids, a set crew of construction workers and a professional lighting designer. Is this another case of sympathy, or did you really snag some talent this time?”

Dino chuckled, checking his mirrors before merging onto I-95 South. “Just wait, you’ll be surprised.”

“Is it someone I know?”

“I doubt it. Been in the field quite a while, done some work with Theater Works and the like. Just looking for a change of scene I guess. Florida does have some small appeal, after all.”

Dino was being cagey and wanted to surprise Deacon, causing a shiver of apprehension to run down his spine. Anytime anyone had ever said to him, you’ll be surprised, he usually was, and unpleasantly.

Tipping his Metallica hat over his eyes, Deacon leaned back, folding his hands on his broad chest to rest for the remainder of the trip. He didn’t really like the way Dino drove, and the less he saw of the actual trip to the Orlando airport at rush hour, the better he felt. Dino didn’t seem to mind, just turned up his music and sang along.

He had decent taste in music, anyway and not a bad voice. Soon, Deacon was falling asleep with the eerie lyrics of Bodies Like Sheep by A Perfect Circle, fluttering around in his mind. Go back to sleep, go back to sleep….

He dozed without dreaming, waking when he felt the car come to a lurching stop outside a restaurant. It was one of the many Dino owned, a casual place which wouldn’t mind the fact that Deacon wasn’t dressed for a night on the town. He got the impression his new boss didn’t want to drag his grubby ass to the nicer spots. Deacon didn’t care, to be honest. He didn’t like fancy places, and wasn’t comfortable in them.

They were led to the best table in the house and relaxed, listening to the band. Dino always had live music, and gave local bands a chance. Several had gotten recording contracts because of his sponsorship. This band didn’t really suit Deacon’s taste, being of the hard core genre. It wasn’t exactly good dinner music, but since the meal was free, he wasn’t arguing. He ordered a Philly Steak platter and a Coke, in deference to his employer. He’d rather have had a beer, but didn’t think it was polite. He could wait until he got home, and pop open a few. He intended to spend another night in front of the TV in Dino’s well appointed guest house. The fridge was constantly restocked, by some unseen worker, with the best beers in the world. He could have whatever he wanted and more magically appeared.

The band switched to some mellower music as the dinner crowd dribbled in around six. He and Dino sat around, talking, making plans. At seven o’clock, they left the restaurant and drove to the airport. Dino found a spot to park in the large parking garage and slid into it, barely missing the Mercedes on his left and the minivan on his right.

The the two men went to the luggage pick up and waited for the lighting designer. Deacon looked around at the long room blankly. He hated airports, and he detested waiting for people in them.

“Want to give me a description, so I can help look?”

“Not to worry, I’ll know.”

“Mind telling me the name?”

Dino looked at his watch, checked the arrival board and started down the long expanse of luggage pick up.

“Wouldn’t you know, the last one on this end? Isn’t it always like that?”

“The name, Dino?” He wasn’t so much curious as he was just annoyed with the secrecy.

Dino chuckled, enjoying Deacon’s frustration too much. “I guess it’s fine to tell you now. I was able to get Hillary K. Du Champs.”

The name was not unknown to Deacon, he had heard it often enough in theater circles up north.

“Hillary Du Champs? Sounds like a little, old French lady with a bad accent.”

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 1

In the semi-dark of the old building, its musty smell strong in his nostrils, Deacon Stewart shuddered away the story that the place was haunted. Theater people tended to be somewhat superstitious and melodramatic, creating tales of deaths in the theater, accidents which befell the unwary and unbelievers. Anything from decapitation by a piece of falling scenery, to suicide pacts between love struck actors and actresses. Deacon made his way carefully through the clutter of the back storage room carrying a flashlight. The main circuit breaker had to be here somewhere. The power had been turned on the day before, and he still couldn’t find the damn breaker box in the cold darkness.

What made the stories stronger and more alarming, in this case, some of them were true. There were documented deaths associated with this place. Nothing sensational, just a few freaky accidents that had caused it to be shut down about six years ago.

One such accident was that involving an electrician who was hanging lights. He had a Leko in need of repairs already on the baton. He should have brought it down to fix it, but instead had simply unplugged it, leaving the cable hanging near the ladder. Someone had come along, not realizing what he was doing up on the ladder and plugged it in. Instant, crispy fried techie.

That was the most recent in a long history of such incidents. The theater closed the same day, and had not reopened until Deacon Stewart was hired to run it for the winter snowbird season, in a small, seaside town in Florida.

Having finally located the circuit breakers behind a pile of empty boxes, he examined the panel, the wires, and the immediate area carefully before hitting the main switch. Without a spark, the panel clicked and the dim backstage lights came on, glimmering merrily, teasing him with their cheerfulness.

Breathing a sigh of relief, he took off the protective rubber gloves he wore, thanking God for a small favor. This was one thing, at least, that did not require his immediate attention. He couldn’t say the same thing for the rest of the place. They’d brought in an exterminator to rid them of the carpenter ants and palmetto bugs infesting the attic and walls of the old wooden structure. Once the fumes cleared, the renovations started, beginning with the power being restored.

The building itself dated back to the early forties when the area was used by the military. It looked every bit its age. It needed a major overhaul if it was to be ready on time for its grand re-opening on January Twenty-seventh. Deacon hoped he could find competent people to help him. He had taken the job mostly because it was supposed to be a low stress environment. The doctors had told him he had to avoid stress. Being lead designer in a major theater scenery company in New York City, wasn’t conducive to low stress levels.

After an episode, as it was so tactfully diagnosed by the psychiatrists, he had been put on forced leave of absence, and told to get his shit together before coming back to work. They couldn’t fire him, he was part owner of the company, but they could make him take a vacation.

The episode was brought on by a combination of stress and cocaine, not a period of his life that he was proud of. Also adding to the problem was the recent break up with his long time girlfriend, Frieda Massey. She was an actress who worked mostly off-off Broadway; second rate at best. She had finally landed a good job as a minor character on a new sitcom filming in LA. She hadn’t hesitated to take the job, and flew out of his life, as if he never existed.

Two weeks later, he’d gone wild in the shop, shooting the nail gun into a piece of plywood, screaming and crying hysterically. Then he tried to kill himself with the radial arm saw. He’d intended to cut his own head off, but that wasn’t a terribly easy thing to accomplish. Some fast thinking tech pulled the plug on the saw before he even had his head all the way on the table. Several months and extensive therapy later, the episode behind him, he was told by his two partners he needed a break.

“Go south, young man,” Bernie said. “Florida is nice this time of year. Not too cold, not too hot. I have a friend who owns a small place down there, he’s looking for a Technical Director to open it back up. I put a word in for you. You’re hired.”

Deacon’s protests were ignored. Bernie helped him pack. Maxine, Bernie’s wife, and the other partner, drove him to the airport. If she could have put him on the plane personally, she would have. She stayed by the security gate until his plane took off. He arrived in Orlando three hours later and was picked up by Bernie’s friend Dino.

Dino’s parents must have had a sick sense of humor. Their last name was Sawyer. Despite growing up a living parody, he was a nice guy. Big, blond, darkly tanned, he had inherited the theater from his great uncle. Having always loved acting and directing, he decided to open the theater for the winter season. It was Deacon’s job to whip it into shape.

“I’ve hired a crew to come in starting early Monday morning. Bunch of guys I know who work construction. Not too many jobs in the winter, even here, so they agreed eagerly.”

Today was Saturday, and Deacon had come in late Thursday afternoon, to find the tents just being taken off the building. They left it open to air out all day Friday, and the power was turned on by three o’clock. It took hours to find the circuit breakers in the dim recesses of the building. Having very few windows, all of which were filthy, Deacon could hardly see, even with a high powered flashlight.

Scenery and building supplies littered the entire backstage area. All the supplies had been delivered for the show when the electrician died. Pieces of set were already in place, one dark spot on the floor bore grim testimony to his untimely passing.

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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Raven Willoughby – Origins ~ A Fantasy by Dellani Oakes – Part 28

“Do you remember anything I said earlier?”

Rose’s face grew stern, and her eyes filled with tears. “Enough to know you’re leaving us.”

“Not by choice. There is nowhere I would rather be, than here with you, raising our son. I love you more than my own life, Rose. I do this to protect you. Please, forgive me for lying with another.”

“I can scarcely condemn you for that. Before we met, I had more than my share. But you come back to me, while our child is still young, do you hear? I won’t have him grow up without his father, as I did.”

“As did I. Now kiss me, my beautiful Rose, and let me hold my son.”

“What shall we name him?”

“After your father?” he took the child in his arms.

“My mother has no idea who that was. After yours?”

Smiling, he gazed into his son’s disconcerting golden eyes. Louis Willoughby,” he made a sign of the cross on the small forehead. “You look a bit like my father, from the portrait I’ve seen.”

“In my eyes, he looks exactly like his own. See, even the honey colored eyes….” She sobbed, looking over Raven’s shoulder.

Without turning around, he knew that Osceola had appeared. He felt her presence like a surge of lightning in the room.

“This is the lad?” she stepped close, leaning over the baby.

Raven didn’t want her to touch his child, but knew he shouldn’t stop her.

“He is a fine, handsome boy.”

“Thank you,” Rose said faintly. “You won’t take him from us?”

Osceola shook her head. “I am ages old, set in my ways. What would I do with a child?”

“But you said—” Raven protested.

“My sweet Raven.” She touched his cheek tenderly. “What would I do with an infant? Though I’ve lived hundreds of years, I know nothing about raising a child. And honestly, my love, I am not the nurturing type.”

“You wanted to test him,” Rose said, a faint smile on her lips.

“Yes, gentle Rose. If he gave the child freely to me, he had no right to keep either of you. If he refused outright, then he was no better a man. But if he was willing to sacrifice, to save the two of you….”

“Then he was well and truly in love,” Rose said, her soft gaze focused on her husband.

“Yes. So, now, I give you a gift.”

“You’ve given the greatest gift of all, my dark and chaotic beauty,” Raven began.

“But I choose to give this one to your son. May I?” She held out her arms.

With a nod from Rose, he handed the child to the vampire witch. “His name?”

“Louis, after my father.”

“A second name, I think. We shall name him Louis Osceola Willoughby, and he shall be the greatest warlock the world has known. He has the blood of magical royalty in his veins, for I made you, and you gave him life. Don’t be afraid, precious Rose. Your son will use his powers for good.”

“Thank you,” Rose said. “This is quite a gift you bestow upon him. When it comes time for him to be trained, may we count on you to help him find his way?”

“Yes. It would be my greatest joy. And visit, if you would, from time to time?”

“As you wish.”

Osceola handed the baby back to Rose. Beckoning to Raven, she led him outside. “I know you think of me as evil.”

“Not entirely, but there is certainly chaos in your soul.”

Osceola laughed. “Yes, that’s true. But it is calmer now, since knowing you, and sharing your blood. You stand poised to do great things, Raven Willoughby. And if you ever have need of me, cast my name upon the wind, and I shall come. Now, one last kiss before I leave.”

He kissed both her cheeks before placing a chaste kiss on her lips. Osceola sighed, smiling.

“Your wife is a truly fortunate lady.”

“Thank you. And I am a fortunate man to have loved two such wonderful women in my life. If you have need of me, I shall come.”

“You must visit on his first birthday.”

“We will.”

The air parted and she was gone.

Louis grew quickly, able to do more as a toddler, than some children twice his age. As his first birthday approached, Raven took Louis and Rose on his ship, up to see Osceola. Her home had changed. No longer a blackened cove, it was ringed sunshine drenched beaches. A cozy cottage had been built near the beach, overlooking the cove.

Osceola greeted them, not dressed in a beautiful, ocean-blue gown. Her hair swept away from her face, held with combs made from seashells. Louis threw himself into her arms, and she carried him as she showed them around.

“This is your second home,” she said with a smile. “I ask that you visit at least once a year, on his birthday, until he is fifteen. When that time comes, he will stay with me, and I will begin his training. Can you do that for me, Rose?”

“Yes, Osceola. It will be hard to be parted from my son, but I can do that.”

“It is time for you to go now,” the witch said, giving each a kiss. “Raise him well.”

With that, she disappeared. They sailed back home, delighted, and surprised, to find that they hadn’t even been gone the full day. It was still Louis’ first birthday, and the town held a party in his honor.

Each year, they did as promised, taking Louis to see Osceola. As time passed, more children came along, and all were welcome in the sunny cove. When Louis reached fifteen, he stayed behind, and they sailed home without him. Though it was difficult to say goodbye, Rose had promised.

As they cuddled in their bed, Rose laid her head upon Raven’s chest. “He’ll be all right, won’t he?”

“Yes, my sweet. He’ll be home in no time. In the meantime, you can love and spoil the rest.”

“Will they go, too?”

“If you and Osceola want them to. That is not my decision.”

“If we had not met, where would you have gone?”

“In truth, I don’t know. I suppose I would have gone to Maine, and settled there. My place of birth held nothing for me. My aunt is long dead, my parents…. No one to care if I live or die.”

“I’d have stayed here, working until I was too old to be of interest.”

“My love, you may be assured, you will always be of interest to me.”

Kissing her goodnight, he settled to sleep. In his dreams, he saw his son, grown to a man, laughing in the ocean’s surf as he conjured water sprites. With a smile on his lips, he slept deeply, dreaming of summer winds and sunshine.

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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THE END

Raven Willoughby – Origins ~ A Fantasy by Dellani Oakes – Part 27

Everyone thought that a splendid idea, and they set about planning the festivities. Uriah sighed, glad he’d removed his meager belongings long ago. Once the embers cooled, he walked around, searching for anything which might have escaped the purging fire. A glint of silver caught his eye. Stooping over, he found a pair of silver daggers. He retrieved them from the ruins.

Of the bodies, nothing was left. The wreckage was cleared out that day and taken out of town to hallowed ground, to be buried. Every holy man in town was out there to add his blessings to the burial grounds. All this, and Raven slept.

Weeks passed and Raven’s ships were restored to him. The Governor was jailed in disgrace, and he was asked to take his place. He turned it down, suggesting Mr. Sterner in his stead. A unanimous vote put the solicitor into office. The former governor’s belongings were sold and the proceeds put into the town and its environs. Raven used the private docks for his fleet. The first journey his new flagship made, was to Maine to clear up the issues there. He returned to Labrador a few weeks later, to find Rose waiting for him.

She seemed thicker around the middle. It was with joy that he heard her news—she was with child. His child. A whirlwind wedding followed, and they moved into a house by the private harbor.

Months passed and her time grew near. One night, Raven had an awful dream about Osceola. She stepped from the air as she had before, snatching his newborn child from his mother’s arms. Stricken with grief, Rose flung herself in the sea. Waking with a stifled cry, he remembered Osceola’s condition for helping him.

“My son,” he whispered. “Please, my beautiful, dark temptress, do not take my son. I’ll come back to you. Father your own child. Just please. Please….”

Unable to sleep, he dressed, and kissed his bride upon the brow. Taking himself to the dock, he stood alone by the water. All the ships were out to sea, so he was alone. Standing there, he felt a presence beside him. Turning he saw the awesomely beautiful Osceola. Walking close, she took his hands, bringing them to her lips.

Raven fell to his knees, clutching her hands. “My love, you honor me with your presence.”

“I’m no longer your love,” she whispered, insisting that he rise. “You have given that to another.”

“No, I’m fond of Rose….”

Her finger touched his lips. “I do not fool myself into thinking that’s true. If you believe it, you’re a fool.” She gazed at him a long time. “Would you really come with me, give me a child?”

“If that’s what you wish. If it will keep you from taking this child.”

“Why is this child so special?”

“He is my first. My only.”

“He is the fruit of your union with the woman you love.”

He hesitated.

“You may say it.” Her face grew soft. “Say it.”

“Yes. The woman I love, had never hoped to love. This son….” He sobbed, nearly falling once more. “I will give you what I can, but I beg you, do not take my son, or my wife will surely kill herself. I cannot lose her, Osceola, or I will lose myself.”

“Would you lie with me for a year?”

“A year is a long time.”

“In my cove, a year is minutes. Will you?”

“May I see my son born? May I hold him first?”

“As you wish. And tell your wife, if you dare, what you do to save them.”

Unable to answer her, he watched as she glided back through the air. It shimmered and twinkled around her, and she was gone.

As he walked up to the house, he heard Rose scream. Mrs. Renard came out of the room, flushed and bothered.

“There you are! She’s asking for you. Don’t be long, it will be a while until you meet your son.”

Raven did as he was told. Seeing Rose’s face contorted in pain, he took her hand. Speaking gently, he told her about meeting Osceola, and the deal he’d struck with her. He wasn’t sure how much of it Rose took in, but the words spilled out.

Mrs. Renard returned with a midwife, and they shooed him out of the room. Hours passed and the screams continued. Raven paced and listened, hearing an increase in activity in the room. After a nearly deafening scream, there was silence, punctuated with the plaintive wail of a babe.

Rushing to the door, he pulled it open, nearly colliding with the startled form of Mrs. Renard. She smiled up at him.

“Come meet your son,” she said.

“It’s a boy? In truth?”

“Yes. A fine, beautiful boy, who looks just like his father.”

Raven sat on the edge of the bed, gazing at his son and his exhausted wife. Giving her a sweet kiss, he peeped around the corner of the blanket, at his little, mottled son.

“Do you wish to hold him?”

“In a moment. Give us a minute, if you would?” he asked the women.

Nodding, the went out.

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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Raven Willoughby – Origins ~ A Fantasy by Dellani Oakes – Part 26

Zulimara encouraged the dead to walk toward him. Closer they came, and closer still. Lunging at them, he struck down two before they reached him. Whirling and slashing, he continued to lay waste, but the stream of bodies was never ending. How many of the creatures were there?

Then, as if a message came to him on the wind, he knew what he had to do. Standing his ground, naked as the day he was born, he took careful aim, hurling one dagger at Zulimara. It struck her in the throat. A scream drowned in her blood, as it sprayed from the wound. As one, the zombies fell, shriveling to nothing as the blood poured out of Zulimara’s body.

Raven dressed hurriedly, cursing his stupidity. He’d let a woman get the better of him. Rather than dwelling on it, he found the lamps and candles in the place. Dousing Zulimara, he saw her body was showing signs of decay. Though not as advanced as the zombies, she was still far more than a newly dead corpse. Some dark magic surely lingered. Making his way out the front door, he left a trail of lamp oil. Striking a match, he lit the oil, watching the flames scurry toward Zulimara’s body. When it reached her, it sputtered with a sickly, putrid green flame, before rushing to consume the others.

Glad that there were few buildings beside his own, Raven watched the flames curl around the wood, the inky black smoke swirling upward. Did he see faces in the fire? He couldn’t be sure. Standing alone, he waited until the building was consumed, the bodies with it. No one came to put the fire out, too afraid of the zombies. He couldn’t blame them. They had no way of knowing he had brought an end to it. Or had he?

A part of him remembered that the Annabelle had not yet made port. Was she out upon the water, spawning another shipload of these creatures?

“Osceola, my sweet, will you help me?”

The air shimmered, shifted and split in front of him. Osceola stepped through, the air shifting like water around her.

“What need have you now? Did I not just help enough?”

“It was you who told me to kill Zulimara.”

“Of course, my love. What need have you of me now?”

“My ship. Is it cursed? Does it even now bring yet another load of monsters to land?”

She cast forth, breathing deeply of the wind. Dark hair coiling around her like living serpents, she rose from the ground. “Come.” Grabbing Raven’s arm, she pulled him close.

Horror replaced shock as she flew straight up, then out over the water. Below him, Raven saw the wine dark depths of the sea. The waves rolled and tumbled beneath them, splashing upward, trying to clutch him and draw him under. Not far away, he spied a ship. By the way she sat the water, he knew it was his beloved Annabelle and she was in distress. Listing to starboard, she canted sideways, nearly consumed by the trough, as the sea toyed with her. Not a sailor walked her deck, nor light graced her bow. She was lost, and alone at sea. It was then he saw them, the cold, heartless undead, stumbling up from the hold.

“Do you wish to land?” Osceola asked.

“No! Dear gods, no. Can we do something?”

“What something to you wish?”

“Set it on fire. Keep it from port. Let these people find their rest.”

“As you wish, my love.” Raising the arm which did not hold him, she conjured a flaming globe of purple fire. “This is what you desire, my sweet Raven?”

“Yes.”

Casting it downward, she watched it spiral toward the ship. Landing amidships, it burst into a blaze of red and purple, setting fire to anything which came near. Leaping and biting like a living thing, it set the ship and its unholy occupants on fire. The water of the sea closed over it, yet still it burned, sinking to the depths.

“Thank you, my beautiful, bestial love.” He kissed her longingly.

Suddenly, he was falling. Still over the sea, he prayed he would survive. His body reacted quite apart from him, and just as suddenly, he was flying. He couldn’t describe how it came about, and was sure he’d never again be able to repeat it, but there it was. He landed on the quayside, as if he were falling onto a feather bed.

“Thank you, my love,” he whispered to the wind. “Thank you.”

Stumbling with fatigue, he made his way back to the brothel, where he collapsed on the steps. They found him there at sunrise, sound asleep.

Smoke lingered and hot spots still burned in the wreckage of his office building. The townsfolk gathered, wondering what had happened to Raven. Uriah arrived a few minutes later, reporting that their hero was alive and safe.

“He’ll sleep the day away, no doubt,” Uriah said. “But if he’s right, this marks the end.”

“This is cause for celebration,” the dockside mayor said loudly. “When he wakes, we will have a party that has been unequaled in these parts!”

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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Raven Willoughby – Origins ~ A Fantasy by Dellani Oakes – Part 10

A noise woke him, and he felt a presence around him. Opening his eyes, he raised his head, sniffing, catching animal scent. It was strong, from all directions. His heightened senses told him wolf. Fully awake and alert, he moved slowly, so as not to startle the creatures. Six of them, both male and female, ringed round him, waiting.

“I mean you no harm, friends,” he spoke in a low, conversational tone. “Just passing through.”

The animals stirred, shifting uneasily. The lead male approached boldly, leaping to land at Raven’s feet. Snarling, the wolf drew near, his pack following him, pulling their circle closer. Fury, fueled by fear, buffeted against Raven’s consciousness. Unless he was very careful, he would die here. The alpha clearly felt that his territory had been invaded, and was taking action.

Raven drew a knife from his boot, moonlight glinted on the steel blade. “I don’t want to have to kill you,” he said softly, gazing into the silver-blue eyes of the alpha. “But I will. I’ll move along….” He reached for his bag, and the alpha struck.

Raven leaped aside, rolling to his feet, knife poised to attack. The alpha snarled, jumping at him again, jaw gaping, saliva dripping. Hungry for blood, he couldn’t control his rage. He landed on Raven’s shoulders, massive jaws struggling for the man’s throat.

Raven couldn’t bring the knife into play, but he could grapple. Glad the others hung back, he reached his left hand behind his head, grabbing the alpha by the scruff. The wolf growled, turning to bite Raven’s arm. The teeth sank in, drawing blood. The others, lured by the scent, growled, their circle closing even more.

Swinging the beast to the ground, Raven slashed at it, then stabbed. The alpha hung on. A younger male, with golden eyes, came near, ready to jump. Raven stabbed the alpha once more. This time, the knife stuck between ribs. As the second wolf sprung, Raven hurled the alpha’s body at it. Yelping, the youngster retreated.

Angry and in pain, Raven swung in a tight circle, roaring. Something twitched in his mouth. Roaring once more, he showed fangs far more impressive than theirs. With a ululating cry, he leaped at the golden eyed wolf, tearing into him. The blood was hot, musky, fresh. Although his victim struggled, Raven hung on, drinking hungrily. Casting the limp body aside, he raised his head, howling at the moon.

“I never drank wolf before,” he snarled at the pack. “But now I have a taste for you. Be gone, if you would live!”

Startled the wolves scattered, running into one another to escape. Raven watched, laughing. When they were gone, he drank again, draining both bodies. Dragging them away from camp, he dropped them in the woods. The wolves could do as they chose, with their dead.

Bathing in the crisp sea water, Raven washed the blood and gore from his body and clothing. His great coat was damaged, and his shirt torn at the throat. Having no needle and thread to mend them, he laid them on the rocks to dry.

Naked now, he took stock of his injuries, pleased to see they healed quickly, leaving no scars. At least he would nave no wounds to draw unwanted attention. Once the sun rose, his clothing dried quickly. He made a meal of trail food and tea, shook off the sand and dressed. On his way again, he whistled tunes from his youth, setting a brisk pace.

The remainder of his trip was uneventful. He arrived in town at dusk, stopping at a tavern for the night. Glad he’d been able to salvage his gold from the ship, as well as liberating that of the captain and passengers, he was well healed, and could eat a good meal. When he registered for his room, he asked the innkeeper for directions to the docks.

The man, who was about his age, gave him polite instructions. “Ain’t safe for a gentleman like you, this time of night, sir. Strange doings at the docks, this hour.”

“How so?”

The man looked furtive and leaned across the bar. “It’s said the dead walk at night, sir.”

“Surely that’s an exaggeration.”

“Not seen it myself, but customers talk! I’m doing a bang up business these days, as I’m the first establishment outside their territory. The tales I’ve heard, would fair turn your hair white!”

“My thanks, friend.” Raven turned to go, then faced the barman again. “Is there a silver smith about?”

“Three doors down. He opens at six o’clock.”

“Thank you,” Raven slid a coin to the man.

“Do you require anything else? A bath, perhaps? Laundry?”

“First, a clothier, if one is still open at this hour. Then a bath.”

“As it happens, my lady wife is the finest seamstress in these parts. What do you require?”

“A suit, shirt, linens. And my coat mended.”

“Not a problem, sir. this way.” He raised a portion of the bar, guiding Raven through to a comfortable room. A warm fire crackled and danced in the hearth. A pretty woman, stout with pregnancy, smiled at them.

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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Brand New Day is Over

Brand New Day is over, so what’s next? As of the writing of this post, January 6, 2021, I have no idea. I have many stories I’d like to share with you, but I want to make sure it’s the best I can offer.

I hope that at least one person is reading and enjoying these stories as much as I do. Sometimes, I feel as if I’m an audience of one – me. If you like my stories, please feel free to leave a comment and share. I’d also love it if you’d buy my books (obviously).

In the meantime, please come back and visit again. I promise to have something new for you twice a week.

As always, this is Dellani Oakes. Goodbye, and have a blessed tomorrow.

Brand New Day by Dellani Oakes – Part 64

To her great surprise, Diego walks into Janet’s hospital room.

“And didn’t tell me?”

“I didn’t know who I was. It took almost a year of therapy just to remember my own name. And I looked rough. The doctor wasn’t a plastic surgeon. He tied me up with goat gut and duct tape….”

She laughed, fighting tears. She could only imagine his suffering.

“You think I’m kidding? Six surgeries later, I look like myself again. Except for this.” He pointed to the scar. “I’m a work in progress.”

“How did you finally remember me?”

“That was Coffey’s idea. He figured I needed a trigger, something from my past that would make all the pieces fall in place. He got pictures of you and started showing them to me. Every day, the same thing. This is Janet at seven, this is Janet at eleven…. He finally showed me a picture you’d had taken with you, and Dad, and the boys. And it jumped at me. I remembered—driving away, seeing you in the rear view. Just like that, I remembered it all.”

“You came back,” she whispered.

“I came back….” He kissed her, and all the years dropped away.

Flora poked her head in. “Sorry to interrupt. Would you like to stay the night?”

“Yes, thanks.” Diego flashed a happy smile at her.

Flora brought in sheets and a blanket and pillow. She helped him make up the window seat, which doubled as a bed.

“How long am I in for?” Janet asked.

“Well, babe, you got shot in the head,” he explained as he slipped off his shoes and wiggled into bed beside her.

“I did?”

“Grazed you, but it left a pretty nifty groove in your skull and they shaved your head to give you stitches.”

“Oh, I bet that’s attractive.”

“It’s an edge look, but you totally carry it off.”

She giggled and started to cry.

“Shh… It’s okay, babe. I’m here and I’m never leaving again.”

“You promise?”

“I promise.”

Janet went home the next day. Her entire family met her and Diego at her house. They had a short welcome home party and left. The boys went home with their grandfather, leaving Janet and Diego alone.

He helped her shower, putting a snug shower cap over her dressing. When she was clean, they cuddled up in the bed. She lay with the uninjured part of her head against his chest, listening to his heart beat.

“I hope the doctor okays me for extra curricular activity soon,” she said with a regretful sigh. “We have a few years to make up for.”

“It’ll keep,” he said, playing with her hair. “I’ve missed these moments. Even when I didn’t remember who I shared them with, I missed them.”

“You’re never going away again?”

“Coffey promises. Never. He’s slated me as unfit for active duty. I’ll go back to being an ROTC guy. I liked that job.”

“No one told me. Did Tex get arrested? What happened after he shot me?”

Diego got very quiet. She peeped up at him. His jaw was set, his eyes stony as he glared at the wall.

“No, he’s not in jail.”

“After that? Wasn’t he arrested?”

“No.”

“What?” She sat up so fast, it made her dizzy.

“Do you remember anything?”

“Not after I rushed him.”

“I got here a second too late. Tab and Len were watching. I was looking for him, and then it occurred to me that he’d come back here.” He paused, sighing heavily. “What were you thinking, running at him like that?”

“I’d had it. I couldn’t take the waiting anymore. I wanted him to get it over with.”

“He damn near did. If Len hadn’t tackled you….”

“He did?”

“Right as the gun went off. He’s lucky he wasn’t killed.”

“What’s with you guys?”

“Loose cannons, every one.” Diego chuckled a moment, sobering before he continued. “So, the bullet grazed you as you went down. I thought you were dead. You lay there so still and there was so much blood. Len and Tab took care of you and I took care of Tex.”

“Oh, Diego….”

“That being said, I have a question for you, and I’d like your answer in one, single syllable word, easily verbalized, even with a head injury.”

Janet snuggled against him and he fought an inner battle with his conscience, and her doctor’s orders, versus his desire.

“We’ve had our rough spots, more than most people, but I love you more now, than I did twenty years ago. Janet, will you marry me?”

“Yes. Oh, yes! Yes! Yes!” She kissed him hard on the mouth.

Doctor’s orders be damned! He kissed her, pouring every ounce of love he had into it. Totally against medical advice, he made love to her. He was careful, taking it slowly, savoring the taste of her lips—the first he’d had in ten years.

They had a small wedding, only family, but over a hundred people at the reception. Every member of Diego’s old team came. The doctors he’d rescued, the high school faculty, and both their combined families.

Danny was best man, Ricky the groomsman. Ramona and Sookie were her attendants. When she threw the bouquet, she aimed right at Coffey. Surprised, he caught it, laughing loudly when the single women in the room lined up and kissed him.

They had their honeymoon in Hawaii—an entire month in paradise. Life had taken them in different directions, their paths crossing and recrossing like a road map. But now, they were finally on the road together, and it led them home.

Janet lay in bed, gazing out at the lapis surf from their hotel bedroom. Diego was up and singing in the shower, but she couldn’t make herself get up. The sun rose, setting the sky on fire. Janet smiled, inhaling happily, as she greeted a brand new day.

©2020 Dellani Oakes

THE END

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