Tag Archive | Dellani Oakes

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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Brand New Day by Dellani Oakes – Part 63

When Janet gets out of the shower, she finds Tex hiding in her closet. He has her gun, and points it at her. Tissue Warning

Tex figured he had the upper hand. He was getting cocky. Janet took a step toward him. She was tired of being afraid, sick of crying, angry with him for being such a damn inconvenience.

“It was all your fault,” said, taking another step. “You cheated on me. You did drugs. You killed our baby, and our marriage. And you killed a part of me too, Teddy.”

He made a funny sound in the back of his throat.

“That sound you just heard, that was the last bit of you dying. You killed us all, Teddy.”

The gun wavered. Biting his lip, he steadied his hand with the other. Janet took another step.

“We used to laugh at you after we made love,” she lied convincingly. “I’d compliment him on his performance, and laugh at yours. You can’t compare, you know. I mean, you’re good, but Diego was so much better equipped. He got into all those hard to reach places. I guess that’s why he was able to father a second child, and you weren’t.”

Tex inhaled deeply, pouting, his jaw working rapidly as he tried to contain his anger. “I was a good husband, Janet. I took care of you. I worked hard….”

“You were a drunk, and a drug addict. If I’d had a lick of sense, I never would have married you. So go ahead! I’ve got nothing to lose! Go ahead and shoot me!” She rushed him.

The gun wavered as she ran at him. Janet flew sideways, the air knocked out of her. There was a loud bang, the report of a weapon. Searing pain made her scream. She landed on something soft and yielding that smelled like shit. The report of the weapon made her ears ring.

“Get me a towel or something!”

The ringing in her ears became a symphony, her eyes closed and the world went black.

Janet woke a few hours later in the same hospital room she’d just left. She knew it was the same because there was a water stain on the ceiling that looked like an angry rabbit. The clip on her finger pinched, the IV rubbed the inside of her vein. Her head ached, the ringing in her ears was loud, and higher pitched. She was groggy, her eyes refused to focus. Something soft was stuck to the side of her head, and it hurt if she touched it. She hit the button to call the nurse. Flora came running, breathless and worried.

“You’re awake! Oh, thank God! One second.” She went out the door and Janet heard her speaking to someone.

The door opened abruptly and her sister ran in, followed by Danny. Evander and Tim brought up the rear, with Ricky and Sookie’s daughter, Ilene. Janet smiled when she saw them and laughed when Coffey, Tab and Len peeped around the door.

“I’m not supposed to let so many in at once,” Flora said. “But they insisted. See? She’s fine. I told you.”

The boys approached their mother on either side.

“Mommy?” Ricky said. Although he was a big man of twelve, seeing her in the hospital bed for the second time in two days, he lost it.

“I’m okay,” she assured him. “I’m fine.”

“Don’t you dare scare us like that again,” Sookie said. “We thought we’d lost you!”

Flora cleared her throat. “Excuse me. There’s another guest out here. I’ll have to ask you all to leave though. He kind of insisted….”

Everyone gave her kisses and left. When they were gone, the door opened again. Janet gasped, hearing his voice thank Flora.

“Is it really you?” she gasped as the door drifted shut.

He looked like he had when he came in her dream…. Or had it been a dream?

“It’s really me.”

“Where have you been, you bastard? They said….” She held out her arms to him.

Diego rushed to the side of the bed, taking Janet in his embrace. “I was…. At least I might as well have been. I almost died. The villagers hid me, and nursed me back to health. There was a doctor, also in hiding, and he took care of me. I was unconscious for a while, and when I woke up—I couldn’t remember who I was. You don’t wear tags on a job like that.” He sat on the edge of the bed. “It took over a year to find me. I got shipped around from town to town to keep me hidden. Tab and Len brought me back.”

©2020 Dellani Oakes

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Brand New Day by Dellani Oakes – Part 61

Coffey comes to visit Janet in the hospital, telling her that Len and Tab are also coming in to help look for Tex.

The nurse, not Flora, came in. “Hi, Mrs. Macy….”

“Ms. Yarkowsky, please. Make a note. It’s because of Mr. Macy I’m here. I’d really like to pretend that name doesn’t exist.”

The young blonde scribbled a note on the chart. “I sure will. How’s your head?”

“Better, thanks.”

“Your doctor will be in shortly. With luck, you’ll be out of here by this afternoon. He did want to get one or two more tests.”

“Anything, just set me free. I don’t do well being confined.”

The nurse smiled kindly. “Your sister told us that.”

The doctor spoke to Janet, did his own poking and prodding and sent her for an MRI. Once she was back in her room, she fell asleep.

Janet woke when the dinner cart clattered in the hall. Her doctor came in a short time later.

“The MRI looks good. I’m gonna cut you loose. I want you to go home and rest. And don’t take even an aspirin, unless you get my permission.”

“I won’t. I’m not much for pills. Did you figure out what he gave me?”

“Still working on it. His own concoction, I’m afraid. It looks like half a dozen different medications in your blood stream. Glad you’re in such good health. A dose like that could have killed a lesser woman.”

“Constitution like a horse,” she said.

Her doctor laughed. “Okay, well, Secretariat, I’m gonna give the nurse the go. You can call someone to come get you.”

“Thanks, Doctor.”

Janet finished her meal and the nurse came in to take out her IV. Her father planned to pick her up in about half an hour, but Janet was all ready champing at the bit to be gone. She changed into her clothing and lay on her bed. Nothing interesting was on TV, so she closed her eyes and tried to remember more details from the night before. It still was foggy.

Tex had called, wanting to come by. He insisted on seeing her, needed her help—again. Why couldn’t he simply sign the damn divorce papers, and leave her in peace?

“I’ll sign them, baby. I’ll do anything…. Please, Janet. Just see me, let me talk.”

And she’d agreed. Like an idiot, she’d said yes. They’d had a cup of coffee and she started to feel strange. The only thing she remembered after that was Tex waving the shotgun at Danny and Ricky. Danny stood up to Tex, protecting his baby brother, shielding him with his body. He was hardly more than a baby himself, when his father died. He’d had to be a man every since. He took care of her and Ricky.

Her eyes drifted shut and she lingered on the edge of sleep. The door to her room opened and handsome, dark haired man stood there. There was something familiar about him, but he didn’t look quite like himself. A long, jagged scar ran from his right eyebrow, down the side of his face, to his jaw. His dark hair was longer than the last time she’d seen him, the mass of dark curls wild and untamed.

“Baby, is that you?” She held out her hands to him.

“It’s me,” he said, his voice hoarse, gasping like he’d been running.

“I’ve missed you.”

“Me too…. I can’t stay….”

“Don’t leave me!”

“I’ll be back….”

The door closed and she woke with a start. Running to the door, Janet looked around, but there was no sign of him. She hit the call button for the nurse.

“Janet?” The young blonde was back. “You okay?”

“Did you see the man who was in my room?”

“A man? Not your dad?”

“No! A man with black, curly hair. Did you see him?”

“Honey, no one’s been up here—well, no strangers. You’re sure?”

Janet sat on the bed. “It was so real. I really thought…. Did you ever dream something that seemed so real, only to wake up and find out it wasn’t?”

“Yeah. Are you sure you’re okay?”

Janet cried, trying to smile. “I don’t think I ever will be again. I’m sorry I bothered you.”

“No bother, honey. Oh, look. There’s your dad. Let’s get you out of here!”

©2020 Dellani Oakes

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Brand New Day by Dellani Oakes – Part 60

Sookie and Tim are there when Janet wakes. They’ve brought Colonel Coffey with them. Tissue Warning

Coffey slipped in quietly. He was dressed in civilian clothing and looked far older than the last time she’d seen him.

“How are you feeling?” He asked, approaching the bed with caution.

“Better than I should, I expect.”

“I came as soon as I found out,” he said, taking her hand. “I’ve got men out helping the police. We’ll catch him.”

“Why?” she asked, her eyes tearing.

“I owe you that much,” he said. “You deserve closure, and I can help with that.”

For once, she didn’t feel anger toward Coffey. She squeezed his hand. “Thank you. You don’t look well, Colonel.”

He smiled, laughing slightly. “What I always liked about you, Janet, you don’t ever sugar coat a damn thing. I’ve come into your life, like hell in a hurricane, and you’ve always told me exactly what you think. I’m sorry that I always had to be the one to hurt you. I’m actually a pretty nice guy, when you get to know me.”

“Well, have a seat and talk to me.”

“We’ll come back,” Sookie said, kissing her.

Tim kissed her too, and they left.

“That’s another fine young man there. Wish I had me a hundred just like him.” Coffey watched them depart.

“He’s a wonderful man. He’s taken good care of us.”

“Your son’s a hell of a kid too. Don’t suppose I could coerce him into the service?”

“You try, and you’ll wish you hadn’t.” She wasn’t laughing when she said that.

“Sookie told me what he did last night. His father would be proud.”

“I don’t remember much of last night. Tex was waving a gun at my boys. I saw Tim and Sookie and the rest is a blank.”

“I’ll let Danny tell you. He can answer all your questions. He’s talking to my men, coordinating the search. He knows some of Macy’s hangouts. Apparently, he’s kept an eye on him all this time.”

“On Tex? Whatever for?”

“He took Diego’s directive to heart. He told him to look after his mama, he’s been doing that.”

Janet blinked back tears. “I was dreaming about that when you came to see me…. How are Len and Tab?”

“Doing well. They sent their greetings. They’re due in about three.”

“Them too? I don’t know how to thank you, Lane. I’ve been so horrid….”

“I did what I had to, you did, too. I never wanted to take him from you.”

“You’re a good man, despite that one character flaw,” she said with a grin.

“I’m a very bad man, but a very good friend,” he replied. “Diego inspired the kind of loyalty I’ve never seen in another human being.”

“Why does it still hurt so bad to think of him? Why do I still feel that horrible, gaping maw where my heart belongs?”

He took her hands, raising them to his lips. “Because when someone that special leaves, the hole is bigger,” he said. “Now, I need to let you get some rest, or your doctor’s going to skewer me.”

“You’ll let me know about Tex?”

“I’ll keep you posted. It’s a big city, lots of wide open space around it, but I’ve got my best people on this.”

“Thank you.”

He saluted her as he left.

©2020 Dellani Oakes

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Brand New Day by Dellani Oakes – Part 59

Coffey, Len and Tab have breakfast with the family, and explain what happened to Diego.

“So, this perfect mission. What happened?” Sookie asked quietly.

“The captors held a small village. The people there didn’t want to be part of it, but when fifty armed men come into a place half that size, that might have a few pistols and an old AK-47, what are they going to do?” Tab said.

“They got the women out safely, freed some others who were also being held, and got as far as the marketplace.” Len picked up the thread of the narrative. “Diego was bringing up the rear, helping one of the prisoners, a teenage boy who’d stood up to the men when they arrived—the son of the chief. He was in bad shape. One of the guards caught up to them and opened fire. Diego protected the boy, taking the bullets himself. He shot the terrorist, the last one, as it happened.”

“But he didn’t make it,” Janet said. “And the boy?”

“Took a couple minor hits. He’ll be fine.”

“I want to see him,” Janet said calmly. “I want to say goodbye.”

Len and Tab looked uncomfortable.

“When the team went in to secure the area, they couldn’t find a body,” Coffey said. “None of the villagers would talk to them, they were terrified. One group of men with guns pretty much looks like another.”

“No body?” Janet was stunned. “You’re telling me, the man I love died in some foreign shit hole and I can’t even bury him?” She stood, screaming at Coffey. “I’ve got two boys who will never see their father again because of you. I want to bury him, say goodbye, have something I can show them when they get older. A place to grieve! I can’t even have that?”

“Janet,” her father spoke sharply. “Sit down and stop that this instant.”

Gulping and sobbing, she sat.

“There will be a ceremony, Janet. He’s due a full military funeral. Even with no body, there will be a headstone. He died a hero, serving his country. He saved many lives during his time of service. He’s received the Congressional Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service….”

“I don’t care about ribbons and medals. I want my husband back. Even if we never had a piece of paper, even without a wedding and a ring, he was my husband….”

“No one’s denying that, Janet,” Tab said softly. “And we’ll do what we can. But chances are good the villagers already disposed of his body.”

“So, he could be buried in some piece of desert somewhere, and no one knows who he is?”

“I’m sorry. I know this is hard,” Tab gave the only comfort he had.

“You don’t know shit,” she flung at him.

“With all due respect, Janet. I do,” Tab replied. “He was a good friend. We’ve worked together nearly ten years. He saved my life twice. I’d have taken a bullet for him, but I wasn’t there. I was running backup, because that’s where he needed me. I turned that place upside down looking for him. After this, Len and I are going back. If there’s a body to find, we’ll find it. You have our word.”

“I’m sorry,” she sobbed.

Tab took her hands. “Me too.”

Lubbock, Texas. 2000

Janet woke up crying. Her sister and brother-in-law were in the room, talking quietly. Sookie walked over, sitting on the side of the bed.

“Hey, Sleeping Beauty. Nice to have you back.” She smoothed her sister’s hair. “How are you feeling?”

“Better. But still like I’d been hit by a truck. Did they figure out what he gave me yet?”

“Something like roofies,” Tim told her, coming up on the other side. “But he’d mixed it with a bunch of other shit. They’re still picking it apart.”

“Tell me the bastard’s in jail and never getting out.”

Tim and Sookie exchanged a look.

“What?”

“He got away before the cops arrived. Danny and I chased after him, but damn that bastard is fast,” Tim told her sadly.

“You’re telling me that he drugged me, threatened my sons, and got away? I’ll kill him myself, if I ever find him.”

“They’re looking for him,” Tim said angrily. “Your dad called in for backup.”

“There’s someone here to see you, Janet. But I don’t know if you’ll want to see him or not,” Sookie said.

“You can come in, Colonel Coffey,” Janet said, figuring he was listening at the door.

“How did you know?” Tim asked.

“He’s the last person I ever want to see,” Janet replied.

©2020 Dellani Oakes

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Brand New Day by Dellani Oakes – Part 58

Coffey comes once more, this time to tell her that Diego is dead. Tissue Warning

“Hi,” she said softly. “I won’t ask how you are…. Do you want something to eat?”

Janet shrugged, shaking her head.

“You have to eat, Jan. You have to keep your strength up.”

“Why?”

“Because, like it or not, there are two little boys who need their mother. You might want to give in to your grief, but you can’t stop, because he’s gone.”

“How can you sit there and say that to me? You’ve got your husband!”

Sookie took her hand. “That’s why I know. If I lost him, I’d be a wreck. But I’ve got a child to think of, too. I’d be torn up plenty, but for her, I’d keep going. And you will, too. I know you’ve had more shit happen in your life than any one person deserves, and you’ve lost the man you love more times than you can count. I don’t pretend to understand that, but I know the only way past this is to get through it.”

Janet knew she was right. As much as she might want to give in and cry, she couldn’t. She didn’t have that luxury. She got up and had a shower. Sookie helped her dress and do her makeup and they went out to the kitchen for breakfast.

Evander had prepared a feast. He always cooked when he was upset. He had enough food for a small army. Three extra men sat at the table with Sookie’s husband, Tim. Janet stopped just inside the kitchen door. The men stood. They were dressed in casual clothing, no uniforms today. You might put a soldier in jeans and a polo shirt, but they were still soldiers through and through. They saluted her as she walked in.

“Why are they here?” she asked her father.

“Because I asked them to stay. You need to know,” said firmly. “You need to hear what happened, so you can understand.”

“I don’t want to know.”

“But you will,” her father replied. “Because one day, your boys will ask what happened to their father, and you need to be able to tell them.”

Coffey stood once more, holding a chair for her. Janet took it reluctantly.

“I’d like you to meet my companions,” he said. “I don’t believe you’ve ever been properly introduced.”

Janet realized that they were the same men who had come to the house before. Slightly older versions of themselves, but the same.

“This is Tab Granger,” Coffey said, indicting the sandy haired man to his right. “And Len Evanston.” The dark haired man to his left, nodded. “I brought them, because they were good friends of Diego’s.”

“Were you with him? When—when it happened?”

“We were on the extraction team,” Tab replied. “We went in and got them out.”

“But not him?”

“No, ma’am.” His ears reddened, and his jaw clenched, as he fought down his emotions.

Janet could tell that these men were not only Diego’s friends, they held him in very high regard.

“Don’t call me ma’am. I’m not my mother,” she snapped. She apologized with a smile.

“Not sure what else to call you,” Tab said with a smile. “You don’t use your married name, do we call you Ms. Yarkowsky?”

“How about just Janet?” She burst into tears. That brought back the memory of meeting Tex. “Oh, God,” she wailed. “I can’t do this. I can’t sit here and be civil and friendly. I hate you all, and I don’t even know you….”

Sookie held her, letting her cry. The men looked uncomfortable. Coffey cleared his throat.

“The mission was flawless,” he said quietly. “Diego’s plan was perfect.”

“And yet, he died,” Evander said from the stove.

“We had bad intel,” Tab said. “More men were in the camp than anticipated. They got in without us catching them on satellite. The people watching the camp didn’t report them.”

“We’ve reason to believe that team was compromised,” Coffey said.

“What does that mean? Bribed? Dead? Infiltrated?” Evander asked.

“We’re debriefing them now.”

“Let me do it. I guarantee I’ll get the answers,” Janet snarled.

The three men, who had faced down more than one enemy, were terrified of the woman with dark, dangerous eyes. Coffey fully believed if she led the interrogation, they’d have the information they craved.

“I believe you could,” Coffey said in awe. “And if I can’t get any answers my way, I damn well might let you.”

©2020 Dellani Oakes

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Brand New Day by Dellani Oakes – Part 57

Coffey has interrupted their lives yet again. This time, he can’t give Diego extra time, only enough to say goodbye to his sons. Tissue Warning

The tears Janet had fought so hard, poured from her eyes when he asked that simple, every day question.

“Pumpkin?” Evander took her in his arms, asking Diego for explanation.

Diego squatted by his sons, taking them in his arms. “I’ve got to go for a while,” he said quietly. “See the man in the car?” Danny nodded. “He’s a friend of mine, and he needs my help. He’s got some more friends who are in trouble, and Daddy needs to help them. I’ll be back soon, and we’ll go see the prairie dogs, okay?”

The prairie dog village was Danny’s favorite place to go. He could watch them for hours. He nodded happily. Diego hugged them close, kissing them.

“Don’t forget, Daddy loves you very much. And no matter what, I’ll always be with you. Don’t ever forget that. Danny, you need to watch after your brother, and take care of Mommy, okay?”

“Yes, sir.”

Danny hugged his father, kissing his cheek. Ricky gnawed on his fingers, wide eyed. Diego kissed them both again and stood. He held out his hand to Evander.

“I know you’ll watch out for them, Dad.”

“Always, son. You can count on that.” He said nothing, but his eyes held understanding.

Janet went to Diego, holding him close. “Don’t you dare die,” she whispered. “You come back to me, you understand?”

“I promise.”

“Don’t! Don’t promise. Because if something happens…. If you break it…. Just don’t.”

Diego laughed, smoothing her hair. “I’ll do my best. I love you more than my own life.”

“You’re my heart,” she said. “You come back. I can’t live forever without my heart.”

They kissed a long time. Finally, Diego broke their embrace and walked to the car. He turned to wave. Danny clutched his grandfather’s hand. Janet held Ricky in her arms. Diego stood there, memorizing that picture of them, before getting in the car.

Janet watched the car drive off, feeling like someone had punched her in the chest. She followed her father into the house and flopped on the couch, unable to go another step.

“Boys, come help Popop with dinner,” Evander said, herding his grandsons into the backyard.

Janet let the tears come. She cried until her eyes hurt. Finally, she went into the tiny half bath off the hallway and washed her face with cold water. She redid her makeup and tried to smile. The boys ran at her, hugging her around the legs and she forced herself to greet them without tears. Her father smiled at her, nodding. She knew no matter what, he’d be there for her.

“Sookie called. She and Tim are coming over.”

“It will be good to see them.”

Two weeks passed without a word, but Janet hadn’t expected one. She went through her days on autopilot, teaching her classes and caring for her boys. One evening, the boys were in bed and she was grading papers listening to Prince’s Purple Rain album.

She heard a car pull up outside. Thinking it might be her sister or father, she turned on the outside lights, flinging open the door. She didn’t even dare to hope that it was Diego, but a part of her fluttered at the sound. Three uniformed men walked up her path. The leader was Colonel Coffey. He didn’t have to say a word. His expression was enough. Janet broke down. Her legs giving out, she sank to the floor. She couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think. Numb all over, she gasped for breath, as the impact of their silent message hit her. Blackness surrounded her as her body lost the fight.

Some time later, she woke, finding herself in bed, with her sister lying beside her. It was morning and Sookie was asleep with her head on Janet’s shoulder. She held Janet’s hand. Janet moved and Sookie woke up.

©2020 Dellani Oakes

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Brand New Day by Dellani Oakes – Part 56

Janet and Diego are happy for a time, until Coffey comes back into their lives.

“You—Men! Going off to fight your damn wars! And we stay home….”

“We fight to protect you,” Coffey began.

“We stay home, have babies, raise families, work, keep house, and you think you can waltz in and out of our lives as you please. We’ll be there, breathless sex toys for your hiatus f**king! Well, it doesn’t work like that!” She punched the colonel in the chest.

“Janet….” Coffey tried again.

“You can’t call me that. You come in here and ruin our happiness. I hate you! Get out of my house!” She pulled back with her other hand to hit him.

Diego stepped between them. “Let Lane speak, babe. We really can’t talk about this on the street.”

Shoving past the men, Janet went to the kitchen, leaving them to talk while she made coffee. She might loathe the man, but he was Diego’s guest. Her mother’s training was ingrained, whether she admitted it or not. When she got to the living room, Diego was showing Coffey pictures of their boys. Danny, seven, was identical to Diego at that age. They looked up, smiling. Janet set the coffee things down with a rattle. Diego took her hand, pulling her onto the couch beside him.

“Listen to the job, please. And you decide if it’s important for me to go.”

“Normally, we don’t discuss missions this openly,” Coffey said, reaching into his breast pocket. “But you’ve proven, over the years, that you can keep a secret.”

Janet refused to be flattered, glaring at him.

“A group of doctors with World Health Organization went to a country I’d better not name.”

“On the other side of the world?”

“Pretty much.” He smiled slightly. “They were captured. The men, six of them, were executed right away.” He laid pictures of six smiling men on the table. They ranged in age from thirty to sixty.

“The women are hostages. The people holding them demand ransom from their governments—the US, UK and Japan.” He laid more pictures down. This time of four women in their thirties and forties.

“Policy is not to negotiate with terrorists,” he said quietly. “But we can’t let these women suffer any longer. We need Diego to lead the multinational rescue mission to retrieve them.”

Janet burst into tears. “You unmitigated bastard! You knew I couldn’t tell you no. He has to go, but it’s going to be horribly dangerous.”

Coffey nodded. “I need the best on this. Diego is the best. These women, their husbands and children, need Diego.”

“I need him too,” she whispered. “What about his wife and children?” She couldn’t cry. The tears refused to come. Dry eyed and furious, she glared at Coffey. “I really didn’t think I could possibly hate you more….

“Is that a go?” Coffey asked.

“That’s a go,” Diego replied. “Can I have time to say goodbye to my boys?”

“I can give you an hour. I’m sorry. They’re threatening to kill Dr. Lacy.” He tapped the picture of the youngest woman. “In forty-eight hours if we don’t comply.”

“So soon?” She gazed into Diego’s face. “You knew about this. You knew he was coming.”

“When I heard about it, I suspected.”

“Heard? This hasn’t been in the news!”

Diego eyed her levelly. He didn’t have to say that he had other ways of hearing about things. More reliable ways. He’d probably known about it within hours after it happened.

“You can’t give us a little time—together?”

“It’s a long flight to Langley,” Coffey replied. “But I can give you time for your sons. No father should disappear without a goodbye.”

Janet bit the inside of her cheek, holding in the angry tears. She refused to let Coffey see that kind of weakness.

They drove to her father’s house a few blocks away. Coffey followed in his car. The boys were playing in the yard. Coffey waited in the car while they got out and greeted them. Evander came out in the yard, smiling.

“I was setting up the grill. Can you stay to supper?”

©2020 Dellani Oakes

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