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Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 63

He shoved the policeman toward the doorway. Reyes’ flailing movements set off another shower of sparks, this one larger and more volatile. Flames licked at the corner of the flat.

“Out! Everyone out!” Reyes yelled, racing toward the fire extinguisher.

Deacon watched the flats around him flicker with flame, wondering if he could make it through. He had to. Taking a deep breath, he set his crutches down, swinging his body as far as he could. His landing was none too soft and he created another flurry of sparks, setting more of the flats on fire.

People screamed, running wildly for the exits. Deacon could hear Dino trying to get them outside without incident. The police officers helped him, taking a head count. Reyes ran back with the extinguisher when suddenly Deacon was surround by fire.

Deacon could hear Kacy screaming his name. With a surge of energy powered by fear, he threw himself through the wall of flames, landing with a crash on the floor at Kacy’s feet. His pants smoked and his shoelaces danced with fire. Reyes activated the extinguisher, hitting his feet, then he directed it at the billowing flames.

“Get him out!” Kacy’s voice hovered on the edge of hysteria.

Deacon yelled at Kacy. “Both of you, out!”

“Not without you!” she screamed.

Deacon roared, hauling himself to his feet. One of his aluminum crutches was bent from his impact, the other still held him. He leaned on it, fighting for balance.

“Go, Kacy! Out! Reyes, we can’t do this ourselves. Get out! I hear the fire engines now.”

Grabbing Reyes by his shirt, Deacon yanked hard, nearly knocking the detective off his feet. Together, the three of them struggled out the door, the other two supporting Deacon’s weight.

Fire engines screamed up, pulling out hoses. They did their best to put out the fire, but it was too late. The old building was done for, gutted by fire. Slowly, painfully, like a dying animal, it seemed to swell upward, then sink to its knees in defeat. The fire department strove then to keep the flames from spreading to the buildings next door while Dino and the others watched their joy go up in smoke.

Kacy was in shock. The paramedics checked her for smoke inhalation. She neither moved, nor spoke until Deacon walked up. She took one look at him and slapped him across the face so hard, he saw stars. The next moment she was in his arms, crushing him to her chest, kissing him furiously.

“Don’t you ever do that again, you bastard!” Her accent flared with her emotions. “Don’t you dare, ever scare me like that again! Deacon, oh, Deacon! If I’d lost you too!”

She couldn’t say anything else, just wept hysterically, saying his name over and over. Deacon sat in the back of the ambulance with her while they checked the others. Only Deacon and Reyes were slightly singed, neither was seriously hurt.

Dino stood watching the last vestige of his dream fall to ashes, eyes dry, face pale beneath his tan. Edging toward him through the crowd, Deacon saw Obi approaching from the florist’s parking lot, looking on. He didn’t seem exactly dismayed or even concerned, but interested as if it were an amusement park ride or freak show. Deacon intercepted him before he got far. An odd smile played at his lips as he watched the last flame quenched in water.

“Man, that’s awful, Dino! If I can do anything to help out….” His statement was cut short by Deacon’s approach.

Dino didn’t want to talk, and Deacon didn’t think the kid really had much of any worth to say.

“Thanks, Obi, but I don’t think Dino feels like talking.”

“Wow, I mean what’s he gonna do now?” The streetlights glittered off his glasses.

“No idea. It’s not something he wants to decide right now. If you’ll excuse us, we’re going to go home. I suggest you do the same.”

Kacy sat in Dino’s car, half asleep, but calm. Dino drove home automatically, hardly paying attention to the traffic lights. He carried Kacy into the house, set her on the couch and bid a sullen farewell to Deacon.

A car pulled up just as he was walking out the door to head to the main house. Cindy got out. She was torn between tending to Deacon, who looked much the worse for wear, and looking in on Dino. Deacon waved her away, assuring her he was fine.

“Deacon?” Kacy called him from the living room.

He walked back in, limping on one crutch. She was smeared with soot, her hair sticking out randomly all over her head. He figured he must look even worse. Forcing a smile, he collapsed next to her.

“Well, you’re no oil painting, but you’ll do,” he said, leaning in to kiss her.

Her smile was faint, but steady. “You look like death on a hot plate,” she quipped in response.

“We’re a pair, aren’t we? Poor Dino,” Deacon said, shifting to a more comfortable position.

They said nothing for some time, sitting in silence.

“What’s he going to do now?” Kacy wondered sadly.

Deacon shrugged, staring at nothing. with fixed interest.

“I know what I’d do,” Kacy remarked, bitterly. “I’d not rest till I put the bastard behind bars!” Her accent was so strong, Deacon could hardly understand her, but the implication was quite clear.

“How are they going to catch him, Kacy? Everything is gone, every bit of evidence.”

“I don’t know. I’m just so frustrated, I can’t stand it. I can only imagine how Dino is feeling. Do you think we should go over? I hate the thought of him being alone.”

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 62

By six o’clock, the police were in position. Reyes and three others were inside the theater on the stage. Two more were backstage and two were out front in the lobby. How many were outside, Deacon didn’t know, and hadn’t asked.

Kacy was busily adjusting lights. She and Dexter were on ladders, refocusing, making sure all areas of the stage were fully lit, using some of the college kids as models.

“Dammit, we still have a shadow over there stage right,” Kacy said, hopping off the last step of her ladder. “Something’s wrong. We put the cheeks in the right places, so it has to be a flat out of kilter. Oi, Andy!”

The young man ran up to her, eager to help. “Yes, ma’am?”

She felt old all of a sudden, but forged ahead. “Are you sure that flat’s in the right spot? It seems to be at the wrong angle, I know that light wasn’t off by that much yesterday.”

Deacon hobbled over to Andy. Together, they inspected the offending piece of set.

“It looks like it’s come loose from the floor, Kacy. Look.” Deacon said, bending over awkwardly.

She squatted down. The anchors had worked free and the flat was flopping lopsidedly.

“It’s been moved. And see here, the canvas has been pulled up too. You can see the seam’s been pushed back but not as flat as it should be.” Andy pointed out the discrepancies.

“You’re sure?”

“Yes, ma’am. I checked the ground cloth myself.”

“Don’t touch it.” Deacon called Reyes over and told him what had happened.

“We’ll check this out, Deacon. I’ve got a K-9 squad on stand by, I’ll call them in.”

Gathering the crew together, they moved to the front of the theater, seated around the lobby, waiting for the okay to continue their work. Reyes came out nearly an hour later.

“We’ve been all over the place with the dogs. They haven’t found anything. Beats the hell outta me what anyone would have been doing there anyway.”

“Back to work, people! Quit your loafing!” Deacon called as he hauled himself up by his crutches. He grimaced as he inadvertently put too much weight on his bum leg. He led the crew back into the theater, ready to inspect the damage done by the police. Bending over, he smelled something he should not have been smelling on a set painted weeks ago.

“Reyes, come here, bring one of the dogs.”

The policeman nodded, accompanied by a K-9 officer, he came over to where Deacon stood.

“Look, call me crazy, but smell this flat.”

Reyes leaned forward, sniffing deeply.

“Whew! What is that?”

“I don’t know, but you can sure as hell bet it wasn’t on here last night. It’s damp, too. We painted that several weeks ago. The paint on it is water based. That smells more like turpentine or mineral spirits.”

Walking through the door in the set, Deacon went behind the flat in question, checking other flats as well. “There are at least three of them back here, the same deal. This is crazy, Reyes. They shouldn’t be like this.”

Twisting slightly to face the flats, his crutch ground into the canvas covering the floor and a little spark leaped up with a tiny pop. Stepping away from it caused more tiny explosions. None of them were major, but Deacon swung back in alarm.

“What was that?” Reyes ran around the set, stepping in beside Deacon.

Another pop behind Deacon made Reyes jump to one side, gun out. Deacon froze as he saw the sparks fly from Reyes’ shoes.

“Hold still!” Deacon made a grab for Reyes before he moved another step. “Something’s on the floor. I think it’s contact explosives.”

“We have to get out of here!” Reyes’ foot slipped, sending up another shower of sparks. “Why didn’t the dogs smell this?”

“Think about all the paint and stuff around. How are they going to pick out this smell? Stand still!”

Reyes had been taking tentative steps toward the door, a trail of sparks following him.

“Why didn’t this go off earlier? We were all over this all day.”

“I don’t know, Deacon. Maybe it was wet.”

“Or maybe it just got put down a little while ago,” Deacon whispered.

“Is everything all right in there?” Kacy’s voice sounded frightened.

“Yes, we’re fine. Just having a look around. We’ll be right out.” Deacon tried to sound confident, but he wasn’t. He spoke softly to his companion. “You go first, Reyes. You’re quicker than me. If I can’t get out fast enough, at least you’re all right.”

“What are you talking about? I can’t leave you in here with all this!” The officer tried to keep his voice down, but nearly lost it.

Deacon pursed his lips, shaking his head. Reyes was a family man. Deacon knew he had a wife and baby to think of.

“Don’t argue with me. Get the hell out of here. Go for the extinguisher, this place is going to blow. There’s one by the theatre entrance. Go!”

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 61

“Cindy? Hi, it’s Deacon. Is Dino there?”

She handed the phone to Dino. Deacon heard him fumble with it, answering in a slurred fashion. God, has he been drinking?

“Hiya, it’s Deacon, I had a thought. You know, the set isn’t quite done, it still needs some painting and the final light adjustments made. How about we call off the rehearsal tomorrow night, and have a work call instead. Only volunteers. What do you say? We get the cops in there in their grungy clothing, put them to work? I’ll call Reyes and discuss it, you get some rest. Let me talk to Cindy really fast.”

A few carefully chosen questions and responses told him that Dino had been contemplating drinking, but not for long, and had stopped as soon as Cindy walked in. She was putting him to bed and locking up the alcohol.

“If you need us, all you have to do is call, all right?”

“Yes, Deacon.” She hung up.

“Are you sure about this, Deacon?”

He felt a twinge in his leg as if affirming what he was thinking and feeling. “Positive.”

Kacy put her arms around him, drawing him near, her head on his chest. “Promise me you will be very careful.”

“I will. I don’t want you there.”

“You’re not my master. I can go as I please.”

“Kacy,” he hesitated, was this the right time? “I’m asking you not to. Please? I love you. If anything happened to you, I’d never forgive myself. I want….” A deep breath and a surge ahead before his strength and determination failed him. “I want to marry you,” he whispered.

Her voice caught in her throat and he thought for a moment that she was angry with him until he felt her shoulders quivering under his touch.

“Oh, yes, Deacon! I want that too, more than anything.”

Joy tinged with foreboding flooded through him from head to foot. He wanted to shout from the roof top how happy he was. He would have danced a jig if he’d not been on crutches. As it was, he lifted her up, spinning around as well as he could. He nearly fell, but he had to express his happiness in any way he could.

“Kacy, I love you! I love you.”

“I love you, Deacon, more than I can possibly tell you.”

“Will you stay home tomorrow night?”

She shook her head, tapping his chest. “I have to protect my investment. I’m with you. I have to be there to work on the lights.”

He sighed heavily, despondent for a moment. “I suppose nothing I can do or say will convince you otherwise?”

“No, I’m in for the duration. It’s personal for me, too. I don’t want to be afraid anymore. The uncertainty is driving me mad.”

“All right. Just promise you will be very careful, and not take any chances?”

“I promise if you do,” she put out her hand.

Instead of shaking it, he put it to his lips. “I promise.”

Deacon and the others stayed on edge all day. Arguments brewed for no reason. Petty, peevish fits of temper flared up every time they turned around. The rehearsal was rescheduled for the daytime and no one could concentrate on their lines, the lighting cues or the sound effects. Overall, it was the singularly most horrendous rehearsal Deacon had ever witnessed. He felt sorry for Dino. He could see the deflated demeanor.

Dino spoke to him later after the cast had finished and gone home. “I guess Cindy told you what I did last night? Can you believe it? Three years without a drink, and I almost threw it all away, over a lousy criminal. I think I’m more upset about that than this, now.”

“So you slipped up, you’re not a god, Dino. We all make mistakes, and this is one you won’t repeat.”

“Cindy said she’d cut my balls off if I even look at a bottle. Scary thing is, Deacon, I believe her!” He chuckled nervously. “I asked her to move in. I think I’ve found the real thing this time.”

“Some good came from me breaking my leg after all, eh?”

Dino laughed loudly. “Yes. Hell of a way to meet a woman, though.”

He paused so long that Deacon thought he wasn’t going to say anything more, then he spoke quietly, hardly moving his mouth. “Are you sure about this?”

“Are you?”

Dino shook his head.

“We can’t keep living in fear. We need our lives back. Either we catch him, or we don’t, but we have to do something, don’t you think?”

“Uncle Charlie used to say, the Lord helps those who help themselves. I guess this is my chance to prove that.”

“We can do this, Dino. When are they coming in?”

“They should start arriving any minute. I want the actors to go home. I told the crew that anyone who didn’t want to stay late, I’d understand. They all stayed, even the college kids. They have more balls than I have. I’m terrified.”

“We’re going to be all right, Dino. We’ll catch this bastard.”

“I hope to God you’re right.” He walked off, deep in thought.

“Me too,” Deacon murmured in his wake.

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 60

The pronouncement left the two of them speechless. They had realized they couldn’t stay on at Dino’s, but hadn’t made plans, so much had taken precedence. Their gratitude was a little stumbling, but sincere. The realized that Pete’s parents accepted their relationship, and that meant more to them than anything.

Several weeks passed with no further accidents or threats. The rehearsals were going well and the theater had been completely refurbished, the set was all but finished, and they were having a full run through. Deacon was keyed up, worried that tonight would be a perfect time for their culprit to try something else. They were all going to be in one place, with lots of coming and going, vulnerable.

Deacon hadn’t realized quite how edgy he was until Mac came up behind him, slapping him on the shoulder. Deacon jumped several inches, nearly losing his balance on his crutches. Mac’s powerful hand held him firmly, keeping him upright.

“Sorry, Deacon, didn’t mean to startle you. Just proud of our work.” He smiled, but concern tinged his features. “You’re thinking what I am, aren’t you? What if our boy decides to do something tonight?”

Deacon’s nod was perfunctory. “It’s too good an opportunity.”

The house lights went down as the play opened and Deacon heard an unexpected sound behind him. It was Obi, the florist from next door.

“Hiya, Mr. Stewart,” he whispered as he sat behind Deacon. “I’ve been wanting to see this. I’m dating the girl playing Sally.”

Sally, whose real name was Bernadette, made her first entrance, simpered up at Obi and went on with her part. She wasn’t too bad an actress, but Deacon wasn’t overly fond of women whose bust size exceeded their IQ. He suspected that Obi didn’t date her for her ability to carry on conversation. At twenty-two, he’d been the same way.

Things went smoothly until Edgars, the butler, was found hanging in the closet. The corpse got a fit of the giggles that he couldn’t suppress. The rest of the cast caught it, and Dino had to call for a short break for them all to get themselves under control. He had a lot to say to the actor playing Edgars, most of it along the lines of lacking in professionalism.

Just as the murderer was about to be revealed, the lights went out. Sally screamed and pandemonium shook the theater before Dexter got to the breaker box and got the lights back on. The main breaker had been thrown.

“It wasn’t an overload,” Dexter told Deacon, Kacy and Dino, “I checked that thing over myself, just today. I went over all the specs with Kacy. There’s no way it was an accident.”

The cast was sent home immediately. Dino didn’t want anyone to stay behind. He was on the verge of shutting the whole business down.

“No one was hurt,” Deacon told him, “we just got a scare. Tomorrow we’re more careful. No one who is not directly involved is allowed in, that’s all.”

“But Deacon, someone could have been harmed. We don’t know what was planned. You said if anything else happened, you’d support me in this.”

“I can’t make you keep this place open, Dino, but I’m gonna be damn disappointed if we bow down and kiss this punk’s ass. I refuse. If I have to stand out there myself all night tomorrow, I’ll do it, daring the bastard to take a pot shot at me.”

“Perhaps we could persuade Detective Reyes to give us a bit of protection,” Kacy said quietly. “He’s anxious to catch the culprit. If we go on with this, but we have a few policemen scattered around, maybe they can catch whoever it is. They needn’t look like policemen after all.”

“She has a point, Dino.”

The older man sighed heavily. “I’ll call Reyes, but if he says no, then I close this down, agreed?”

“Agreed,” Deacon hoped that Reyes wouldn’t disappoint them.

If Deacon read him right, Reyes would be willing to give a few men to the assignment, if it meant nailing the perp. He didn’t think Reyes was above baiting the trap either. Dino concluded his call, looking worried and put out.

“Reyes says he’ll be here with at least half a dozen people tomorrow. They’ll stake us out, inside and out. They’re off duty policemen. I told him I’d pay the overtime to pull them in. This is costing a small fortune, Deacon. I hope you know what you’re doing.”

Deacon sincerely hoped he did too. The itching of his broken leg reminded him that this was not just between the criminal and Dino, it was personal. He wanted the rehearsal to go on as planned, because he wanted the bastard caught. He had a bone to pick, quite literally, with the guy, and hoped he would get the chance.

They went home, Dino wandered forlornly into the main house by himself.

Kacy looked after him, despondent. “I feel so bad for him. He’s got more and more on his shoulders now, and it’s simply not fair.”

“No, sometimes bad things happen to good people.”

“Don’t be so bloody philosophical, Deacon. You’re as bad as whoever is doing all this.”

“How? I’m not trying to hurt anyone!”

“Not in the same way, but you’re forcing Dino, and the others, to risk themselves for your own vendetta.”

He sat quietly a moment. She was right. He picked up his phone and dialed Dino’s number. It rang several times and was answered by a woman.

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 59

Deacon chuckled, a ribald joke weaving its way up through his befuddled mind. He fought to control it, but couldn’t. “Hell, as long as she rubs it in private, who the f**k cares?”

Andy’s laugh boomed out, startling the other students who were engrossed in another argument about the next flat.

“Aw, shit, Mr. D, you’re too funny!” He dropped his voice confidentially. “She can rub anything she wants to.”

“Well don’t tell me, tell her!”

Deacon laughed happily as they exchanged a slap and a tap. Of all these kids, Andy was the most like he had been, back in the day. Tall and lanky, sun bleached blond hair, dark eyes and a broad smile. He was one smart kid, very adept and creative. He had a successful career ahead of him if he got pushed in the right direction. Deacon thought he knew which way to turn him. He realized that here he could make a difference, he could help these kids the way Mrs. Rooney had helped him. Between her and Mrs. Sanderson, they’d given him the confidence and the ability to make something of himself.

“Hey, Andy, when do you graduate?”

“End of December, Mr. D.”

“Got plans?”

He shook his head sadly. “Can’t seem to find anyone hiring. Set’s my thing. I want to work in a professional shop, get some solid experience.”

“Got a portfolio I can look at?”


“Bring it to me tomorrow. I’ll look it over. I might be able to hook you up with something.”

Bernie would kill him, but he’d be sending him talent. Andy was raw, and would need shepherding. He’d call it payback for giving out his number to Frieda. Already Deacon was planning to sub-let his apartment to the kid, and fix him up with a job working for Bernie and Maxie.

Andy returned to his crew, eager to impress Deacon. The kid was smart and capable, a little full of himself, just like Deacon was at that age.

God, was I ever that green?

Where had that young, idealistic man gone? Into business, where he’d been ripped off, cheated and castigated repeatedly over the years. Bernie had the personality that such things didn’t bother him. Maxie always gave as good as she got. She was unaffected by rudeness and ill humored people. Deacon took everything to heart. Bernie told him he was too sensitive to be in business.

“You got to be a hard nosed, Yankee bastard like me, to make it in business these days. You’re the artistic type, you don’t belong dealing with people.”

Bernie was right about that. It was Deacon’s artistry and Bernie’s moxie that kept them afloat the first couple of years. Then their reputation grew, also due to Deacon’s abilities to bring a life to a set. Was he willing to give all that up? No, but he could cut down his contact.

“Penny for your thoughts,” Kacy was sitting by him again.

“My thoughts aren’t worth that much.”

She studied his face, a worried frown playing at her eyes. “Deacon, do you want me to take you home?”

“I’m all alright, just drifting into memories. I look at these kids, it’s like seeing myself. I feel so damn old. Was I ever that idealistic?”

“Bound to have been. I was, and naive. I’m surprised I’ve survived in this business. Lots of folks, it just eats them up and spits them out.”

“You’ve got too much spunk to let anyone spit you out. I’d like to see them try.”

“You would not! Pieces tend to fly when I get angry. Little bits of people careen around, bouncing off walls. Not at all pretty. What’s really on your mind?” She could read him so accurately, it was unnerving.

“Kind of private thoughts I’d rather not share here.”

“If you don’t want to tell me, say so.” Her feelings were getting hurt.

Turning her head so he could gaze into her eyes, he leaned forward. “No, I don’t mind telling you, just not here.” He emphasized the last word so she would understand it was environmental, not emotional. “I’ll tell you about it later, okay? Scout’s honor.”

“Well, the word of a Boy Scout, I must, in fact, trust. I’ll hold you to that promise, Deacon.” She stood up, walking back to her crew, giving a little twitch to her rear end just for his benefit.

The day finally drew to a close, everyone packed up their supplies, put them in the shed and took their tools with them. The security men showed up before the workers went home, keeping track of who left when, being sure that no one went in after hours who weren’t authorized to be there. Dino was taking no chances.

With everyone accounted for, Dino activated the alarm and locked the doors. It was as secure as it could be, he only hoped it would be enough.

Kacy, Deacon and Dino had dinner at Dino’s house, prepared by Nancy. She and Everett were excited to announce they had found a condo not far away, which was fairly reasonably priced and were investing in it.

“You kids will be able to use it any time you want,” Nancy told Kacy and Deacon. “We want you to think of it as home.”

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 58

Her kiss lit him on fire, making him aware of how much he desired her. The doctor had told him to be creative, but to keep the weight off his broken leg. Deacon decided that experimentation was fun.

Kacy drove him to work the next day. The playhouse was freshly painted both inside and out. The outer doors had all new locks as did those inside. The windows had been carefully pried open and slid up like a dream. The college students had already begun putting up the set and were planning to start painting, waiting for Deacon’s approval. Proud of their work, they stood by looking expectant. They had done a hell of a job and Deacon was impressed. He suspected that the construction crew had done a little of it for them, but it was really coming together well. It looked as good as he had hoped it would.

The rest of the theater had been completely cleaned out. All the old furniture was hauled out and replaced by new, more comfortable chairs. Deacon was pleased with how much they’d accomplished in such a short time.

“We didn’t want to disappoint you,” Mac said. “We wanted you to be proud of us.”

“I’m impressed! You guys rock! I feel next to useless, you don’t even need me.”

“Nonsense! You have to show the kids how to paint, not one of them seems to have a single clue how.”

Deacon knew Mac was exaggerating, but it felt good to be needed just the same. Yawning, he slumped into a nearby chair and propped his foot on the one next to him. Blinking, he tried to focus on the set, picturing exactly how he wanted it to look.

“Sleep well?” Mac winked at him.

“Not at all, really. Would you?”

Mac grinned, glancing at Kacy who spoke animatedly with the college students volunteering for lighting crew.

“No, can’t say I would. So, when you two getting married?” Mac asked quietly.

Deacon glanced up to see if he was kidding, but the older man looked completely serious. “Hadn’t thought about it, Mac.”

“You’ve asked her, though, right?”

Embarrassed, Deacon looked away, unable to meet his accusing gaze.

“You haven’t?” his whisper got a little too loud.

“Mac, with all that’s happened, I just hadn’t thought….”

“I hear ya. I can’t say I’d have thought about it either, under the circumstances. Don’t put it off, buddy. A lady like that, you don’t want to lose.” He moved away, leaving Deacon with his thoughts.

Deacon had toyed with the idea of proposing to Kacy. He just wasn’t sure if it would be too soon after Pete’s death to be considered appropriate. Then he realized he didn’t care what anyone thought. He wanted Kacy for his very own.

Feeling his eyes on her, she turned, stopping in mid-sentence. Puzzlement wreathed her face and she waved the kids away, walking over to him. “Did you need me, then?” That funny cadence with her questions made him smile.

“Kind of, it’s been about an hour since I last got a kiss. I think I’m going all weak in the knees.”

Grinning happily, she complied, kissing him soundly on the tip of his nose. “That better now?” She started to rise, but he held her hand gently, pulling her back to sit beside him. “Something wrong? Does your leg hurt?”

“No, nothing’s wrong. I’m just going to sit here and supervise.”

She gave him a funny look, but went back to work. He thought about what Mac had said. Why hadn’t he proposed? He’d considered it, but something held him back. Was it the feeling of wondering if this was another rebound fling? He didn’t think so, but never having had a good, secure relationship with a woman, he didn’t know. Maybe it was the idea that whatever he did, Pete had done first. Perhaps that was what held him back, fear of being once again in Pete’s shadow. He didn’t want his proposal to be anticlimactic.

“Hey, Mr. D!”

It was one of the college kids. They called him Mr. D and Dino Mr. S. Deacon focused on the group with a little difficulty. He was taking pain pills instead of having shots, now that he was out of the hospital, and they sometimes made him a little groggy.

“We need your mediation,” one of the girls said. “Andy says the flat goes here,” she had the others hold the flat in place. “But I say it goes this way, cheating the angle up a little to stage right. Which of us is stupid?”

Deacon laughed, rubbing his face to wake himself up a little. “Well, Missy, I’d hate to say either of you was stupid, but you happen to be right. It’s one of those angles I smoothed out for Kacy so it wouldn’t be so hard to light.”

“Told you!” She flounced off, likely to be insufferable the rest of the day.

Andy sidled over and squatted in front of Deacon’s chair. He had a pained look on his face as he stared at Missy’s ass in her low riding, tight blue jeans. She had a tattoo of a feather just above the line of her jeans.

“You had to tell her she’s right,” he shook his head in mock despair. “She’s gonna rub that in a really long time, you know that.”

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 57

Deacon went into the examination room by himself. Kacy preferred to wait outside, pacing up and down the sidewalk restlessly the entire time. If Dr. Connors thought it was peculiar, he didn’t say. Pleased with the progress, he decided to keep Deacon in the brace.

“With the pins, you’re good and stable. A little careful planning and you’ll be fine,” he cautioned.

As they walked to the door, Dino was waiting at the desk. “Anything the insurance won’t cover, send the bill to me.”

“Yes, Mr. Sawyer, of course.” The office manager wasn’t going to argue with him. People as powerful and influential as Mr. Sawyer didn’t walk into their office every day. She was somewhat intimidated, but his charm and glittering smile won her over in seconds.

Deacon was amazed at Dino’s way with people. He loved to watch his friend in action, secretly envying his easygoing aplomb. It wasn’t just money that made Dino generous. Even if he’d been poor, he’d have shared his last penny with someone who had none.

“We’re going to dinner,” Dino declared as they walked back out to his car.

“I’m not sure I’m up for that, Dino,” Deacon declared.

“Oh, come on, it will be fun,” Kacy went up on her toes, kissing him playfully on the nose.

“What’s going on?” Deacon’s naturally suspicious nature was alerted.

“What makes you say that?” Dino was being evasive.

“Call it a hunch. What’s up?”

Dino chuckled and winked at Kacy, as he put the car in gear and pulled into traffic. After crossing the bridge, they turned into the parking lot of the North Woods restaurant a few minutes later. It was the same place the first party had been held and he wasn’t surprised to see the cast and crew members in the private dining room, drinking and schmoozing.

“You bastard.” Deacon grinned, swinging in on his crutches. He hadn’t ever broken his leg before, but one part he’d had in high school had required crutches, so he had become proficient in their use.

The older ladies, led by Mrs. Cooper, who was the unofficial grande dame of the theater society, descended upon him in a flurry of motherly welcome. Nancy and Everett were there too, sitting a little apart from the rowdy crew of construction workers and college kids.

Deacon was seated in a place of honor, in the largest booth in the room, a comfy stool placed under his leg, crutches set aside. When dinner was served, the women nearly came to blows over who would serve his plate. Kacy almost won by default, but when Nancy said she claimed the honor, no one argued.

Like Kacy, she seemed instinctively to know what he liked best, and brought a plate heaped with good food. Kacy brought his tea and sat beside him with her plate in front of her. Deacon invited Nancy and Everett to join them. Nancy did so graciously, but Everett looked uncomfortable.

After they ate, Deacon declared a need for the facilities. “I don’t think I can manage solo. Would you go with me, Mr. Du Champs?”

The older man looked rather chagrined, but reluctantly agreed to accompany him. It was as well he did, the door opened outward and was quite heavy. Deacon would have been in dire straits without him. A few awkward minutes later, they were heading out for the bathroom, when Deacon stopped Ev with a hand on his arm.

“Mr. Du Champs, I don’t want to take his place. I don’t expect you to feel about me as you did Pete. For the sake of the ladies, please put any animosity you feel for me aside.”

Everett’s face paled. “How do you do that?” He looked almost horrified, but Deacon realized it was shock. “How do you know what I’m going to say before I even say it? I swear, Pete could do the same damn thing! He always knew what I was thinking.”

Everett nearly broke down, but as other men were coming into the bathroom, he held himself in check with a great effort. He opened the door again for Deacon to shuffle through, letting it bang shut nearly in the face of another man. Ev hardly saw him.

“I was about to apologize for my behavior. I have been less than welcoming, and I know it. I’m not proud of how I’ve behaved.”

“But you were afraid that I expected you to accept me as your son.”

Everett nodded, ashamed to meet Deacon’s eyes. Deacon placed a hand on the older man’s shoulder.

“I don’t expect that at all, but I’d like us to be friends. You know, maybe sneak out for a beer once in a while.”

Ev chuckled in a conspiratorial manner. “Nancy doesn’t like me to drink beer. She says it’s course and common. To be honest, I enjoy a good beer, once in a while. Why there was this little place in Amsterdam….”

The rest of the evening, they exchanged stories and found how much they had in common. Kacy was delighted. She didn’t know what Deacon had said to Ev, but it had made all the difference. When the Karaoke machine was brought out, Deacon and Ev sang a few songs together, including Seven Bridges Road by the Eagles. Dino, Dexter and Mac hopped in to help them with harmony.

After a couple of hours, Deacon got tired. A sudden rush of pain shot through his leg and he realized he’d had enough for one evening. Once home, Deacon started toward the small bedroom, but Kacy stopped him.

“Nancy and Ev are spending the night at Dino’s. We have the place to ourselves. I’ve got clean sheets in the master bedroom, just waiting to be mussed up.”

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 56

“Deacon, that must have been dreadful for you. If you will forgive an old woman an alarming correlation, that is exactly when Peter died.”

Deacon’s eyes filled with tears and he wept for the brother he had never known. Nancy held him comfortingly in her arms as he tried to compose himself. The stress, pain and uncertainty of the last few days had come to a head, and he expressed it the only way he knew how. He couldn’t remember ever having cried like that since childhood, but it was a marvelous sensation of relief, as if a weight had been lifted off him.

Somehow, it was no longer his fault. He hadn’t been a wimp, or some kind of psychotic freak. It was his psyche recognizing that a part of him had been wrenched away. Although it didn’t diminish his episode, it put it into perspective. In a way, he felt better knowing.

The days passed slowly for Deacon, who felt trapped in the house, even with all the things he had to distract or entertain him. He had always been a man of action, and he was bored out of his mind. The cast and crew members came by to see him. Kacy and Nancy spent a lot of time with him. Dino came and visited periodically. One of the private duty nurses he had hired was Cindy. Dino’s visits often, coincidentally, happened to be during the time she was with Deacon.

The only person who rarely put in an appearance was Everett. He almost seemed to be avoiding Deacon. For his own sake, Deacon didn’t really mind. He felt the man needed his space, but it disturbed Nancy and Kacy. They kept apologizing for Ev’s behavior. Nothing Deacon said to excuse him made any impression. It was a man thing, and he respected that.

“The last thing I want to do is force myself on him. He’ll come to accept me in his own time. You have to realize, he thinks of me as an interloper.”

“How could you possibly know that?”

Kacy was shocked. Ev had used that exact word the night before when he was talking to her and Nancy after Deacon went to sleep.

“Because that’s how I’d feel. I never had the kind of relationship of a father and son, but I can imagine how I’d feel in his shoes.” He shrugged. “I’d hate me, too.”

“He doesn’t hate you, Deacon….” Nancy began, but couldn’t in good conscience continue.

Ev didn’t hate him, but he resented Deacon and the place he now had in their lives. He considered Kacy’s affection for Deacon as a betrayal.

“He doesn’t want me ever to find anyone again. He wants me to be a grieving widow the rest of my life!” Kacy told Deacon later that day, when they were alone.

Patting the couch next to him, he encouraged her to sit and stop pacing. “He doesn’t want that, Kacy. But it’s only natural he doesn’t want you to replace Pete so soon. He died such a short time ago.”

“That’s just it! Pete died as soon as that bomb went off under him, only his body didn’t know it! I sat by that bed day after day, praying he would come back to me, and he never did, not for a minute. I couldn’t even say a proper goodbye. What I had put from my mind, is that Pete and I were growing apart, even before that. Our lives were going in such different directions, it was amazing we had lasted as long as we did.”

“Have you told his parents this?”

She shook her head. “I didn’t want to hurt them any more than I already had. Taking him off life support was the hardest decision I ever made. It’s what Pete wanted, though. He was always so full of life! I couldn’t watch him like that another day, not another hour. I never stopped loving him, I just wasn’t in love, if you understand what I mean.”

“I think so. What about us, Kacy? Do you think we’ll last?”

“No one can ever go into a relationship, knowing that for sure, but with all my heart, I want us to. I can’t help thinking, that when I married Pete, I got it wrong. I think the man I was supposed to be with, was you.”

Their embrace was infused with desire which couldn’t be satisfied. Frustration born of lust filled them both, causing an ache—deep and brutal, in their chests.

“I don’t care what the doctor says, Kacy. I want you more than I can even tell you.”

“No, Deacon, no. I want you too! But not until the doctor’s seen that leg. Just a little longer. We go this afternoon. Please.”

Her voice held a plaintive note of desperation. He couldn’t help touching her, kissing her, exploring her body with his hands, hardly able to control his need for her. Reluctantly, he stopped, pulling away from her with a Herculean effort. She rose to go. Leaving him alone was probably the cruelest thing she could have done, but the best under the circumstances. She didn’t come back until it was time for them to go to the doctor’s office.

They hardly spoke all the way to the office. In fact, Dino, who was driving them, worried that they had, had an argument.

“No, nothing like that, Dino. I promise. It’s bloody complicated,” Kacy said, walking ahead of them a few feet. She opened the door, walking in by herself.

Deacon told Dino in very brief, and well edited terms, what the problem was.

Aside from blushing deeply, Dino said nothing but, “Oh, I see.”

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 55

“I can’t believe you asked him about that!” Kacy giggled nervously, blushing furiously.

Deacon took her hand, drawing her to him. “Do you think I’m going to wait for you any longer than I have to? It was bad enough having the bruise on my leg. This is torture! I don’t know if I can go another week!”

“You will if I have to chain you to the bed and douse you with cold water.” She giggled at the thought. “If it’s any consolation it’s no easier on me than on you.”

His hand traced her face, her neck and down her body. A sharp knock at the door startled them both. Karmina walked in to give him a care package.

“Doc says you’re leaving, so I brought this by early instead of waiting for dinner. I hope they feed you good at home, I’d hate to make that trip three times a day!”

“Karmina, you’re the best there is. Why if I weren’t a married man, I believe I’d give you a big kiss.”

“Oooh, listen to you! You bad thing you! You are one feisty, bad boy and that’s for damn sure! Ms. Stewart, you got to keep this boy on a leash!” But she loved the attention and allowed Deacon to give her a kiss on her cheek. “I declare, I will miss you.” She left, singing happily.

All that was left to do was wait until the nurse came in with the papers to sign. It annoyed Deacon how long the process took but he couldn’t speed it up, so he did his best to be patient.

Finally, he was being wheeled out to Dino’s car, lifted in and settled. His gifts and flowers were carried down and put carefully in the back by Karmina and the orderly.

“I’ve hired a nurse to take care of you until you’re self sufficient. I rented you a wheel chair and a walker. The doctor said you could use that or crutches. This is going to be fun!”

Deacon laughed, exchanging a look with Kacy over the back seat. “It’s gonna be great,” he concurred, not wanting to hurt Dino’s feelings.

He hadn’t realized how much just coming home was going to take out of him. By the time he got in the door and settled on the recliner in front of the TV, he was exhausted. His eyes drifted shut until he fell into a light doze. He roused some time later to a light tapping on the door. When no one came to answer it, he called out, “Come in!”

Hesitantly, the door opened and Nancy poked her head around the door expectantly.

“Kacy asked me to look in on you, she had to go out. I made you something.” She carried a basket with a cloth napkin over it and set it down on the couch next to him with a happy smile on her face.

“I realize that all the comparisons to Peter must be awkward for you, but I’m afraid for a time it will be inevitable. That being said, I’ve brought you a little goody basket of his favorite treats. I’ll understand if you don’t like them all, but it would please me for you to try them.”

Deacon picked up the basket, peering inside. Some of the treats he didn’t recognize, others he did, and liked all of them. He had miniature pecan pies, meringue cookies, double chocolate chip bars, all of them homemade. She must have been working for hours. He made grateful comments and sampled one treat after another. At the bottom, he found a package of peanut butter fudge.

“Oh, I love this stuff! My last foster mother used to make this at Christmas, and I’d get in trouble for sneaking pieces behind her back.”

Nancy’s eyes filled with happy tears. “I can’t tell you the number of scoldings Peter got for exactly the same thing! He was positively addicted to that stuff.”

While Deacon nibbled one treat after another, she went to the kitchen and made them each a cup of coffee. She brought cups, cream and sugar to the living room and set it on the low table in front of them. Handing Deacon a cup, she offered the tray to him so he could prepare his coffee himself.

“Peter always made terrible coffee. It was like drinking dirty water. He could never get it right. I like a cup of coffee so strong, it will put hair on a man’s chest.”

Deacon laughed, spewing a few crumbs on his lap. “I make my coffee black as I can get it. I can’t stand weak coffee.”

“Do you mind telling me a little about your life? I really want to get to know you, Deacon. Not as Pete’s shadow, but as an individual man. I think that’s very important, don’t you?”

“Yes, ma’am, I do.”

“Don’t think too badly of Ev for not being too forthcoming. He and Peter were always so close, as if they knew what the other was thinking. This has been quite a shock to him, and he feels almost betrayed by Kacy’s obvious affection for you.”

“Things just sort of happened between us, Nancy. As a matter of fact, she didn’t even like me when we met. She called me a grungy flunky and a buffoon.” He grinned over his coffee cup.

Nancy’s laugh was light, silvery, like chimes ringing in a breeze. “She’s never been shy, that girl! Tell me how you met.”

She listened attentively to his description. One thing Deacon prided himself on was being able to tell a story well. It helped having an appreciative audience. Nancy hung on every word, laughing in all the right places.

She asked him some very pointed and penetrating questions about himself as a child. She was so full of regret after a while, that he edited much of the early years and dwelt mostly on the happier years while he was in high school.

“How did you happen to come down here?”

Feeling at ease with this woman who had only recently been a stranger, he unburdened to her all the problems he’d had. He was candid with her, even giving a detailed description of his drug induced episode. Her face grew pale as he told her what had happened to him and when.

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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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

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