Time for another chat with Dellani Oakes. Thank you, Karen, for sharing my interview!
Jason and the team are getting dinner ready and Jason gives in to despair, thinking about Orchid.
“Not a bad idea. We can coordinate that tomorrow. I think his input would be very useful.”
“Thank you. I apologize for the nosedive into the pity pool. Not my best behavior.” He wiped his eyes on the back of his hand. “Blame the fucking onions.”
Greg thumped him on the back. Taylor squeezed his arm.
“You lot are the best friends I’ve ever had. What’s that say for me, eh?” He rubbed his eyes again and washed his hands.
“Says a hell of a lot about you, Jason,” Greg said. “We’re a close bunch. We’ve accepted you like one of us—I think I can speak for all of us on that. You may not wear a badge, but you’re one of the team. Don’t you think, Tay?”
“I do,” she replied. “Not easy to accomplish in a couple days. Greg, go see how the burgers are coming, huh? I’m going to check the beans.” She turned to the oven, taking out a couple pot holders.
Greg glanced at the two of them, then walked out to the deck.
“He’s right,” she said. “We’re very close. And you are like one of us. You’ve become part of our team without even trying, Jason. We can do this, but only with your help. You’re our ace in the hole.”
She pulled the beans out and set them down before shutting the oven door. Taking the mitts off, she put her hands on either side of his face.
“You can do this. We’re here.”
“I really want to kiss you, Taylor.”
“I know. But the guys are coming in.”
“Bloody hell,” he muttered, moving quickly away.
“Put it away!” Greg yelled, covering his eyes. “Put up that lethal weapon, Jason, before I call the cops!”
“Not killed anyone with it yet,” Jason laughed, grabbing his crotch. “Damn thing’s withering from disuse.”
They joked and laughed more on that subject, bantering back and forth making sexual jokes. Even Taylor got in the game, teasing each of the men about his self-perceived gifts.
“What I want to know,” Greg said, leaning across the table toward Taylor. “Does size matter? I mean, there’s the jokes and all. But really?”
“Well,” she swallowed her potato salad. “I’m not that much of an expert. But I have to say, that yes, to an extent. It’s got to be big enough to get to those hard to reach places. And trust me, nothing run on batteries does the job like the home grown variety.”
The men were stunned. She usually didn’t speak so openly about sex.
“What have you done with the real Taylor?” Greg asked, staring at her.
“Yeah—but you usually don’t answer.”
She shrugged, swirling her tea in her glass. “Men talk about sex all the time. What makes you think women are any different?”
“How much do you talk?” Greg wanted to know, suddenly worried.
“Don’t panic, cowboy. If they ask about you, I make things up. You’ll be glad to know that I’ve been very complimentary.”
“Thanks.” He sounded offended. “You couldn’t just go through with it and tell the truth?”
“Does it really matter?”
“Yes! Because in my version, I’m actually getting laid!”
She laughed, punching his shoulder.
“Why didn’t you ever?” He asked quietly. “We were so close.” He seemed to have forgotten the others.
They sat silently, waiting to see what she would say. All of them, including Jason, were curious.
Taylor must have felt she owned Greg an explanation. She fiddled with her glass some more, then focused on his eyes.
“I had a horrible relationship go belly up on me a few years ago—before I met any of you. It was terribly, dangerously abusive. I had a tough time getting out. A couple good friends finally intervened and got me away from him. But it was ages before I could stand to be around anyone. And men terrified me. Lots of therapy, friendly advice, and spiritual guidance, I’m getting past it. But it’s been really hard. I made myself a promise that I wasn’t going to get involved like that again until I was sure I was ready. I really thought I was, Greg. But each time we got close, I knew I wasn’t. And I’m so sorry, because you’re one of the greatest guys I know. I wish it could have been you. I really do.”
She got up from the table and ran to the restroom next to the basement stairs. They could hear her crying, but none of them made any move to go after her until Jason stood. He motioned with his head for the men to go to the other room. They moved silently away. Tapping on the door, he waited until she unlocked it.
“I knew it would be you,” she said quietly, sitting on the closed toilet lid.
Jason leaned on the sink, folding his arms.
“You’re the only one brave enough to come in.” She sniffled, wiping her eyes with her fingers.
“Or dumb enough.” He handed her the guest towel.
© Dellani Oakes
To Purchase Dellani’s Books:
Under the Western Sky http://www.tirgearrpublishing.com/authors/Oakes_Dellani/under-the-western-sky.htm
The Reality Behind the Fiction. What were the bikers really after?
Sea of Destiny – Part 11. Kyle and Carmelita are chatting as they board the ship. He compliments her by saying she looks like an Amazon Queen. Carmelita isn’t sure at first if he’s giving her a compliment.
Under the Western Sky is a retro-romance, set in the spring of 1978. Libby Marshal and Bobby Menendez have been friends since childhood. Only recently have they decided to give dating a try. Little do they know that their near perfect world is about to crash around them.
Bobby’s friend, Danny, is white. He and his father are being forced to join a white supremacist’s group that neither of them wants to join. By threatening their family, the leaders coerce Danny into doing their dirty work – attacking, possibly killing, Bobby.
Is their friendship enough to save Bobby and keep Danny from doing something horribly wrong? Can Libby and Bobby overcome racial prejudice? Read Under the Western Sky to find out.
Reluctantly, Bobby left, waiting until Libby had locked her door behind him. Strolling across the street, he was thinking about Libby and how much he loved her, when someone got out of a car just down from his mother’s house.
Acting like he didn’t notice, he walked slightly faster to his front porch. If he made enough noise, Jim would hear him and come out. He wasn’t scared, not yet. The other person came forward until he stood under the streetlight. It was Danny. His face was bland, expressionless, which was more frightening than seeing anger. If he’d been mad, it would mean he still cared.
Bobby faced his former best friend, checking the car and shadows to see if the bigger boy was alone. Bobby didn’t see anyone else, but that didn’t mean they weren’t there.
“Roberto, you and I need to talk.”
Bobby held his arms out from his body, shrugging. “I’m here, amigo. Talk.” He said loudly, hoping someone would hear.
Danny didn’t move, his hands in the pockets of his jacket. He spoke quietly, calmly.
“You know I didn’t beat Ramon, right?”
“I know you were there. I can’t believe you’d hit him with a fucking bat. That’s not your style.”
Danny’s mouth quirked and he dropped his head. “What is my style?”
“Take a swing, kick his ass, but a bat’s bad form. You weren’t ever a cheat, Dan.”
“Really?” The reply was dry, sarcastic, not Danny’s usual style either.
Something was wrong. It was a warm night. Why was Danny wearing a jacket? Why were his hands in his pockets? Bobby knew he was in trouble. It was late, his friends and family were going to bed, and, despite Toby’s warnings, he was alone.
“You know, Danny,” he said rather too loudly. “That was a cheap shot you did to his balls. Were you trying to emasculate him or just mess him up so he couldn’t take your woman?”
“I didn’t do that, Bobby. You have to believe me. That wasn’t my idea.”
“I hope not because I’d hate to be the man who did that to Ramon. Whoever did better hope he recovers full use, or he’s gonna wish he’d killed my cousin. Because Ramon will come after whoever it was. And that man will die badly. Make no mistake.”
“Nobody needs to die here, Bobby.” Danny was getting nervous.
“What’s in your pocket, Daniel?” Bobby took a step toward his friend.
“Don’t come near me,” Danny cautioned, holding out his left hand like a stop sign. His right hand stayed in his pocket.
“Lemme see,” Bobby took another step. “We never used to have secrets. We’re brothers, remember? When we were ten, we cut our hands and did blood brothers.”
“Bobby, I mean it. Don’t come any closer.” His voice shook, his left hand trembling.
“Gonna shoot me, Danny? Is that the plan? You gonna come and kill your best friend? Is that what it takes to be part of the clan? Sever your ties, kill the Mexican vermin. Jesus, Danny, did our friendship mean so little?”
“Don’t, Bobby. Stop. I mean it!” He yelled, yanking the gun out of his pocket.
The streetlight glittered on the barrel of a snub nosed .38 revolver. Danny’s hand shook, but he kept the gun trained on Bobby.
“Drop the gun, Danny. Fight me like a man. You never needed a weapon against me. Don’t you think you can take me? I’m half your size.”
He was willing his friend to come closer, begging him in his mind to drop the weapon and let down his guard, but it wasn’t happening—yet. He kept talking, taking little steps closer. The gun didn’t drop. Danny’s hand shook uncontrollably. The closer Bobby got, the more danger he was in that the gun would go off by mistake.
He reminded Danny of every time they had been there for one another, all the pranks they had played, how their mothers called them the Dastardly Duo. Each statement started as an “I remember when,” cataloging the last ten years of their lives. Tears formed in Danny’s eyes but he blinked them away. When he was close enough, Bobby stopped moving.
Danny’s arm was within reach, the gun leveled at Bobby’s forehead. Steadier now, it didn’t waver. He shifted his grip on the gun and Bobby moved. Lunging at his friend, he grabbed the barrel of the gun, pulling Danny toward him, catching him off balance.
With an easy shift of his hands, he put pressure on Danny’s wrist, forcing him to drop the gun. Bobby kicked it away, slamming his elbow into Danny’s chin. The other boy should have dropped, but Bobby hadn’t hit him hard enough. A vestige of their friendship remained, tattered and shredded as it was.
Danny tried to head butt Bobby, but the young Mexican man dodged, pulling Danny further off balance by a shift of his weight. Knocking his friend down, Bobby flipped Danny on his face, holding his arm up behind him as his foot pressed into the white boy’s shoulder. Hand at an awkward and painful angle, Danny screamed as he felt his shoulder pop out of the socket.
The Importance of Setting. Location, location, location
During their workout, the security team comes in to give their report. The lead technician is very impressed by Jason’s knowledge and skill. They declare the house bug free and they installed the extra security as requested.
Jason wasn’t eager to get the chip he’d been promised, but decided it was better than feeling completely alone. It was better than an ankle bracelet and preferable to nothing, but still…. It was too much end of days, Revelations, for him. After his swim and shower, he accepted it stoically. Taylor held his other hand while Spence inserted it in his arm.
“I feel like a bar code,” he said. “Shall I set things off at the airport?”
Tim laughed. “No. It’s all good. You’ll be fine.”
“Mark of the Beast,” Jason said, rubbing his skin over the bandage. “Only thing I remember from Sunday school.”
Taylor stilled his roving hand by taking it in hers. “Think of it this way instead. If anything happens, we’ll be able to find you. Unlike a cellphone, watch or anklet, this can’t get thrown away easily.” She put her fingers on his arm. “It’s your insurance, Jason.”
“And yours, that I can’t get away.”
“You don’t want to get away,” she said softly.
“True that. I’m hopelessly hooked on you—lot….”
Tim cleared his throat and the other men turned away.
“Pity party’s over,” Jason said briskly. “What’s for dinner?”
“You’re not cooking?” Taylor asked.
“I’ll help cook. I’m not deciding.”
“Breakfast,” Greg said. “It’s the only thing I can cook on my own.”
“Kind of hard to cook for a crowd,” Tim said.
“Don’t want pizza,” Taylor said, wrinkling her nose.
“Boss has spoken,” Jason said.
“How about hamburgers? I think I saw all that stuff in there,” Taylor suggested.
“That works. I’ve got a nice grill, never been used.”
“Charcoal or gas?” Tim asked.
“Not sure. My contractor told me I couldn’t have that beautiful a backyard view without a deck and a grill. Never had any time to use it.”
“We’ll cook. You’ll stay inside,” Tim stated firmly.
“Not arguing.” Jason held up his hands in feigned helplessness.
“We’ll see what we’ve got. How many of us are there?” Alex asked. “Never mind. I’ll do a head count.”
Fortunately, they had enough frozen burgers to feed everyone two. They also had chips, potato salad, coleslaw and baked beans.
“Someone planned a cookout for us,” Greg said as he munched on a chip.
“Grill’s gas. I guess I can’t complain too much,” Tim said sullenly. “I prefer charcoal.”
“Too much messing with charcoal,” Alex said, clicking tongs together. “If you won’t do the honors, I will.”
“Be my guest. I’ll supervise.”
They walked outside together. Anyone not paying close attention wouldn’t have noticed that while Alex cooked, Tim kept a careful eye on the yard and its surroundings.
“Hard to remember why we’re all here,” Jason said quietly to Taylor as they fixed iced tea. “Then I have this flash of panic that she’s found me and we’re all going to die.”
“She’s lying low, you said so yourself. If she’s smart, she’ll stay that way for a long time.”
“We’ll hear from her again. She’s too driven, too psychotic to stop. I could have quit this life ages ago if I’d wanted to. Once I got my business set up and this house complete, that was the plan.”
“That can still be the plan,” Taylor replied.
“Yeah.” He stopped working, leaning against the counter, shaking his head. “Maybe it would’ve been better if she’d killed me.”
“Don’t you dare talk like that!” Taylor said sharply. “It wouldn’t! The families of those six people are counting on you. So is the judge.”
“What if I can’t do it, Taylor? What if we don’t stop her and she does it again?”
“Enough!” Greg said loudly. “We’ll do it. You have to believe that. I know it seems like we’re not doing anything but she is being hunted. I think we need to let Jason see the leads, Tay. If he got a look at that, maybe he’d feel more like he was really part of this.”
© Dellani Oakes
To Purchase Dellani’s Books:
Under the Western Sky http://www.tirgearrpublishing.com/authors/Oakes_Dellani/under-the-western-sky.htm
After a successful day at the firing range, Jason and the team decide to workout. The men find out a little more about Jason’s personal life.
“Been lots of women?” Tim asked.
“A good few. None serious. Hard to settle down and have a real life with a job like mine. Which is one reason I’ve set up my business. So I can retire. Investments and security consultants. I can make a mint. Easier to have a woman in my life then.” He sighed heavily. “Been hankering for some stability. Even thought about a dog.”
“If this works out, you may be able to do all that, Jason. The judge likes you for some reason. She’s willing to look at this as time served. Might even set aside the rest of your sentence if we catch Orchid.”
“What’s been done about that?” He went in his bathroom, leaving the door ajar so they could talk.
“All those people in your living room are looking for her. They’re following tips and leads from all over. The international contingent’s arrived and working in the office and on the street looking for signs of her.”
“She’ll lie low,” Jason said. “Won’t call attention to herself for awhile yet, if she’s smart. I’d go to ground and stay there after this kind of cluster fuck. She blew it good and proper.”
“Got to make me wonder why she didn’t shoot you in the head and finish you off.”
“Been wondering that myself. Why leave it to chance? Not that she didn’t do a good job,” he replied. “I have it on expert authority that I was damn near gone when they found me.”
“Where’d she get you?”
Jason pointed to an area just to the right of his groin and to his left chest. “I had a vest on, though she didn’t know it. She laughed as she shot me. Told me she’d thought of shooting me in the cock, but couldn’t live with herself for destroying something so beautiful. Lousy, two-faced, harridan.”
“Better to kill you instead of blowing off your cock? Weird.”
“And then some. Though once I’d lived through it, I was happy.”
Tim laughed, grabbing his own crotch protectively. “Oh, yeah!”
Taylor knocked on the door, putting her head around when they laughed. She was dressed in the navy suit with a pair of white shorts. Her hair was braided and she carried a towel over her shoulder.
“Ready?” Her weapon was in a shoulder holster.
Jason grabbed a towel from the linen closet, tossing it to Tim. He pulled out another for himself and they headed down the spiral stair. The other two men were already working out on the weights when they came down. Alex was spotting Greg on the bench.
Taylor slipped off her shorts and holster. The men got quiet, watching her as the shorts passed her sleek hips.
“Tongues back in your mouths,” she commanded without turning around. “I’m a crack shot and I’m not afraid to us this.”
“Sorry,” they apologized in unison.
“Never saw you this close to naked before,” Greg said quietly. “Damn!”
“I will throw you in the pool,” she told him angrily. “If you ever look at me like that again.”
“I have to look, Tay. But I won’t drool.”
“That’s fair. Take your shirt off,” she countered.
“If you’re gonna look, I’m gonna look. Shirts off. All of you.”
They complied without protest. Taylor smiled and dove into the pool. She swam laps steadily, smoothly, her lean body making very little turbulence in the pool. She hit the opposite wall doing an interesting flip turn without coming out of the water. Her movement was hypnotic.
The men continued to watch her until Jason realized he’d been standing there, mesmerized, for fully five minutes. He dove in himself, creating much more noise and motion. This seemed to break the spell for the others, who found things to do in the gym.
“We’re leaving now,” the head technician told Tim from the doorway. “We got everything checked. Place is clean as a whistle. The peepholes are in and we got the chip to Spence since you didn’t go by the office.”
“Forgot all about it,” Tim smacked himself. “Thanks, Toby.”
“No problem. Nice setup. Whoever put this place together knew his shit.”
“He’s in the pool,” Tim nodded toward the water.
“That kid? Hell, I’d like to talk to him sometime. He knows damn near more than me. Impressive.” He nodded. “Catch you later.”
“See you!” Tim half saluted the other man. They were the same rank, but had been friends for years. Toby had earned Tim’s respect more than once.
© Dellani Oakes
Despite his misgivings, Jason proves to be a natural shot. He admits that he has experience with airsoft and paintball guns, but not real weapons. Invigorated by his experience, he shows off a little of his pickpocket abilities.
“How the hell did you get all that? When?” She grabbed her lipgloss possessively.
“Moments ago. Don’t worry, I’d never keep it.” He blew her a kiss. “Not my color.”
She swatted him, laughing.
“Handy tricks,” Tim said. “What else can you do?”
“This stuff’s easy,” Jason said. “You should see me play cards.” He winked. “Never, ever play a serious game of poker with me. I’ll wipe you all out. I play for fun and to see what I can get away with. I’ll show you what to look for.”
They practiced another hour or so, but didn’t make nearly the progress Jason wanted with his left hand.
“I’ll get you back here with Lloyd,” Tim said. “He’s left handed and can give you some pointers. We’ll set something up for later this week. Meanwhile, let’s police the area. Leave it like we found it!”
They set up fresh targets, put away the safety gear and stowed everything where it had come from.
Greg took out the garbage and the rest of them cleaned up inside until the facility was as perfect as it had been before they used it.
“Thank you,” Jason said, shaking Tim’s hand. “I feel much better. Won’t feel perfect until we catch Orchid, but at least I feel less of a target. Can I leave a note for your brother?”
“Sure.” He found paper and a pen for Jason.
The was far longer than Tim anticipated. Glancing at it over Jason’s shoulder, he laughed. The writing was tiny, precise and perfectly lined, although it was typing paper.
“What’s all this?”
“He’s got some security issues. I made a few suggestions. His safe for one. I could get through it with a pair of nail clippers and a set of tweezers.”
Tim laughed, shaking his head. “You’re kidding!”
“Serious. I’d open it, but that’d be bad manners.”
“I’m not sure how much he’ll appreciate this,” Tim said glumly.
“He’ll appreciate it. Might piss him off a bit, but I’ll bet he fixes it up. Leave it in the cash register.” He thumped it with his fist and the drawer popped open. “That’s number two after the safe.”
He winked, strutting after Greg to the SUV. He hopped in the back and Alex slid in after him.
“Cocky, English bastard,” Tim said, laughing. He put the note to his brother in the cash register and closed the drawer. “Wonder if I should warn him that it’s there?” He asked Taylor.
“It will make more impact if he sees it on his own,” she replied.
“Yeah. That’s what I’m afraid of.”
They talked about their day as they drove back to Jason’s house by a different route. It took longer than Jason anticipated, but he figured Tim was mixing it up some in case they were being followed.
There were more vehicles in his driveway and several people moved around looking important. They were armed technicians, checking his house. Instead of staying around in their way, he and the team went upstairs. There too, they found a great deal of activity.
“Fancy a game of bowling?” Jason asked casually. “Gets us out of the way. Or perhaps some poker?”
“I want to learn how to lift Taylor’s lipgloss,” Greg said with a chuckle.
“Got to find it first,” she said with a smirk. “I moved it.”
“Yeah?” Jason said. “Nice spot. Easy.” He held it up again.
Taylor snatched at it, face flushing as she tried not to laugh. “Oh, you bad man! How did you know?”
“Women have a tendency to use purses, pockets or bras. You’re not carrying a purse, it wasn’t in your pocket….” He smirked, handing it back to her. “I prefer that hiding place,” he said, eyeing her chest. “More of a challenge.”
“I should beat you for that,” she snarled. However, she couldn’t hide her smile.
“You could do. But I might enjoy it.”
“Enough!” Greg said loudly. “Forget I said anything.”
He was angry, jealous and the exchange had made him realize once more how attracted he still was to Taylor himself. He’d been that close to her breasts once or twice, but not lately.
“Sorry, mate. I forget there’s other blokes as hard up as me.” He winked at Greg.
The tall, rangy agent punched him in the chest, knocking back a step. Laughing, they tussled like a couple of kids, sissy-slapping one another ineffectively.
“I’ll take your sorry ass back on the mat,” Greg said with a smile.
“I’d rather go for a swim. That’s my element. I love the water.”
“I think I’d rather lift weights,” Tim said. “You’ve got a nice gym set up. How about we head down for a workout?”
“I’m up for it,” Taylor said. “You said something about a suit? I think I’d like to swim.”
“Check the top drawer.” He nodded toward the dresser, then balked.
“Um, better yet, I shall. Gents, need trunks?” He slid quickly past her.
“I’ve got some,” Greg replied, pointing over his shoulder. “Alex?”
“I’m set. I’ll meet you downstairs.”
“We’ll come through the spiral,” Tim said. “Keeps us out of the way. You change, kid. Taylor?”
“I’ll go in my room,” she replied when Jason handed her a one piece, navy blue suit. “Thanks.” She shut the door behind her.
“What didn’t you want her to see?”
Jason blushed. “I forgot that’s where I stashed my supplies. Somewhat embarrassing for her to find the suits amongst the condoms, eh?”
Tim laughed, nodding. “Yeah. Why do you have women’s suits?”
“Girls like hot tubs and pools. Sometimes we decide on a swim before or after—during….” He shrugged, grabbing his baggies. “Different sizes, styles. Didn’t think she was a pink thong kind of girl though. All clean. I buy new and send them home as a souvenir.”
© Dellani Oakes