Introducing So Much It Hurts – A New Novel by Dellani Oakes

Coming November 1, 2017 from Tirgearr Publishing – So Much It Hurts! This delightful romance is set in a big city somewhere up north. I’ve never given it a name, and the residents refer to it as The City.

Pia Donovan is a small town girl. Newly in the City from a tiny town in Nebraska, she is overwhelmed by the fast pace. After a long day of getting lost in the worst part of town, she arrives at her destination; an historic, grand hotel in the downtown area. Picking her way across the rutted ground in front of the building, she loses her balance, nearly falling into the arms of Flynn Chancellor. Handsome and friendly, Flynn presents a happy distraction for a girl who’s trying to recover from a broken heart.

SoMuchItHurtsbyDellaniOakes500

Sweet, sultry music poured from the open second-story windows as Pia walked across the pitted, uneven ground. Scattered with puddles and trash, it wasn’t a very inviting aspect. The old, grand hotel building loomed above her, intimidating in the dusky light after sunset. Sighing, she forged ahead, dragging her rolling suitcase after her. It bumped into a particularly deep hole and caught. Yanking, she lost her balance and teetered to the right.

Watch out!” Strong hands caught her, setting her on her feet. The same hands lifted her suitcase. “You all right, little lady?”

Pia wasn’t sure she liked being called a little lady by any man, but when she turned to look at him, she decided he had the right to. He was at least six foot three, maybe taller. She, a petite five three, was indeed a little lady. He flashed a brilliant smile at her.

You’re the newbie.” He extended his hand. “Flynn Chancellor. Welcome to the fold.”

Pia Donovan. Thank you. How does this work, exactly?”

Didn’t get orientation?” He tugged her suitcase, ushering Pia inside.

Sort of? They told me to report here this afternoon, but I took the wrong bus and ended up on the way to Maryville. I got as far as Walnut Street and finally figured out I was in the wrong spot.”

Ooh, not a place for a lady of your delicate sensibilities to be.”

Yeah, tell me about it. The driver wouldn’t let me out on the street. He dropped me at a satellite station and told me the right bus to take back.”

That was nice of him.”

He said he has a granddaughter my age. He wouldn’t set her loose to the wolves.”

Flynn chuckled. “Apt. I grew up in that area. It ain’t pretty.” He opened the door for her, letting her walk under his arm. It was an easy fit. “Where are you from, Pia Donovan?”

Out of state. I moved here from Nebraska. Outside Kearney.”

No kidding? What brings you up here?”

I got a scholarship to City University.”

In?”

He opened a set of inner doors which led into a large, open area. To the right and left there were arched doorways which had once led to reception and lobby areas. They were now full of cast-off furniture and crowds of men and women, all about her age. Every ethnic blend imaginable greeted her small-town Nebraska eyes.

Music.”

We’ve got several music majors here. I’ll show you around, if you want.”

I’d like that, thank you. How do I get settled?”

We talk to Amita.” He pointed to the desk area. It had formally been the receptionist’s desk — a tall, dark wooden structure that wrapped around like a bar.

When was this place built?”

Early 1900s.”

And they’re tearing it down?”

No. It will, eventually, be renovated.”

She nodded, looking around her at the early elegance of the place. It sported dark wood wainscoting, light walls, brass wall sconces. This was in stark contrast with the battered linoleum laid over the original hardwood floors, holes in the walls, and pieces of plywood over missing glass panes.

You wouldn’t know to look at it, but it was a showplace in its time. Celebrities from all over the world visited. It was built by one of the founding families, so they will never tear it down.”

It’s still got a stateliness to it, doesn’t it?”

It does,” he agreed.

No one was at the desk, but he leaned over and called through an open doorway. “Oi, Amita! Found our newbie!”

A tall, mocha-skinned woman with wildly curly hair came out, wiping her hands on a dish towel. “Hi! You must be Pia. I’m Amita, I’m the resident manager. We expected you ages ago.”

I got lost.”

Ended up on Walnut Street,” Flynn added.

Oh, my God! And lived to tell about it!”

Flynn chuckled and leaned against the tall desk, hands in pockets. Pia had a moment to take in details she hadn’t noticed outside in the dusk. He was broad-shouldered, with dancing green eyes. His chestnut colored hair was nearly to his shoulders, thick and straight, covered by a faded black fedora. Steel gauges, about the size of a quarter, stretched each earlobe. His arms were covered by intricate tattoos, forming sleeves from wrist up. His shirtsleeves were rolled just past his elbows. Rusty black pants, which looked as if they had seen better days, dangled from colorful suspenders. His huge feet were covered in clunky, leather boots. Every piece of clothing was spattered with different colors of paint.

You’ll be in the Ambassador Suite,” Amita said with a grin, handing over a registration card for Pia to sign.

Sounds elegant.”

It’s great!” Flynn said with a grin.

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The Man Who Wasn’t There – Part 51

the man who wasnt thereWanting to get away from the crowd, the Circle members decide to meet up at the mausoleum where their ancestors are buried. Unfortunately, something has happened to the adults. They seem to have been possessed. Instead of going to the cemetery, they head to Chase’s house. Brian and Dwight head to the cemetery, but when Brian has a seizure, Dwight knows they have to join the others.

“Our folks drove us to Chase’s house. Why didn’t Brian answer?”

“He’s in a bad way, Jordan. I’m on my way. Lost at the moment. Where am I? Bloody hell. Help!”

“Where are you?”

“No earthly idea.”

“Dwight’s on the way over,” Jordan said to her . “But he’s lost. I’m shit with directions.” She held out the phone pleadingly.

Chase took the phone and gave Dwight clear and easy to follow directions. Within minutes, he pulled up. Brian’s seizure was still going. By now, he was drooling.

“Did he eat or drink anything?” Jordan asked.

“No, nothing. It started in the cemetery. I figured maybe you’d gotten your wires crossed and come here. I guess you had no choice. What are they doing?”

“No idea. Help me get him in the house,” Jordan commanded.

“Isn’t it locked?”

“Chase is here.”

It took all of them, but they got Brian up the steep steps to the front door. Chase let them in and they carried Brian to the kitchen, laying him on the table.

“Let me look,” Marissa said. “Boys, go keep an eye on our parents. We’ve got this.”

“You sure?”

“Positive. If anything happens, Jordan will kick ass and take names.” She gave Chase a quick kiss.

The boys left. The girls assessed Brian’s condition. The seizure hadn’t stopped. The drool had become foam.

“Someone’s torturing him,” Marissa said. “Think, dammit!” Taking a few deep breaths, she made herself stop shaking. “Okay, symptoms. Foaming at the mouth. Seizing. Arched spine. Can’t check the pupils as the eyes are rolled back.”

“What do we do?”

“Wing it. I’m not sure what this is, but I think it’s magical not chemical. He was careful what he ate and drank. He didn’t have anything at the party, like the rest of us. Okay, improvisation time. Jordan, I need a couple of your spikes, one of each, please. And some of the blessed salt. He should have plenty in his pockets. And holy water. A pot.” She reached above them to the pots that hung over the butcher’s block. Fortunately, the stove was gas and hadn’t been damaged when the grove blew up.

Marissa poured the holy water and a teaspoon of blessed salt with cumin into a pot and set it to boil. Jordan stirred the mixture with her spikes while Marissa searched Dora’s cupboard for Valerian.

“I want it for the seizure. It’s calming. I don’t know if we can get him to drink this, but we’re going to try.”

She added a measure of the herb in the water. It boiled for a minute before she poured some off and blew on it. With a silver spoon, she dipped some out and put it to Brian’s lips. He spit it out, gagging on it, but she gave him more. His seizure increased. Marissa held him as he thrashed, muttering an incantation. The girls helped to hold Brian, but he was bigger and stronger than all of them. Jordan invoked air and held him firmly with invisible bonds.

“Keep holding him. He needs the rest of this.” Little by little, Marissa spooned the salty water into Brian’s mouth. When it was gone, they waited and watched.

With a shiver, he relaxed. His eyes returned to normal and he quit gasping for breath. Jordan approached, touching his face and neck gingerly.

“Are you okay now?”

“What the hell happened? One second, I’m in the cemetery. Now I’m in Chase’s kitchen?”

They explained as he tried to stand. Wobbly and weak in the knees, he was determined to get outside.

“There’s no telling what’s going on.”

“How do you think this happened? They didn’t eat or drink anything. We were all really careful.”

“Someone very powerful,” Brian said. “If they got to me, they can get to our folks.”

“Why not us?” Marissa asked.

“Because we’re not considered as big a threat,” Jordan said. “For once I’m glad of their narrow minded chauvinism. It gives us an edge.”

They ran outside. Marissa screamed. The boys were all face down on the ground, pinned by tree roots. She tried to run forward, but Jordan and Louisa caught her.

“My turn,” Brian growled. Stepping forward, he entered the circle and strode purposefully toward their parents.

Tree roots jumped up, trying to snare him, but he tied them in knots with a swipe of his hand. Another flick of his fingers and his friends were released. They rose to their knees, the roots receding rapidly. The girls ran forward to stand by their future mates. Jordan tried to follow Brian, but a wall of thorns sprang up, blocking her path. She didn’t know if it was from the Evil, or if Brian had done it to protect her. Either way, she didn’t fight it, but retreated slightly.

“I’m here,” Brian bellowed.

The air in front of him shimmered and glowed. Like water cascading over stones, the walls of the mausoleum appeared. Where the other was white marble, this one was black. The vines covering it were vivid red with putrid green leaves. The ground around it shifted and the doors swung inward.

© 2017 Dellani Oakes

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The Man Who Wasn’t There – Part 50

the man who wasnt thereThey spot a strange looking couple at the ball. There are several more strangers, already circulating. The people there seem to be under a spell, and they discover that the punch is tainted. Brian realizes that the band members aren’t who they seem to be either. He gives the leader a five dollar bill full of blessed salt, and isn’t surprised when the fellow overreacts to its touch.

“No, sir. Sure won’t.” Brian walked away and the band started playing.

“What was all that?” Chase said, watching the band leader.

“Had a feeling about something. I gave him some salt. He didn’t much like it, but he didn’t act like a demon either.”

“We’ll keep an eye.”

Brian’s discomfort increased. Though he dribbled salt around the dance floor and rubbed it on people as he passed, he could tell it wasn’t having a lot of effect. He signaled the others to regroup. They met in the middle of the dance floor. He hadn’t seen the strangers for several minutes and that had him somewhat concerned, because he wasn’t sure they were really gone.

“I think we need to get out of here,” he said. “Maybe divert them away from here. Too many potential hostages.”

“Where to?”

“I have an idea about that. Let’s meet up at the family crypt.”

“In the cemetery? In these shoes?” Jordan said. “No worries, actually. I have better ones in the car.”

They left in a hurry, heading to their cars. Brian and Dwight stayed behind for a few minutes, making sure that the strangers knew they were leaving. Even if he didn’t see them, he knew they were still around. Brian wanted their exodus noticed. If these people had a mind to slaughter innocents, he wanted to get them as far away as possible. He and Dwight made a big show of leaving, with luck, drawing the attention of the creepy couples. They could feel half a dozen pairs of eyes on them as they walked out.

“You sure about this, my friend?” Dwight asked.

“Not at all. Got a better idea?”

“No. But I want it on record that I don’t like it.”

“Neither do I, but it seems the logical place to go. They’d love it if we went to the bad crypt. I’m not willing to endanger us that much.”

They drove into the empty, silent cemetery, heading down a narrow gravel track to the vault. When they arrived, they looked around for the others.

“They should have been here by now,” Dwight said.

“Did you see them in the parking lot?”

“No, their cars were gone. I have a really bad feeling about this.”

Brian did too. His hackles rose and his ancestor’s ring burned cold on his left hand. He could see the stones glowing. Reaching into his shirt, he pulled out his amulet. These stones glowed too. They pulsed in time with his heartbeat.

“Call Jordan,” Brian gasped, handing Dwight his phone.

“You okay, mate?”

Brian couldn’t answer. His head slammed against the headrest, his chest arched and his eyes rolled back in his head. The ground rumbled. Tombstones jittered and danced, uprooting and toppling over. The ground roiled as Brian continued to shake.

Dwight made the call, but got voicemail. Horrified, he opened the doors and pulled Brian’s stiff body across the center console and into the passenger seat. He couldn’t do anything about the apparent seizure, but he could get them away from the mausoleum. He had a feeling he knew where the others were. With a few false starts, he got his bearings in the unfamiliar town and headed to Chase’s house.

Jordan walked out of the community center and headed to her father’s car. Her clothing and shoes were in the back. She changed quickly, watching her friends do the same. Brian and Dwight still hadn’t come out and it had been at least five minutes.

“Time to head out,” Miles said.

They got in the cars with the adults driving. When they came to the main thoroughfare of town, instead of turning right to go to the cemetery, all the drivers turned left.

“Dad, what’s up?” Jordan asked.

He didn’t respond. Instead, he sped up, flying down the narrow highway at 90.

“Dad? Speak to me!”

He said nothing. Her mother was equally unresponsive. Diving into her bag, Jordan pulled out her phone. Her father’s hand shot out, grabbing it. He hurled it out the window before Jordan had a chance to react. Moments later, they pulled up at Chase’s house. The others joined them a few seconds later.

The adults got out of the car and went to stand in a circle around the far end of the clearing. By the paint on the ground, the teenagers knew that was where the mausoleum stood.

“Can we call someone?” Jordan asked.

“Dad took my phone,” Marissa said. “And Mom took Chase’s.”

“Dad threw mine out the window,” Jordan added.

A short consultation revealed that they’d either left their phones at home or had them taken away. Jordan assessed the situation and ran to her father’s car. The door wasn’t locked and she quickly pulled it open. As she’d hoped, her father’s phone sat in the hands free dash attachment. Snatching it up, she dialed Brian. It rang and went to voice mail. She called back. The third time she called, she got an answer. It wasn’t Brian.

“Dwight here. Problems all round. Where are you?”

© 2017 Dellani Oakes 

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The Man Who Wasn’t There – Part 49

the man who wasnt thereThey all arrive at the ball, dressed to kill—especially Jordan. She’s got silver and iron stilettos in her hair, as well as quartz and lapis lazuli as jewelry. Brian came armed with holy water, blessed salt and a couple weapons. He’s still feeling the influence of the Rider, but asked Dwight to sock him in the shoulder if he gets out of hand.

Brian laughed. Music started, a song that he’d loved since he was a little kid. It was something his grandmother used to sing. She would dance him around, holding him on her feet, while she sang it. He went over to Jordan.

“May I have this dance, Miss Barrett?” He held out his hand to her.

With a surprised smile, Jordan accepted. “Why, Mr. Casey, I’d be delighted.”

The band started singing To Love Somebody written by the BeeGees. Although he wasn’t a very good singer, Brian could carry a tune. He held Jordan close, singing along with the band. “You don’t know what it’s like to love somebody the way I love you.”

Jordan held him close, swaying to the slow music. This was how it should always be, them together like normal teenagers at a dance. Afterward, making out in his car, maybe getting carried away in the back seat. She grinned, snuggling close.

When the song had finished, Miles beckoned them over. “I almost forgot. When you and Jordan were out, I went by to see Grandma and I got this for you.”

He held up a small, worn leather bag. Tipping it into his palm, he showed them a ring. The band was white gold, set with the same eight stones Brian had in his medallion.

“Grandma said this was his wedding ring. Slip it on your left hand.”

The ring was too big for Brian’s ring finger, so he slipped it on his left index finger. Almost immediately, he felt a tingle. Fingers of doubt scurried up and down his back, lodging at the base of his spine. Movement by the front door alerted him and he turned.

A couple stood framed in the doorway. They weren’t locals, that much was obvious by their clothing. He was tall, muscular, dressed in a black tailcoat, a white shirt, blood red vest, with matching tie, and black top hat. His face and hair were as black as his coat. She was nearly as tall, spare, sleek haired. The woman looked like something out of the Roaring Twenties. She wore a long sheath dress covered in black and silver spangles. A long strand of black beads circled her lean throat. She carried a cigarette in an ebony holder. She was pale with bright red lips. She caught Jordan’s eye, smiling. Jordan shivered. Something clutched at her chest, was it fear? She couldn’t be sure. Her lips moved in a silent warding spell. The woman flinched, turning slightly away. Jordan’s smile was predatory.

“Who are they?” Dwight asked from behind him.

“No idea,” Brian replied. “But I think trouble just arrived.”

“We spent the better part of the day warding this damn place,” Miles muttered. “How the hell did they get in?”

“Public place,” Heath replied, teeth clenched.

“They could be a distraction,” Claude said. “Spread out. Look, but don’t engage.”

Smiling, they wandered off. Andre and Louisa kept the black clad couple in sight while the others walked around, dancing and shmoozing. They spotted two other couples they didn’t recognize. Of course, having strangers show up to the ball wasn’t all that unusual. The fact that all the couples wore anachronistic clothing and didn’t seem to fit in, was.

Not long after the arrival of the strangers, Brian noticed that the other guests were glassy eyed, complacent. They hardly spoke, they didn’t smile. They wandered around as if they were asleep on their feet. He passed the word among the chosen. Wondering what had caused such a sudden change, he inspected the refreshment table. The food was fine, but the punch had a strange aura to it.

“Don’t drink the punch,” he told his friends. “They’ve done something to it. I’m going to walk around with salt.” He handed a small flask to Jordan. “That’s holy water. Put it in the punch. May not do much good at this point, but it’s better than nothing.”

She wandered over, casually pouring the water into the bowl. It fizzled and steamed for a moment, then settled down. She slipped the bottle into her purse and walked back over to Brian.

“Done.”

The band didn’t seem to be affected by the punch. In fact, they seemed so unconcerned about the lack of audience response, Brian had a look at them. They had an aspect rather like the strangers who had walked in. He couldn’t put into words what disturbed him about any of them, but he couldn’t close his eyes to it.

Brian walked over to the low stage and whispered to the band leader. “Hey, could you play something for my girl and me?”

“Sure,” he said in a bored tone. “If we know it.”

“She likes the old stuff, like from the Seventies. Could you play Gold Dust Woman by Fleetwood Mac?”

The leader flashed a half smile in Brian’s direction. “Sure thing.”

Brian handed him a folded bill. Inside, he’d left a small amount of salt. The bill was so balled up, the band leader unfolded and smoothed it. Becoming immediately alert, his dark lined eyes caught Brian’s.

“You think you’re funny, kid?”

“Sorry?” Brian acted like a dumb kid, holding his hand to his ear as if he couldn’t hear.

“Don’t mess with me. You know what.”

“Just wanna hear a song, man. But if you don’t wanna play it, gimme my money back.”

The man snatched the five dollar bill away, stuffing it in a jar on the stage. “We’ll play the damn song. Just don’t give me dirty money again.”

© 2017 Dellani Oakes

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The Man Who Wasn’t There – Part 48

the man who wasnt thereSomething is seriously wrong with Brian. After nearly killing Marissa’s father, he runs off, only to disappear. Dwight finds him perched in a tree like an angry jungle cat. He climbs up after Brian.

“Can’t sit up here all night, my friend. Your lady will be waiting.”

Brian didn’t answer, but his eyes flickered.

“She loves you and you love her. Don’t piss her off by missing your first major date. This is a big one, Brian. Almost as important as prom. If you screw this up, you’ll be still be a virgin at forty.”

Brian didn’t say anything, but he focused on Dwight.

“I know there’s a lot going on inside, mate. More shit than we can possibly imagine, is spinning around in your head. I’d be out of my mind by now. But you’re not out of your mind, you’ve got that spooky shit Rider on your shoulder. And chaotic and weird as your behavior is right at this moment, we need you. So at the risk of getting my lights punched out by a crazy fella in a tree, who seems to think he’s freaking Tarzan, get down. Pull up your boxers and twirl them in a knot because we don’t have time for this shit.”

Shaking his head, Brian gazed at Dwight. Recognition was slow, but eventually dawned. “Why am I in this tree?” he asked as he watched Dwight jump.

“No idea, mate. Come down. You need to get ready to go. And don’t worry, I’ll be there along with your lady love.”

“Thank you,” Brian sighed as he got down. The Caseys stood on the porch, watching the events unfold. “If I get this messed up at the dance, do me a favor.”

“Anything for you, my friend.”

“Punch me,” Brian said. “Right here.” He pointed to his right shoulder. “As hard as you can hit me, just smack the ever loving shit out of me.”

“You sure?”

“Absolutely, undeniably sure. I may try to take your head off,” he cautioned. “But hit me anyway.”

“I will do my best. Do you want me to knock you out?”

Brian thought about that for a moment. “I don’t think you’ll be able to. One hit should do, but feel free to hit me twice if you think the situation warrants it.”

“I shall do as you ask.”

Smirking, Brian shook Dwight’s hand. “Excellent.”

Dressed and ready for the ball, Brian waited for his parents and their guests. He and Dwight were riding with Andre and Louisa. Jordan was catching a ride with her parents and the others were car pooling as well. They parked close together and headed into the community center in pairs.

Chase was already there with Marissa and her family. They met up, trying to be casual, giving the place a subtle recon.

“Everything looks all right,” Jordan said. “How does it feel?”

“Fine, so far,” Brian replied. “Let’s just try to relax and have a good time. How often do I get to take my girl out and show her off?” He winked, spinning Jordan under his arm. “You look beautiful, by the way. In fact, I’d say that you bypass beautiful and go right to stunning.”

Jordan wore a sparkling royal blue halter topped dress with an open back. The skirt circled her ankles, pooling like water. Her shoes were strappy silver sandals with a three inch heel. Even with the extra height, she barely came to Brian’s shoulder. Her thick, walnut colored hair was in a sleek French twist, decorated with four spangled sticks. She told her friends they were really cleverly concealed stilettos. Brian laughed, nuzzling her neck.

“Trust my woman to come armed to a dance.”

“Two are iron, two silver. I thought I should have my bases covered. The sparkles are chips of clear quartz. My necklace and earrings are lapis lazuli.”

“You prepared better than I did,” he confessed. “I’ve just got pockets full of salt and holy water.”

“And a knife strapped to your back as well as your baton,” she replied, feeling under his coat.

Brian laughed, spinning her in a circle. “God, I love you. Don’t make me wait much longer, Jordan.” He buried his face in the curve of her throat.

Dwight clapped him on the shoulder, hard. It wasn’t a punch, but it was designed to get his attention. “Don’t make me hit you, mate.”

“Thanks.”

Jordan and Marissa met up, gushing about the other’s outfit. Louisa and Ginnifer joined in, leaving the boys to their own devices.

“She looks stunning,” Dwight said. “Pity Kiersten couldn’t be here.”

“Yeah, I thought she was coming?”

Dwight hung his head. “I called and asked her not to. Selfish of me, but I can’t let her come. She’s pregnant,” he whispered. “Mum and Dad don’t know. I would never have agreed if I’d had any idea just how formidable a foe we’re fighting.”

“No, man. I get it. Protect your woman.” Brian nodded. “I wish Luminous had, had that choice.”

“Did he say what happened? How Mr. D. possessed him?”

“No. It’s got me worried, Dwight. What if I lose it like he did?”

“You won’t,” Dwight promised. “You’ve got a beautiful woman by your side.”

“So did he.”

“Yeah, but you’ve got me to punch your lights out if you go off.”

© 2017 Dellani Oakes

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The Man Who Wasn’t There – Part 47

the man who wasnt thereMiles hears Jordan and Brian arguing. Rather than letting it escalate, he intervenes and tries to explain to Jordan what Brian is going through. He tells them to put their personal feelings aside to deal with later, and focus on what’s probably going to happen that night. They decide to have a picnic by the river.

“You can smooth the ground with a swoosh and can’t control flames to save your life.”

Brian chuckled. “Dirt’s easy. Dirt won’t set my house on fire. I’m comfortable with dirt. Dirt won’t ignite my hair or give me blisters or sizzle my sack.”

Jordan burst out laughing again. “Sizzle my sack,” she giggled.

They had a good time over lunch and spent the better part of an hour playing with the water. Jordan was quiet adept at making water spouts. Brian was good at creating waves. They stopped when they nearly made a couple of kayaks capsize. Brian kept them upright while Jordan got their antics contained. Giggling, they cleared up their mess and went back to the car.

The Harvest Ball was set for 7:00 and Jordan demanded the rest of the afternoon to prepare. Brian, who wasn’t female, had no idea why she had to have so much time.

“I want to be beautiful tonight. Just because we’re going to vanquish a demon doesn’t mean I don’t want to look good.”

Brian brushed her cheek with his thumb. “You look beautiful all the time. You don’t need a fancy hairdo or dress to make me want you.”

His voice dropped to a deep husky range that was completely foreign to him. It made Jordan shiver. His kiss was far more friendly than she wanted. Realizing that this was more than just Brian, she pushed him gently away.

“Another time, when you don’t have an Ethereal Rider, I’d like this attention. Right now, I feel like I’m being spied on.”

Brian understood, but she wasn’t sure the Rider did. Rather than putting him in an uncomfortable position, she went home. He wasn’t overly surprised to see the adults having a meeting without the teenagers.

“We asked Cynthia to take Cliff’s place,” his father told him. “She agreed. Dora has already said she doesn’t want to go back to the house, so Cynthia will have it fixed up and move in.”

“How’s Dora doing?”

“Shaky, but well,” Maribelle said. “We live with the very real knowledge that what we do is extremely dangerous. We knew there would eventually be holes in our ranks.” She sniffled, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand.

“What’s the game plan?” Brian asked.

“We don’t want to involve you kids,” Harold said, face grim.

“That’s unavoidable, Mr. Pennybaker. No offense, but you’re down by two. That alone is cause for concern. And I’m the one with the dubious honor of playing host to the Rider. If he is the Peddler, he needs to be around. Whatever’s in that mausoleum wants out.”

“How do you know that?” Harold sneered. “Did you see it in a dream?” The contempt and disbelief in his voice were quite obvious.

Brian gave him a level stare. Mr. Pennybaker shifted nervously as Brian continued to stare, saying nothing. Taking a deep breath, he decided to answer the rude question.

“Remember the part about having the Rider?” He gestured toward his right shoulder. “It knows things which it passes along to me. I don’t want to know them. I don’t want him there, but what can ya do?” A barking laugh left his lips. His eyes didn’t share the joy. “It wants out. It wants to eat our souls. Just for fun, let’s say it starts with yours. Do you have any clue what happens to you when a demon sucks your soul out of your body?”

Mr. Pennybaker said nothing. His body shook and he gasped for breath. Opening and shutting his mouth, he gulped and grimaced, turning red in the face. A vein stuck out in his forehead as his face turned blue. Brian looked on placidly, just a tilt of his head indicated that he was doing anything. Suddenly, Harold Pennybaker collapsed on the coffee table, smacking the wood with his chin.

“How did that feel, Harold?” Brian bent over the prostrate man, face less than two inches from Harold’s ear. “Did it feel like your blood was being sucked out through your pores? Could you feel your spleen heat up, trying to explode? How did you like the fire in your groin or the excruciating pain up and down your spine? Because that!” He poked Harold’s cheek with his index finger. “Was nothing compared to what that demon wants to do—with all of us—including your precious, virginal daughter!”

Brian left suddenly, storming out of the house, slamming the door. Miles and Heath went after him, followed by Meru and Dwight. They rushed out the door, but couldn’t see Brian anywhere. In those few seconds, he’d disappeared. His car sat in the driveway, so he’d gone on foot.

“Where would he go?” Miles asked.

“He might go to our house,” Heath replied.

“Or to Chase’s,” Meru speculated.

“Or neither,” Dwight said, pointing up.

Brian sat in a tree several feet above their heads. He crouched in the thick of the branches, perched like a predator. Miles fetched Claude, hoping that the doctor would have some brilliant idea to get Brian down.

Nothing any of the men said made any difference. Brian refused to come down. Dwight solved the problem by climbing the tree. He sat across from Brian, offering him half a candy bar. Brian took it, nodding his thanks.

© 2017 Dellani Oakes 

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The Man Who Wasn’t There – Part 46

the man who wasnt thereBrian sees a lot in his dream about Luminous Cayce. Jordan wants to stay with hiim afterwards, but Brian makes her leave. However, she’s there, waiting for him, while he showers and is waiting for him then he wants to get dressed.

“What the hell, Jordan?” He backed into his bathroom. “Can you please leave? I want to get dressed.”

“Not until we talk.”

“Not with me naked, we’re not.”

She said nothing. Brian peeped around the doorframe and she was still sitting on the bed.

“Come on! Why are you so pissed that I asked you to leave last night?”

“You yelled at me and shoved me away!”

Brian growled, yanking at his slime infested hair. “Don’t you get it?”

“Obviously not. Clearly, I’m not smart enough or capable enough to understand what you want and need, Brian. Forgive me for not being a mind reader.”

“Oh, stuff it!” He crossed the room, looming angrily over her. “Jordan, right now I’ve got this—thing—on my shoulder.” He gestured to the area near his right ear. “Do you know what it is? Cause I don’t. I see you and smell you and want you….” Groaning, he turned away. “This isn’t normal. This isn’t me. This is other worldly. The other night in the living room, I would have done you right there, parents or not, if Andre hadn’t come in. It gets worse every time.

“Then last night, after talking to Luminous, feeling his grief, his anger, it was a thousand times worse! But no, this is about you and how you feel and how it hurts your feelings. For once, Jordan, can you just quit being such a girl and see how this affects me? Just for a second?”

The door opened and his father walked in. He stood in the doorway, watching. “Problem?”

“No,” Brian said quietly. “None.”

“Doesn’t sound like that to me. Sounds like something we need to discuss before tonight. You do remember what tonight is, right? Some big, fancy ball celebrating the end of life as we know it?”

Jordan nodded mutely. Her eyes swam with tears. Her lower lip trembled as she fought for breath.

Miles came in, closing the door behind him. “Go put on some pants, son.”

Brian grabbed some boxers and jeans from his drawer and went back in the bathroom. He could hear his father speaking quietly to Jordan. She mumbled a reply. When Brian came out, she was dry eyed, but her face was puffy and her nose was red.

“God knows, you two have more to contend with than just regular teenage problems,” Miles began. “But we’ve got to work past this—now. We don’t have time for touchy feelies and happy joy-joy thoughts.”

Jordan and Brian smirked.

“Jordan, some of what I have to say may embarrass you, but you’ve got to hear it. Son, everything I say is going to embarrass you.” He didn’t sound the least bit remorseful. “Men are horny,” he explained bluntly. “Pure and simple, no getting away from it. Teenage men in particular, have problems with control. They can’t help it, it’s a fact of life. Teenage men want to get laid—repeatedly. While that’s true of all men, it’s worse when you’re a kid cause you’ve never done it before.

“Whatever this Rider is, with all the goings on, lust levels are going to be at an all time high. Jordan, you can’t even imagine what’s going on in Brian’s body right now. None of us can, we’re not the ones experiencing it. What you can’t do is let your feelings get hurt. Believe and know that he’s trying to protect you and do what he asks—even if he’s not nice about it.” He addressed his son directly. “I know that being polite and well mannered isn’t really in the cards when your nuts are in a knot, but try.” He spread his hands, smiling.

“So kiss and make up, forgive and forget and try to be understanding of one another. After all this shit is over, you can hash all this out and deal with all the warm fuzzies and cold pricklies you want. You can yell, scream fuss—provided it’s nowhere near my sleeping baby and you can sort it out like every other couple on the face of the earth. But right now, you aren’t every other couple. You’re the Dreamer and his future mate. You’re a power couple in ways that no Hollywood movie moguls ever will be. You have to work together, or people die. Are we clear?”

“Yes, sir,” Brian replied.

Jordan nodded. “Yes, sir,” she whispered.

“Good. All that fun stuff out of the way. Give her a kiss.” He waited until Brian kissed Jordan. “Hugs all round.” They exchanged a hug. “Good. Now we can eat breakfast.”

“I’m sorry,” Jordan said.

“Me too. We’ll sort this out, Jordan. Like Dad said.”

“Later.” She hugged him again. “I love you and I’m here to help any way I can.”

“Ditto,” he agreed.

They went down to breakfast and put the argument behind them. Claude didn’t come down until almost noon. He’d gone to bed around 7:00, after watching Brian most of the night.

“I plan to go over my findings today,” he explained. “There’s a lot of data. No reason why you have to be around,” he told Brian.

“It’s been a busy week,” Maribelle said. “You two should go be teenagers for a little while. Hang out with your friends at Sweeties, or go drive out to the river. Have some fun.”

Jordan and Brian felt very much as if the adults were trying to get rid of them. Rather than argue, they decided to take the opportunity to relax. Liking the idea of going to the river, they packed a picnic lunch and drove to a park on the banks of the Mississippi. Quite a few people had the same idea, so it was fairly crowded, except for a rocky overlook that was usually deserted.

Brian led the way. True to tradition, the area was quiet. Most people didn’t like the climb, even though the view was magnificent. They spread a blanket and sat. The ground was lumpy and uneven, but Brian solved that problem with a swish of his hand. Jordan laughed, sitting down on the much more comfortable ground.

© 2017 Dellani Oakes

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