Thursday, August 30, 2018
Teague McMurtry is an interesting character. From a huge Florida family, he embraces his roots happily—even if it means he has to search high and low to find a woman he's not kin to. Imagine his delight when he finally finds the woman of his dreams.
When Teague meets beautiful and sultry Vivica, he thinks his life is taking a turn for the better. Little does he know that he's been targeted for death by a violent biker gang led by Vivica's psychotic older brother. Now Teague must put his skills to the test to protect himself and the woman he loves.
(This scene is particularly close to my heart, as it's based on something that actually happened to me one morning.)
The road was empty as he drove south toward his job site in Oak Hill. He had an estimate to do down there and had to be in New Smyrna by 10:00, leaving him a couple hours in between. By the time he got to the police station in Edgewater, only a few blocks from his home, he'd joined a convoy of sorts. In the lead was a bronze Ford F150. Directly in front of Teague was a guy on a motorcycle. Behind him was another motorcycle, a red Jeep and, he thought, a third bike behind the Jeep. It seemed odd since the road had been so empty before. He couldn't quite remember when he came upon these others, but figured they all had the same idea, keeping out of stop and go school zone traffic on US-1.
The pickup was going the speed limit, which was a little frustrating. In fact, the driver went 25, then 20, 30 and 15. Teague wanted to lay on his horn, but didn't want to startle the biker, so he kept his frustration to himself. The biker didn't look any happier with the truck than he was. From time to time, he glanced behind him, trying to see around Teague's white Dodge Ram. Apparently, the motorcycles were traveling together and somehow Teague had gotten in between them.
At the turnoff for 442, the guy ahead of Teague gestured with his left arm, motioning as if he were turning. Teague slowed, anticipating the right turn, but the biker sped up, his black Ninja following the truck as it continued past the intersection. Instead, the red Jeep, followed by another biker, turned right and headed up 442. This left the Ford truck, Teague and two bikers. He wondered what was going on. His overactive imagination clicked into high gear and he started imagining scenarios.
Maybe the guy in the truck is with them and he's giving directions to the guy on the white Ninja?
He thought that over, wondering how they were communicating. The guy ahead of him was probably about his age with short, sandy brown hair. He had on a T-shirt, baggies, skater shoes and sunglasses.
The biker behind Teague was also on a Ninja, this one bright blue, He wore a white helmet with a dark visor. He was wearing clothing similar to the man ahead of him. What characterized them both was the fact they were heavily tattooed. Teague had first mistaken their coloring as a tan or sunburn. Closer inspection revealed elaborate tattoos on neck, arms and legs.
The road turned right, coming to an end at US-1. Stopping for the light, the man ahead of Teague leaned back on his bike, glancing at the man behind Teague, he pointed left. The other fellow nodded, giving the lead biker a thumbs up. The light changed and the white Ninja followed the truck while the blue one followed Teague.
Feeling a bit paranoid, he moved over to the right lane, anticipating that the biker would go around him. It didn't even occur to him that the other man would stay behind him, but he did. He didn't ride Teague's bumper, rather stayed at least two car lengths back, shadowing him. If Teague changed lanes, so did the biker.
The hairs on his neck stood at attention. Something was decidedly weird. This man's behavior negated everything Teague had ever seen bikers do. They generally crowded until they could pass, then buzzed around the other vehicles way too fast, disappearing suddenly as they sped up.
Approaching the gated subdivision near Oak Hill, Teague signaled his turn. The biker looked ready to follow, but continued down the highway. As Teague checked in at the security gate, the biker slowed, making a U turn at the next intersection, then he continued back up US-1. Once he was cleared, Teague drove to the house whose yard he was landscaping. He tried to put the bikers out of his mind, but their odd behavior was so out of the ordinary, he couldn't.
© 2017 Dellani Oakes
Tuesday, August 28, 2018
Though it didn't take me quite as long to finish Savage Heart as it did Indian Summer, it still was delayed somewhat by research. Thanks to the fine re-enactors in St. Augustine, Florida, and Savannah, Georgia, I was able to pinpoint my all important date, and finally finished the sequel to Indian Summer.
It's the summer of 1740 and rumors of war haunt the small community of St. Augustine, Florida. Already, Oglethorpe's troops are on the move. Scouting parties of Creek Indians have moved south, skirting the town, attacking outlying farms. Meli Chasseur's home came under attack and she is the only one to escape. Injured and afraid, she stumbles into Sailfish's camp. Could this be his next chance at true love?
His second night out, Sailfish sat up suddenly, woken from a deep sleep. What sound had he heard that startled him? Surely there were few creatures who would approach him with a fire beside him? Lying down, he pretended to fall back to sleep, forcing his breathing to become slow and even.
A twig breaking betrayed the intruder's position. Sliding his knife out of its sheath, he lay still, controlling his breathing. Whoever it was made little pretense of quiet. Stumbling near the fire, nearly falling in it, his visitor dropped to the ground.
Sailfish smelled fresh blood. The breathing was ragged, pain laden. Opening his eyes, he rose slowly to his knees. It was apparent whoever it was wouldn't put up a fight, but that didn't mean that it was safe. Scanning the horizon, he noticed it was near dawn. The faintest glimmer of light tinged the far east over the ocean.
The long grass to the west of him rustled, not from wind, for it was still. Crouching, he waited. The bushes parted and out limped a panther. It looked old, battle worn, injured. Blood flecked its flank, crusted and caked in the tawny fur in the folds of skin beneath its right foreleg.
Snarling and growling, it approached the body in a heap by the fire. Springing awkwardly, it tried to land on its prey, but Sailfish intercepted its lunge. Tackling it, he knocked it off balance, driving his knife into the creature's bared chest. Twice more he stabbed it, blood spurting from its wounds, nearly blinding him as he hit an artery.
It didn't put up much of a fight, for it was already weak from blood loss. Once it was dead, he dragged it away from his camp and washed himself in the river. Taking his tin pot, he filled it with water, carrying it back to the huddled form on the ground. He built up the fire and started the water heating. When it was boiling, he added herbs to the water and set it aside to steep.
The sun was rising in earnest now. Grateful for the light, he gently rolled the body on its back, feeling for a pulse. He couldn't find one in the wrist, so moved to the neck. It was faint, thready, but continuous. Breath came in short, shallow gasps. Blood oozed from half a dozen wounds.
Taking his knife, he cut the breeches away from the legs. Working steadily with rags from the clothing, he dabbed at the slashes. None were very deep, but there were many. The fellow was lucky the panther was old and hurt or he'd surely be dead.
As the sun rose higher in the sky, he saw the face more clearly. The features were neatly chiseled, the cheekbones high, the eyes wide set under a curved brow. The young man looked to be of mixed lineage, probably a mulatto, though there could have been some blood of the River People as well. Long lashes lay still against the pallid cheeks. Curly black hair was cropped just above the shoulders, falling loose around his face.
Sailfish finished cleaning the leg wounds, binding each one with cloths from his pack. His water was too bloody to continue, so he dumped it out on the ground. Washing the pan, he refilled it, heating another batch of herbs. While it steeped, he cut the shirt away from the torso, tugging it open.
With a cry of surprise, Sailfish fell backward. The person lying on the ground wasn't a young man at all. Puzzled, he gazed into the silent face. "Who are you and where do you come from?"
© 2017 Dellani Oakes
Thursday, August 23, 2018
This story holds a special place in my heart, because it is not only the first novel I finished, it's the first I ever published. It took me nearly 10 years to complete it, and required a lot of rewrites, but I made it! It's a lovely sweeping historical novel with an interesting location, which few authors have explored.
It's the spring of 1739 in sultry St. Augustine, Florida and something's amiss. It seems a British spy has wormed his way into their lives and he's bent upon leading the British Army in an attack against the fort and town. It's up to Gabriella Deza and her fiancé, Manuel Enriques, to stop the spy from being successful.
The rain was so heavy, I soon lost track of him in the storm. I knew he'd be heading to the wharf, so I found my way there as best I could. Once I reached the shore I began to call him. My voice was drowned by the sound of the wind.
"Please," I begged of the men that I knew. "Will you help me find my brother?"
But all were too busy to listen to a young lady who was too foolish to stay out of the storm. I could see Papa's ship in the ocean heading toward the wharf, as the waves pounded it on all sides. It looked ready to break apart! I began to pray as I ran looking for my little brother.
"Oh Lord, protect them and help me find my brother!" I repeated over and over as I ran through the crowd, pushing my way in the press of men.
It was then I saw Marcos. He was trying to help deploy ropes. The men on the shore tied off stout hemp lines to the pier and were roping themselves in to wade out into the storm. They formed a life line should the ship break apart. Other men were standing and holding the ropes to bring in the others if they foundered in the waves. No one was watching my brother. They were all too busy with their appointed tasks.
I saw the approaching wave before he did, for he was not looking at the sea. He had turned briefly to implore the men once more to let him help, but none gave him their ear.
"Marcos!" I called, though he couldn't possibly hear me. "Marcos, behind you!"
The wave moved faster than I could, with all my damp skirts around my legs. I knew I couldn't reach him and he was going to die. Despite his faults, I realized I dearly loved my little brother. I didn't want to lose him. I couldn't even think what his death would do to Papa.
As I ran, I watched the wave build higher. It rose until I could hardly see the top. The ship rode the crest. The men on shore saw the swell approaching. They dropped the ropes, running inland as fast as they could in the wet sand. Several fell and were swept away by the waters. The ropes held them and they were able to pull
themselves out of the waves.
Marcos was calling to them. "Where are you going? My mamá is on that ship!"
He hadn't turned around, distracted by their flight. The ship loomed nearer and the wave grew. I couldn't reach him through the wet sand and the press of men running against me.
"God, I beg you please save him! I swear I'll be good to him all my days! Oh, Mother of God, protect him! I promised Papa!"
Lightning flashed across the sky illuminating the beach, lighting Marco's face like a ghost! It was then he turned and saw the ship as the wave approached him. He froze.
"Marcos!" I screamed, "Marcos run!"
He heard my voice, but he was paralyzed with fear. I ran, screaming for him to move. There was no way he could escape. The water was too deep, its pull stronger than he. The darkness and rain enveloped him, obscuring my view. In the next flash of lightning, I saw the ship looming ever closer and screamed for all I was worth!
Suddenly, another figure appeared on the beach. A man, large and strong, was running toward my brother, a rope around his waist. He came upon Marcos just as the wave broke on the shore, grabbing him securely. He dropped to the ground, tucking the little head against his massive chest, holding my brother with an inhuman strength. He turned his body, taking the brunt of the wave on his back and powerful shoulders. Marcos grasped his waist just before the wave's surge covered them.
The ship swerved hard to starboard, hitting the corner of the pier not far away, shuddering to a halt. The water rushed around the ship, up the beach, over my brother and the man. I couldn't see what happened next, for I had to retreat out of the wave's reach. The greedy fingers of water clutched my dress, determined to drag me into the fray. Were it not for the aid of the men on shore, who held me fast, I would have been spirited away and surely drowned.
I babbled every prayer I knew, calling on God to help them. Little by little the waves receded and I could move closer, looking for them. I saw the rope tied to the pier, taut with weight, and began to pull. Men from the shore saw me and raced to my side. Together we hauled them in. I feared both were surely drowned. Finally, their sodden forms broke the surface of the waves. I rushed forward, but the men held me back, for the currents were wild and treacherous.
© 2017 Dellani Oakes
Tuesday, August 21, 2018
I absolutely love this book, and all the characters! Set in a city of my own making, it truly touches the heart. Alone in the big city, Pia Donvan is feeling rather lost when she finally arrives at the majestic, old hotel in the downtown area. All that changes when she meets Flynn Chancellor. He and his roommate, Yancy Fredrick, take an interest in Pia, introducing her to their city. Pia seems to have found her niche, making friends with the friendly residents in the old hotel. Life seems perfect, until one weekend when everything changes forever.
Pia examined the kitchen cupboards with a discerning eye, grabbing out things she wanted. When she had it all stacked, she handed him an onion and a bell pepper. “Chop.”
“Diced, or cubed?”
“Diced.” A few fresh tomatoes, which were going soft, joined them. “These, I want coarsely chopped. Seeds out, please.”
“Yes, ma’am.” He saluted and started washing the vegetables, leaving the onion to soak while he chopped the rest.
“Don’t think so. There’s cooking oil, under the sink.”
“Got it. Oh, you do have olive oil.”
“Sweet. Didn’t know that.”
“Also under the sink, to the right. In back.”
“Short person can’t reach.”
He lifted her out of the way and grabbed out the pots she needed.
“If I’m going to cook here often, those have to be somewhere else.”
“You can rearrange however you want. Your wish is my command.”
She eyed him warily. “You aren’t getting laid tonight, mi boyo.”
“Didn’t expect. Would love it if you changed your mind. But I’m serious about the kitchen. We just sort of tossed things in the cupboards. Neither of us cooks much.”
“So I see.” She blew dust out of the skillet and set about washing it. . “Why are you soaking the onion?”
“One thing I learned about cooking. Soak the onion, it makes it easier to peel.”
“I’m full of those.” He winked, flipped the chef’s knife in his hand, catching it as she gasped. “One thing you will learn about me, I am positively obsessed with sharp objects. I can shave with this. Fear not, I won’t. But I could if I wanted to.”
“Also useful information.” She dried the skillet and rinsed the kettle before filling it with water. “Herbs and spices?”
“I have garlic powder, salt, pepper and Mrs. Dash.”
“I can work with that.”
“What are we making?”
“Puttanesca sauce. Fast, easy, and you have all the ingredients, except the stuff I don’t like and wouldn’t put in anyway.”
“Capers and anchovies.”
“Anchovies, the Devil.”
“Gotcha. I remember fish features on the do-not-eat list. That’s okay. I don’t like it, so you’re safe. Any other allergies?”
“Not that I’ve discovered. Hey, do walnuts make your mouth numb?”
“No, they aren’t really supposed to, Flynn.”
“I didn’t think so.”
“We add nuts to our do-not-eat list.”
© 2017 Dellani Oakes
Thursday, August 16, 2018
Book 3 in the Lone Wolf series. The small Shakazhan Force has already withstood enemy attacks and anticipates more. Knowing they aren't strong enough to withstand a concerted attack, they hope for reinforcements, but aren't quite prepared for those who respond.
Ben sat quietly, thinking along lines he had never ventured down before. It was a little like doing recon in a dark swamp, in the fog, but he was slogging through. He had latched onto a comment made in passing and he was working on that idea slowly, deliberately, like Marc playing a game of What If.
"You're awfully quiet," Matilda sounded concerned.
"I was just thinking about what you said about the string and getting back to Becky."
"It was a story, Ben, written thousands of years ago."
"I know that, but it's given me an idea. Remember how your dad did that thing with the Trimagnite finders, to locate Iyundo when the High Elder disappeared it? He said he got the idea when Patsy was talking about playing with mirrors, right?"
They waited to see where he was going with this.
"Well, the thread and Becky is what gave me the idea. We can't follow a string back, exactly, but maybe a string could come to us?"
"I still don't get your direction on this," Wil muttered.
"We know that Marc and Becky have their rings, linked by their AI's," Ben said.
"Yes, so do we. It didn't help us find Matilda."
Ben shook his head. "I don't know, maybe it did. Think about it, would we have pressed the balloon idea if Grandma hadn't nagged the ever loving shit out of you for twenty-four hours?"
Wil chuckled. "No, we would have trashed it after about five minutes. It seemed too ridiculous."
"But it worked. Also, you didn't have two telepaths, the Maker and a whole butt load of raw Trimagnite to boost your signal. Marc, you have Matilda and me to work with you. We do something similar like we did to reach Ysilvalov, and we try like hell to contact Becky or the Elders. Worth a try, right?"
Wil stared at his son, amazed and proud. "Damn, Ben, you have a good idea there!"
Matilda looked around at the three men whom she loved the most in her entire life. "That's what I like about this family, creative thinkers." Giggling, she stood with difficulty.
"You okay, babe?" Wil supported her.
"I need to go the the bathroom, Wil. I'm fine."
"Again? You just went five minutes ago."
"And I'll probably go again in five more minutes. Try having an eight pound weight on your bladder and see how you feel!" Playfully smacking his hand away, she walked to the bathroom.
Wil followed her with his eyes, worry all over his face. "I don't know how we're going to get her out of here safely. She can't walk all that way, it could take months. Based on what we saw of the indigenous life around here, it's dangerous as hell. We have no weapons, no food and no water. The suits are good for a week, but we could be a lot longer than that. Hell, we could walk for years and never get back. I think we can find our way out of here all right. I have my doubts about finding our way home."
"We might find a teleporter," Marc suggested.
"And risk that with a pregnant woman?" Wil shook his head adamantly. "If it were just the three of us, I'd say fuck it and run for the roses. We can't do that with Matilda, not with the baby—" His voice trailed off as she came out of the bathroom.
"You've been talking about me, I can see it all over your faces." Smiling, she sat heavily by Wil. "You don't look happy. I thought we had a plan. We do have a plan, don't we?"
"Yes, of sorts. But, Matilda, think about it for a moment. This is a big planet, who knows how deep we are. Maybe the shaft is our best approach. We could be wandering around for days, weeks or years with no way out! I can't risk that."
"You mean you can't do it with a fat lady in tow." Her eyes sparked dangerously.
"No, Matilda, that isn't what I mean and you know it."
"I'd slow you down, I get that. Do you think I don't realize what a liability I am right now? If I weren't pregnant, we could run out of here and never look back."
Wil took both her hands in his, their rings gliding over one another. Lowering his voice, he spoke calmly.
"What I'm saying is that you and Mariah are too precious to risk in this place. Even without the baby, I wouldn't risk you in this environment. The shaft is really our best bet."
"I won't go back in that shaft, Wil. I'm sorry. No, I'm not sorry! I'm being irrational, I know, but we nearly died in there! I won't go back!"
© Dellani Oakes 2018
Tuesday, August 14, 2018
Book 2 in the Lone Wolf series, Shakazhan picks up where Lone Wolf ended. Things are in a right state, but this time Wil and Matilda have some new friends. With the help of the Kindred, they just might make it out of this mess alive.
Wil stood directly in front of Riley. He wasn't there and then he was, fast as a blink. His weapon leveled at Riley. "I should have killed you long ago."
Riley's world slowed to a crawl. Wil's finger tightened on the trigger, sending the pulse of energy which would incinerate him. He felt an excruciating pull on his head and the soles of his feet as if he were being bent backwards into a hoop and dragged through a key hole.
The pain of transportation was agonizing. A flash of orange light and a lancing, heat seared his chest and genitals as he fell backward into nothingness. Like a light speed roller coaster, Riley road the waves and undulations through space. He lost all sense of time, space, self; dragged away to the heart of darkness, to a hell he so richly deserved.
Wil VanLipsig and his wife, Matilda Dulac, dove into the depths of barely remembered space, pursuing the villainous John Riley. With the help of a creature of legend, a Kahlea Master, John escapes capture. Capitulated into the unknown, he travels to Shakazhan. Like Avalon, in Old Earth lore, Shakazhan is a thought to be a myth, but it is very real. Unless Wil and Matilda can stop him, John Riley will release the Kahlea, bringing destruction to the universe.
The Inhospitable Surface of Iyundo—1630 Galactic Mean Time (GMT)
"Where the hell did he go? I hit Riley point blank! It's impossible for me to miss at that range!"
In a fit of peevishness, Wil threw his gun to the ground, kicking debris over it. Matilda moved to the control panel. Flames licked at it, consuming the ancient device.
"We won't get this working again." She kicked it hard, the tip of her steel toed boot bouncing off the console. Finding a port for her scanner, she downloaded information from the console.
"That's a waste, baby."
"You never know what we can find out. Even a fragment can help."
Wil knew she was right, he just didn't want to admit it. "We need to get out of here before that blows."
"One more minute...." Matilda replied in a casual singsong.
Picking up his gun, Wil considered the flames. "The way that fire is going?"
"Put it out, then," she snapped as she watched the status bar on her download.
"Yes, Ma'am." He saluted flippantly, searching for something to extinguish the flames, finding nothing but unusable debris that would only succeed in feeding the fire.
"Speed it up, baby, I can't put it out."
Flames leaped higher. Wil watched with growing concern. Just as he was about to grab her and run, she uncoupled the scanner and set off at a sprint. Wil followed her, trying to shield her body if the console blew. They dove behind a pile of rubble, keeping their heads down.
A small, fuzzy creature burst into the room, gesticulating wildly. Eyes wide with panic, he chittered at them in a language their translators couldn't decode. His face sported a slight snout, but there was intelligence in the bright, dark eyes. Dressed in a loin cloth, his body was covered with a soft layer of fur and was only marginally humanoid in configuration. He had a head, two arms and two legs, but there the resemblance to humans stopped.
Wil aimed his weapon at it, calm but wary. Matilda stopped him with a hand on his arm.
"Wait! He's okay. Listen." She tilted her head toward the creature.
"Listen to what? That's gibberish."
"He's telepathic. Come on." She followed the creature without question.
"Shut up and follow him. It's not safe here."
Wil went after her reluctantly, more to protect her than because he trusted the creature.
"Hurry! Felix says it's about to blow."
"Who told you?"
She huffed sharply, exasperated. "He did."
The control panel fire gained intensity. The area around it blazed. A low rumble reached them. The earth trembled below their feet, cracks forming in the walls and floor. They moved away from the fire and deeper into the building, opposite the way they had entered.
The way was often blocked by fallen walls and broken, decaying furniture. This had been a showplace once. The vestiges of its long forgotten beauty were still visible—here a green marble floor, there a magnificent chandelier made of jewels.
"Where is he taking us?" Wil demanded.
"He's showing me a picture of a courtyard out this way." She pointed to their right. "It's safer than going back the way we came."
Wil followed unwillingly, senses alert. His hackles rose, his nerves tingled. Matilda could sense tension and concern in Wil's every move. The sense of urgency she got from Felix made her doubly uncomfortable.
The rumbling and rushing of air grew louder and closer. Risking a look behind them, Matilda saw the chamber they'd left seethed with flames. The front of the building, where they'd entered, fell into a flaming pit. Silver tinged fire burst suddenly from its depths.
"Hurry!" Wil yanked on her arm as he passed her.
The urging from Wil was unnecessary. Matilda tried to keep up, but his legs were considerably longer and he could cover more ground in a mile eating lope, hardly winding him. Panting, she trotted beside him. The hot, dry air burned the back of her throat. The fire raged to the rear, erupting anew. It raced closer, singeing their hair. Their lungs rasped with each breath.
Felix ducked behind a fallen set of doors, raced around a corner and led them to a courtyard, surrounded on three sides by the building they'd just exited. The fourth was gone, long ago fallen to rubble. The air behind them grew hotter. The walls bulged and vibrated violently.
"It's going to blow, Wil!"
Matilda took off at a dead run, legs pumping as hard as they could, her lungs burning. Wil moved behind her, shortening his stride. He wanted to take the brunt of the shock wave and any shrapnel. Matilda stumbled, sliding sideways. He reached out to grab her, missing as her body tipped away from him. Her knee hit hard on a sharp rock protruding from the rubble. Standing with difficulty, she gritted her teeth, determined to continue.
Felix stopped. The sight of her blood worried him. His saucer shaped eyes held deep concern. He glanced behind them nervously, though he waited patiently for her to rise.
Matilda could barely put her weight on her leg. Shaking her head, she limped forward a few inches, nearly falling again.
Wil scooped her up in his arms, running faster than Matilda could have on her own. His long legged stride devoured the distance toward safety. They ran over the stark terrain, Wil's legs rapidly eating up the miles. Felix chittered and gesticulated, pointing to a deep depression in the landscape. He ran toward it, not waiting for Wil, trusting him to follow.
The ground dropped sharply, turning spongy and damp. The depression looked like an artificially made ditch, not a river bed. The edges were too regular and smooth. There was a lot of rubble here as well. Wil slowed, careful where he put his feet.
© Dellani Oakes 2018
Thursday, August 09, 2018
Probably my favorite hero of all (if we can call him such) is Wil Vanlipsig, the Lone Wolf. Depending upon which side of the battlefield you're on, will determine if you consider him the hero or the villain. A Galactic Marine for over 60 years, he still looks as if he's 26 years old. There is more to Wil than meets the eye.
The year is 3032 and Mankind has conquered the stars. Two organizations control the majority of the business and trade: The Navigation Guild and The Galactic Mining Guild. Both vying for supremacy, the balance of power is often in flux. Now, though, the Mining Guild has a secret, the largest known deposit of Trimagnite—the liquid ore that's life's blood for the Navigation Guild. That's just the tip of the iceberg and it's up to Wil VanLipsig, the Lone Wolf, and Matilda DuLac to control the situation before it's too late.
Their visitor sized Matilda up with a glance, dismissing her as non-threatening. He puffed on his cheroot thoughtfully. A crooked grin cracked his face in half, the scar pulling his left lip up at an odd angle.
"Marc, it's been a long time." He held out his hand.
Marc remained aloof, not taking his eyes off the visitor, lowering his weapon or acknowledging the proffered hand.
"Kind of a cold reception, isn't it?" His voice was rasping and low.
The smile was replaced by a slight frown, a hint of sadness in the obsidian eye. Then the same placid expression took its place. Nothing in Marc's face betrayed what he was thinking or feeling.
Marc spoke calmly. "Commander Dulac, please show Colonel VanLipsig to the lounge."
"Of course, sir." Looking puzzled, she did as he asked, feeling his eyes on her.
Marc followed, covering the man from the rear. When they had seated themselves, Matilda ordered three cups of joe from the synthunit. Marc kept his weapon out on his knee with his hand resting upon it. The other fellow leaned back, seemingly unconcerned and at ease. Taking a sip of the joe, he grimaced, glancing down at his cup before matching his gaze with Marc's.
"I know we parted under difficult circumstances, but is this really necessary? I'm here to do a job, nothing more." He carefully kept his hands in plain view, moving slowly, talking with deliberate ease.
Marc looked at him blankly. "I thought you were dead, Wil."
VanLipsig nodded slowly, thoughtfully. "You were sure you killed me." His voice was flat, toneless, unemotional. He shrugged casually, tilting his head to the left. "I got better." There was a flash of a chilling smile.
"The reports of my death were greatly exaggerated," VanLipsig quipped, dark eye glittering mischievously.
Marc's fist dented the metal table with a furious blow. "Dammit, Wil! Can't you just stay dead?"
VanLipsig threw back his head, laughing caustically. The laugh became a long, high pitched, chilling howl. Matilda felt a shiver run through her to the very bone. She did her best not to show it, but a subtle shift of her bearing betrayed her. His gaze penetrated her soul, laying it bare, finding it wanting.
"Aren't you going to introduce me to the lady, Marc?"
Marc hid his anger, but Matilda knew he was furious. His attitude toward VanLipsig was puzzling. They seemed to have known one another for years, obviously parting on less than amicable terms. Though VanLipsig seemed to harbor no ill will, Marc did.
"May I present myself, ma'am? I'm Colonel Wilhelm VanLipsig, also known as the Lone Wolf. Perhaps you've heard of me?" He attempted to look humble. "Pleased to make your acquaintance." His glance flicked to her name tag and insignia, dark eye lingering hungrily on her chest. "Commander Dulac." His mouth formed the words, enjoying the feel of the consonants on his tongue.
He waited patiently for a response. Getting none, his eye locked with hers, curious, intrigued. "Do you speak?"
Matilda studied him quizzically, raising an eyebrow. "There seemed little to say."
Wil chuckled deep in his throat. It was a seductively menacing sound. He put his feet up on the table between them, relaxed, but all business.
"So, what's this load I'm supposed to pick up?"
Matilda glanced at Marc, his blank face betraying nothing. He gave no indication that he was going to speak, so she took over the conversation.
VanLipsig, who was staring openly at her full breasts, raised an eyebrow. He grinned wolfishly, dragging his gaze to meet hers.
"Really? Nasty stuff." He sounded almost gleeful. "How pure?"
She met his eyes with a challenge as his smile became predatory. Her personal scanner showed him the basic specs. His brow furrowed slightly as he read, then he handed it back to her, whistling softly in surprise.
"Show me the full scan." All joking aside, he stood expectantly.
Matilda showed VanLipsig to a console and typed in the commands. He leaned over her right shoulder, his face mere inches from hers. She could smell the cheroot and a slightly musky odor she didn't recognize. The scent tantalized her. It was uncomfortably disconcerting, made all the more disturbing because he was dangerously handsome, well built, virile, wickedly seductive and extremely close. Forcing herself to look back at the screen, she felt his warm breath on her neck, tickling her skin in a very sensuous way.
He leaned forward, tapping the console, watching as the view and number readout changed. The very air between them was charged with energy. His shoulder brushed hers from behind, making her shiver
VanLipsig put his hand on her shoulder, brushing her neck slightly with his thumb, leaning in as if to kiss her. He checked himself abruptly, nearly brushing her ear with his lips. His breath stirred wisps of hair, tickling her neck.
"I'm sorry, Commander. Are you cold?" His raspy voice seemed loud, although he whispered.
She ducked out from under his arm, stepping aside. "No, I'm fine. Really. Thank you."
Marc stood a few feet away, his eyes on the other man, saying nothing. The muscle in his jaw working rapidly, bulging and relaxing as he fought for control.
Wil seemed unaware of them both as he read the screen, making mental calculations; sensuous lips moving as he spoke to himself. He nodded, clearing the screen, turning to them with a dazzling smile.
"No problem," his smile broadened, but didn't reach his eye. "I'll just get my bots to work, then."
He made for the door, but Marc halted him with a powerful arm across his chest. Wil halted, pressing aggressively against Marc's elbow.
"Old man, you know that's dangerous." Wil's body stiffened defensively.
Marc glared at him, cold fury erupting. "By God, Wil! I saw you die! I killed you, you bastard!" Marc pounded the table next to him, scattering the cups of joe.
Wil didn't even blink. "I told you, I got better."
"Why can't you stay dead?"
Marc's huge fist shot out suddenly from shoulder height, all his weight behind it. Wil caught Marc's fist, twisting up and away from his jaw, forcing Marc's arm to bend back on itself, elbow by his ear.
"Don't make me do this, Marc. "
Wil held Marc's arm, their muscles swelling and knotting as they fought for control. Marc tried to free himself from the other man's unyielding grasp. Suddenly changing tactics, he swung at Wil with his left hand. With an audible crack, his enormous fist connected with Wil's face. Neither man seemed to notice. Marc drew back, swinging again from the left.
Wil dropped Marc's right hand in order to block the blow. He grabbed Marc's arm in an elbow lock. Using the force of the attack, he spun Marc to face him, slamming his fist into Marc's abdomen.
Instead of recoiling from the blow, Marc moved in, utilizing Wil's momentum and his own greater weight, to put his opponent off balance. He threw Wil to the floor, hitting him with a bone grinding body slam.
Wil exhaled sharply as he grappled with one hand in Marc's hair. Wil forced Marc's head back at an odd angle. Marc's face grew dark red as he gasped for breath.
Matilda reacted instinctively, her weapon trained on Wil automatically. Stance defiant, her eyes glittered with dark fire.
"Let him go," she spoke quietly, teeth clenched.
Wil held Marc's head, but stopped twisting.
"Let him go."
"Why don't you put the gun down, Ma'am, before you hurt yourself?"
Wil's face registered momentary surprise when she didn't immediately comply. Instead, her grip tightened on the weapon, her aim true, right between his eyes. The astonishment was quickly replaced by a placid expression. VanLipsig allowed himself a glance in her direction. Her face held a determination equal to his own. Slowly, he let go of Marc, who straightened up, shaking his head, face turning back to normal.
"Move away from him."
VanLipsig stood in one fluid motion, taking two steps back. His hands were shoulder height, out from his body. He made no sudden movements, his demeanor passive.
"Now would one of you testosterone glutted males tell me what the hell is going on?" Her dark eyes flashed dangerously.
Wil smiled slightly, waving his fingers to get her attention. "May I put my hands down, Commander?"
Matilda gave a terse nod. "Where I can see them."
Slowly, he lowered his hands, keeping them in full view. "Could you maybe?" He gestured to the point of her weapon, motioning down.
Lowering the barrel, she kept her eyes on him.
© Dellani Oakes 2018
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