Thursday, January 30, 2020
Morgan cleared his throat pointedly. Cullen looked at him again and dropped his eyes to the table, his ears and neck reddening.
"I'm sorry, I did it again. Perhaps I should just go back on stage. I don't make quite so big an ass of myself there." He rose to leave.
"It's okay," Tanya said. "I've been feeling rather like the whole family is traipsing around like the Lord of the Dance, and I'm the one person in the audience who doesn't know Michael Flatley."
Cullen laughed, throwing his head back as he threw himself back into the chair. "Oh, God, Morgan! Where did you find this woman, and can I possibly steal her from you? Jesus, she's refreshing! You two really must have just met, if you don't know about Vanessa."
"Cullen, why don't you go back on stage?" Morgan's voice held an edge. He was getting angry with his brother.
"God, Morgan, calm down, would you? Can't I even say her name without you having a shit fit?" His voice became taunting like a little child. "Vanessa, Vanessa, Vanessa."
"Cullen," it was Molly this time. "Your break's over, go back on stage. The band's waiting."
"Join us in a set, Morph?" Cullen hardly seemed to realize he'd nearly caused World War III.
"Not tonight, Cull. I've got to see the lady home soon. She's had a long day."
"K. Nice to meet you, Tanya."
He kissed her hand and left for the stage, hopping up as the band began their introduction. He slid to a halt in the middle of the stage, grabbing the microphone, singing without missing a beat. His voice was strong and he used it with skill, encompassing a broad range of styles. Tanya was very impressed.
Morgan glared after his brother, breathing deeply through his nose and exhaling through his mouth as if trying to calm down. He sat tight lipped, not talking for several tense minutes as Tanya sipped her drink, trying to pretend everything was normal.
"I shouldn't have come here tonight," Morgan said so softly she almost didn't hear him.
Not sure it was directed at her, she chose to answer it anyway. "Families can always find the most effective ways to embarrass you. My brothers have done it to me many times before, so I understand."
"Dredged up humiliating subjects to torment you in front of someone you hoped to impress, did they?" His nostrils were pinched and he attacked his steak as if it had done him a bad turn.
"They showed my prom date pictures of me playing in the mud when I was two. I was completely naked, covered from head to foot in black mud. Except, of course, where my diaper had been. When the picture was taken, I had just whipped it off, holding it triumphantly in one hand like a banner."
"Then later, they proceeded to tell my future ex-husband that I liked to sleep in the nude when I was a teenager. Oh, and they also told him the name of the boy I'd lost my virginity to in high school. The only thing about that was, I didn't lose my virginity in high school, to him or anyone else. I waited until I was in college."
"How about telling every woman you're ever seen with, the name of the one who broke your heart in a million tiny pieces, ground them under foot."
"Oh, God. Vanessa?"
He nodded. "Vanessa. So now you know my dirty, little secret. And now you know why I buried myself in the rebuilding of that car for the last six months, and haven't dated."
"Avery," she said flatly.
"I beg your pardon?"
"Clifton Avery," she said tersely. "That's the name of my ex. Pretty much a similar story, only he dragged me through a very ugly divorce, that was finalized about a month before Gran died. He ran me into incredible debt, then told me he'd sell the house, and everything else he could get his hands on, to pay for it. So I understand, Morgan."
Morgan signaled Duke, who left the women he'd been flirting with and sauntered over to their table. He leaned over, exposing a very fine view of his ass to the women. One of them looked ready to faint, two were practically drooling.
"We need a carry home box, Duke. Oh, and house specials to go, okay?"
"Sure, Morph. Be right back."
He swaggered off in the direction of the kitchen and came back a few minutes later carrying styro-foam boxes, two were open and one was closed. He expertly transferred the contents of their plates to the boxes, closed them with a flourish and presented them to Tanya in a bag.
Morgan tried to hand him a tip, but he brushed it aside. "Your money isn't good here, Morph. You know that. Bring the lady back again, she gives the place class."
Bold as brass, he kissed Tanya on the cheek and grinned at his uncle. They did some sort of complicated handshake and Morgan guided her toward the front door. They passed the band just as Cullen had launched into a love ballad about heartache and abandonment that tore at Tanya's heart like a metal rake. She paused by the door, turning to listen to the song's end with her eyes closed.
"That's beautiful," she whispered. "Who wrote it?"
"I did," Morgan answered just as softly. "And I think I wrote it for you, as much as I did for myself."
Impulsively, Tanya hugged him tightly around the shoulders, then pulled away as if she'd been shocked. She hardly knew the man, but she felt drawn to him like she did no other.
I'm being too bold. What will he think of me?
© 2020 Dellani Oakes
Tuesday, January 28, 2020
As they are sitting there, a band takes the stage. Morgan tells her that it's his brother's band, and that he was the original drummer.
"Maybe later, Molly. I'm hungry. Ah, here comes the man with the food!"
Another blond giant was walking toward them carrying a tray with two steaming platters on it. He set their plates before them with an expert flourish.
"Twelve ounce, medium-well for the lady and the usual bloody slab for Uncle Morgan." He laughed as Morgan frowned at his plate.
"It's not bloody. This is an exquisitely prepared steak, a masterpiece of Molly's fine kitchen." It was surrounded by a pool of reddish juice. "So I like my steak rare, is there anything wrong with that?"
"He likes it still kicking," Molly said with a sneer as she rose from the table. "I, for one, won't watch him eat it. If you had any manners, Morph, you'd send it back, and have Kenny put a bit of flame to it, so you don't make the lady retch."
Morgan eyed his steak and then looked at Tanya's. "Molly's right, Finn. Put it back on the grill for a time, will you? The lady's had a long day."
"How long a time?"
"Make it medium rare, that should still keep it edible."
Finn picked up the platter and returned to the kitchen, shaking his head in puzzlement.
"My family thinks I'm a barbarian for liking the meat rare," Morgan told her sheepishly. "I take after our old man, he likes it seared on each side and damn near raw in the center."
"It's because he's a vampire," Molly said casually as she walked away.
Tanya watched the proceedings with wonder. Her family was nothing like this. They were friendly enough, but she felt as if she'd been admitted into some sort of secret society, with Morgan at the center, like a god who was both deified and disdained. As she sat there puzzling over it all, Finn returned with Morgan's steak. It was browner on the outside, but still ran red when he cut into it.
"Dad wants to know if that's okay," Finn said, holding the plate out for inspection. "He said you must be crazy, sick, or in love if you're sending back one of his steaks."
Morgan glanced uneasily at Tanya. "And what did you tell him?"
"I told him the lady with you was too damn attractive and classy for a schmuck like you. He said maybe you were trying to pretend you were a gentleman for a change."
"I'm feeling the love in the room," Tanya giggled.
"Can't choose your family," Finn replied as he walked back to the kitchen.
"Is everyone you're related to, so nice to you?" She tried hard to keep the laugh out of her voice, but she couldn't.
"Great, aren't they? Yes, the love and respect my family has for me just bowls me over. It makes me think they will nominate me for the Nobel Prize one day."
"Or put you up for sainthood," Tanya couldn't resist adding coyly.
"Something like that. Well, all Catholic mothers hope their sons will be priests. I'm sure mine is very disappointed in me."
"You're a doctor, that's just as important. I'm sure she's not the least bit disappointed," Tanya said honestly as she cut into her steak.
In her peripheral vision she caught Morgan's surprised face. He stared at her for a moment, then glanced away, blinking rapidly. He made a great pretense of getting out his silverware and laying the napkin on his lap, but he kept his face averted slightly from her as he did. She got the impression he had tears in his eyes, but she couldn't be sure. What had she said that could have affected him so completely?
The band took a short break and came out onto the deck for a smoke. The singer walked over and sat down in front of them. Cullen Fellowes was tall and dark haired like his brother, but his eyes held a wariness she didn't see in Morgan's. He smiled warmly, snagged a home fry off his brother's plate and ordered a beer with a toss of his head at the bar. Molly brought over a draft beer, checked their rum runners and went back to the bar.
"Hi," he said quietly, holding out his hand. "I'm Cullen."
"I'm Tanya," she replied, wiping her hand on her napkin before shaking his. "You guys are good," she said between bites. "I like the intricacies of your music, and the diametric styles you've brought together. It really works. Not what I normally listen to, but I'd buy an album." She grinned at his surprised expression.
"Morph, who is this amazing woman, and why is she with you and not me?"
"Because I saw her first, baby bro. Besides, you're too young for her."
"Speak for yourself, I like older women! They have more class and you can have an educated conversation with them. I always thought Vanessa was damn hot...."
A look from Morgan quelled him.
"Excuse me," Tanya said irritably. "I am here, you know, and semi-involved in this conversation. I think you need to know we just met, and I'm not dating your brother. It's a friendly dinner between colleagues. As to my age, you've no idea how old I am, so could we drop that part of the conversation?"
The men looked at one another sheepishly. Morgan frowned, tight lipped at his younger brother. He shook his head slightly and went back to his meal.
"Morgan is reminding me to use my manners," Cullen replied sullenly. "He's always telling me I'll be the only rock star who never gets laid, because I keep putting my foot in my mouth."
© 2020 Dellani Oakes
Thursday, January 23, 2020
Morgan takes Tanya out for a steak dinner. He introduces her to some of his nephew, Duke. Predictably, Duke hits on her.
"Yeah," Morgan interjected, clearly staking his territory. "She reads the films, and I patch up the boo-boos. Speaking of which, how's the arm?"
Duke rolled up his sleeve, revealing a bronzed and muscular forearm. A line of small, neat stitches ran from wrist to elbow on the top of his arm.
"Better, but still stings like a mother-fu.... Sorry," he glanced at Tanya.
"I've got brothers, chances are good I've heard the f-word before, Duke. What did you do to it?" She admired Morgan's masterful work. It wouldn't leave much of a scar.
"Had a disagreement with a barbed wire fence," he said, grinning.
"He was trespassing on private property, and got hung up in the dark."
"No, I was running away from a disgruntled male parental unit in the dark, after I climbed down from his daughter's bedroom at three o'clock in the morning. I couldn't see where I was going and got tangled in the fence."
"Could we get some food, Duke? We're starving," Morgan quickly changed the subject.
"Sure!" He grabbed a pencil and pad of paper out of his apron and flipped the pages back with an expert flick of his wrist. "What would you like, my lady?"
Tanya didn't even look at the menu. "Twelve ounce sirloin, medium-well and a baked potato with all the fixings. Oh, and I'm told you have the best rum runners in the state. Is that true?"
Duke grinned, his white teeth flashing in his tanned face. He tossed his long, curly, blond ponytail over his broad shoulder. "So the bartender tells me, and I don't intend to argue with her. She's my mom." I laughed heartily.
"I don't argue with her either," Morgan confided. "She's my older sister, and she owns the place. If I ever want to eat here again, I keep my opinions to myself. But they are good. Keep the rum coming, nephew. The lady and I intend to relax."
"Not if you're driving home, Morph. Mom won't serve you if you if you're driving a lady home."
"I'll stop at one, Duke. Tell her to make mine light, okay?" He winked as his nephew walked over to the bar, giving the woman behind it their drink order. "She'll come over personally to meet you, so be prepared."
"Is she likely to give me the third degree? Maybe we should get our stories straight." Tanya grinned at Morgan slyly as he winked at her.
"The Spanish Inquisition has nothing on my sister. She takes my social life like her own personal crusade, but she's determined I won't hook up with another gold digger, who is just after my money."
"I'm not after your money, Morgan. I'm just here for the food."
He squinted at her trying to decide if she was serious or not. When he saw she was teasing, he chuckled. "Molly's okay, she just takes her job as a big sister seriously, since our mom died."
"Oh, I'm sorry."
He shrugged. "It was over twenty years ago. She was killed in an accident with a drunk driver hit her. She was pregnant with my baby brother. The doctors saved the baby, but Mom didn't make it. That's why I became a surgeon."
Tanya cleared her throat nervously. She sensed they were treading on sensitive ground here. "I became a radiologist after my grandmother died. She had a cancer the doctors didn't diagnose early enough. So I changed from family practice, and here I am."
Morgan seemed to relax a little after that. He sat with his chair tipped back on two legs, his fingers tapping on his knee to the rhythm of the drums. Tanya sat and watched him enjoy the intricate music, his lips twitching with the guitar riffs and his toes following the bass. She tried not to stare, but he was so incredibly handsome, it was hard for her to keep her eyes on anything else. She found herself enjoying his company far more than she had when they first met.
A tall, red haired, well built woman in tight jeans and a cropped, black tank top, with the restaurant logo on it, walked over to their table with two rum runners on a tray. She set the drinks in front of them with a click, handing them napkins from her apron.
"Hi," she said, her voice slightly gruff and somewhat deep for a woman's. "I'm Molly."
She didn't look or sound friendly and she didn't hold out her hand when she introduced herself. Tanya decided to try and break the ice she felt forming between them, before the woman got really frosty. She held out her hand and smiled warmly.
"Hi, I'm Tanya O'Toole, a colleague of Morgan's. We just met today, I'm new in town."
A little of Molly's chill lifted and she wiped her hand on the apron before taking Tanya's in a firm grip. She actually smiled slightly as she glanced at her brother. He hadn't said anything, in fact he seemed to be in a world of his own, listening to the music.
"The band is great," Tanya said truthfully. "Are they local?"
"Yeah," Molly said, pulling up a chair and sitting on it backwards, facing their table. "Mostly family, so I let the kids play here. Our youngest brother, Cullen, is the front man. My older two boys, Ken and Danny, are the bass player and guitarist. The drummer is a replacement, but he's not bad. He isn't family, but a good friend of Cull's. The one on keyboards is a college friend of my son, Danny. The other two they just happened to come across in other bands or from open mic night here."
"What happened to the other drummer?"
Molly chuckled, glancing at her brother. "He decided to become a doctor," she laughed. "You should go play a song or two with them, Morph. That kid's not bad, but he lacks your surgical precision."
© 2020 Dellani Oakes
Tuesday, January 21, 2020
Morgan invites Tanya to dinner. He makes a bet that she can't be ready on time, and synchronizes his watch with her clock.
"The time is officially six forty-seven P.M. You have thirty minutes from now." He pressed a button on his watch and walked out the door, closing it sharply behind him.
"How extraordinary," Tanya murmured as she locked the door and walked to the bathroom, shedding her clothing as she went.
The hot water felt good on her aching neck and shoulders, but she felt revived by the prospect of food. She dried her short, brown hair and smeared on a little makeup on. Her clothing choices were somewhat limited, since a lot of her things were still in boxes. Another thing her grandmother left her, was the house. Tanya moved in and immediately started working at the hospital.
She grabbed a pair of dress jeans and a soft, dark pink, turtle neck sweater. Her boots would hurt her work swollen feet, but she had some suede clogs that would do nicely. With a couple minutes to spare, she was picking up her discarded clothing when she heard a car pull up in the driveway. Right on time, Morgan stepped out of his car. He'd showered too, and his dark hair was still slightly damp. He was wearing a pair of jeans and dark hooded sweatshirt with a picture from a Led Zeppelin album on it. Glancing at his watch, he jogged up to the door. Tanya had to admit, she liked watching him move. He had a grace to him that not many men could emulate. Like a big jungle cat. She got so interested, she hardly remembered to open the door before he knocked.
Laughing, he stood on the porch with his hand raised to tap on the door. "Okay, you win. You might want to put that stuff in the laundry hamper before we leave," he said, gesturing at the clothing in her arms.
Blushing furiously, Tanya carried the items to the bathroom and threw them in the hamper. She was mortified, her sensible bra and granny panties were on top of the stack. Rolling her eyes in self-disgust, she grabbed her keys and purse, following Morgan to the door. She locked the doorknob, made sure her keys were in her hand and turned the outside lights on. She checked for her keys a second time, then closed the door.
"You probably think I'm being a little bit OCD," she sighed.
Morgan glanced at her, "Obsessive Compulsive. You?"
"I've locked myself out so many times, I make sure I have everything I need, and double check my keys before I shut the door. It's gotten to be so habitual, I can't seem to help it."
"Have you locked yourself out lately?"
"No, not for ages."
"Then go with what works."
He led the way to the car, walking around and opening the passenger door for her. He waited until she was settled, closed the door and went back to the driver's side. Starting up the car, he glanced at her.
"You mentioned steak, does that still appeal? We have to city to choose from, what do you fancy?"
Her eyes brightened. "Steak works," she smiled. "I haven't had a good steak in ages."
"You working tomorrow?"
She shook her head, "No, I have the day off for once, why?"
"Well I know of this cozy place that has the best steaks and rum runners in the state. I don't want to tempt you, if you have to get up early. Working with a hangover's a bitch."
"I wouldn't know. Have you done it often?"
Morgan laughed. "A few times more than's good for me." He put the car in reverse, backing swiftly out of the driveway.
About twenty minutes later they pulled up in front of a quaint, roadside restaurant. The parking lot wasn't well lit, but it was full of cars and the restaurant looked ready to burst at the seams. Morgan parked at the far end of the lot and opened her door for her. Putting his arm around her in a friendly way, they walked in comfortable familiarity up the steps and onto the wooden porch of the building. It looked more like a shack at a fishing camp, than it did a steakhouse, but who was she to argue? Morgan opened the door and loud music greeted them. She wasn't prepared for the style of music, but liked it. It was sort of an Industrial/ Indy/ Rock blend that was really unusual. A questioning glance told her that he'd been saving it as a surprise. The music pounding her ears was almost uncomfortable, but he led her past the stage where the band was playing, smiling and waving to the musicians. They walked until they came to a weathered wooden deck, built out over the water. Morgan held her chair while she sat, then motioned a waiter as he sat across from her.
"You like the tunes?" He gestured toward the band, which was muffled enough for conversation.
"They're great! I wasn't exactly prepared for industrial-indy-rock. Or whatever it's called."
He chuckled. "That will do. I don't think the band really knows what to call it. It's their own blend. When they get famous, someone will give their genre a name, and then a dozen other bands will follow them."
"When? Have they signed with anyone?"
He shrugged, smiling as the waiter approached with a couple of menus and two glasses of water on a tray.
"Sup, Morph. Who's the lady? Isn't she a little classy for you?" He bowed to Tanya.
"Hi, I'm Tanya," she grinned. "Morph?" She raised an eyebrow at her dinner companion.
"Nickname," Duke replied. "You two work together?"
© 2020 Dellani Oakes
Monday, January 20, 2020
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