Thursday, May 06, 2021

Fragrance Lingers ~ A Love in the City Romance by Dellani Oakes – Part 21


Toby's eyes filled with wonder. "Who are you and what have you done with my sister? Mara, you're the last person to tell me that. You're so OCD about leaving on time, it's almost a fetish."

"Some things are more important than time, Toby."

"Like what, sis?"

"Watching the sun come up over the ocean. Learning how to scuba dive. Eating roasted clams with your fingers...." Her eyes teared up.

Toby pulled her into a bear hug. "When this is over and Mom is better, I'll send you back myself. Watch if I don't."

"Oh, Toby. I miss him so much."

Olivia came back out of the bathroom, straightening her dress. "So, we ready?" She saw Mara in tears. "Aw, honey! It's gonna be okay!"

"I'm having my pity party. I'll be all right. Let's go! We don't want to hit traffic!" She wiped her eyes with her fingers, forcing herself to smile.

They piled into the car and took off for the hospital. Luckily, they missed the worst of the traffic. It was just starting to get heavy when they pulled in to park. Across the parking lot from them, they saw their sister and brothers pulling into another spot.

When Cissy saw them, she ran to Mara, throwing her arms around her neck. "Mara! Oh, thank God! We were so worried about you and Mom! How could you scare us like that, young lady?" Cissy was second to the youngest and only a thirteen months older.

"Cissy," Mara rabbit punched her sister. "Choking here!"

"Sorry, honey. I've been sick with worry, I could hardly eat!"

"It's a closed subject, sis," Toby told her. "Let's concentrate on Mom now."

Her other brothers, Jeff and Paul, came up and hugged her. More like their father, they were subdued and mild mannered.

"Good to have you home," Jeff said quietly.

"Let's go see Mom," Paul said. "Happy faces! Oh, Mara, Mom thinks you couldn't get a flight until today. We say nothing else around her, is that clear?"

"Yes, Daddy," Mara took his arm, putting her head on his shoulder. "This is the last time I'm saying it. I'm sorry I put you through so much. It won't happen again. This is about Mom, not me."

Silent agreement circulated in the group as they boarded the elevator. Holding hands, they all walked toward their mother's room. Mara forced herself to smile. She knew her mother was very ill, but she wasn't expecting her to look so pale and drawn. She was nearly the color of her sheets. Rosaline held out one hand to her youngest daughter. It shook slightly as Mara took it.

"Hi, Mama. How are you feeling?"

"About as bad as I look, I expect." Her voice held the same breathlessness as usual, but now she just sounded worn out. "How was your flight?"

"Not bad."

"Liar. You've been crying. I'm sick, Mara, not dying. I'll be fine. Stuart will have me patched up in no time."

It was only then that Mara and her siblings noticed that their mother's doctor, Stuart Chambers, was in the room. They all greeted him politely.

"So, what's the verdict?" Toby asked what they all wanted to know.

"Three blockages, one major, two minor ones. We'll operate to take care of the bad one and treat the other two with medication and diet."

"And the pacemaker?" Mara was determined not to make Toby take all the responsibility.

"At this time I'm not as worried about that. Down the line that's possible, but right now, no."

"Oh, thank God!" Cissy, the drama queen, sat heavily in a chair.

Stuart glanced at her, a slight grin on his face. He had known all the children their entire lives, and was familiar with Cissy's tendency toward the dramatic.

Mara glanced around the room and saw two beautiful tropical plants on a small table by her mother's bed. "Oh, who are those from, Mom?"

"One's from the hotel. Gunther Pickering is such a dear. The other I'm not sure. That just arrived. Why don't you bring the card to me, Mara?"

Mara took the card to her mother and perched on the side of the bed. A slow smile spread across her mother's face as she read. Grinning happily, she handed the card to Mara.

"To the best Mom in the world, much love from your future son-in-law, Cole."

"I didn't know it was that serious." Her mother winked at her. "He's a wonderful boy."

"Thanks, I think so too. Oh, Denny sends his love, and said to get better so you can come back down for more scuba lessons."

Her mother laughed weakly. "I'll have to be in good working order before I can do that. The condition it's in now, I'm not sure my heart could take seeing him in wet trunks."

She and Mara giggled happily for a moment, leaving the others looking at them in wonder.

"Who's Denny?" Toby looked affronted at their behavior.

"He's a scuba instructor among other things," their mother replied evasively. "He happens to look very nice in wet swimming trunks." A little flush of color lit her cheeks.

"Auria sends her love," Mara interjected before any other questions were asked about Denny. She had her own questions about him, but left them unasked. Another time would present itself.

©2021 Dellani Oakes

To Buy Dellani's Books https://www.amazon.com/Dellani-Oakes/e/B007ZQCW3A/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Fragrance Lingers ~ A Love in the City Romance by Dellani Oakes – Part 20


"Tell me about the man." She sat heavily on the bed.

"What makes you think there's a man?"

"Because only a man would keep you out all night."

Blushing, Mara flopped on the bed next to her sister-in-law. Olivia was somewhat younger than Toby and not quite a year older than Mara. They had been close friends in school. Toby had pursued Olivia since the time he hit puberty. It took him a few years, but he finally got her to marry him.

"He's so wonderful!"

"Name?"

"Cole Bayard."

"Occupation?"

"Which one? He does lots of things."

"Pick one."

"He's a consultant."

"What does he consult on?"

"Right now he's working with a team who are making a rock video."

"Ooh, cool! So, is he good in bed?"

"Olivia! I don't ask you that."

"That's cause I'm in bed with your brother. It's better not to discuss it. This guy's no kin to me, I can ask all I want."

Mara sighed happily. "He's absolutely fantastic!"

"Makes your toes tingle?"

"Makes everything tingle. Toes, scalp, eyebrows...name a part, it tingles!"

"You had Toby worried absolutely sick, Mara. I wasn't going to say anything, I know he did already. But he was up all night pacing and throwing up."

"Livi, I'm so sorry...."

"Tell your brother that."

"I did. I just wasn't thinking...."

"I know. I admit, Toby's had that effect on me more than once. Can't think about anything else! And it wouldn't have mattered, except...."

"Except Mom got sick."

"We're leaving for the hospital in a couple hours. You lie down for a little while. I'll call you in time to get ready. You want a shower?"

"I'll take it before I lie down." She hugged her sister-in-law and helped her get up from the bed.

Olivia waddled toward the door, holding her back. "Never doing this again!"

Mara woke to Olivia's gentle tap on her door. She cracked the door slightly, leaning in. "You up, honey?"

"Thanks, Livi. I'm up. I'll be right down, I just need to brush my teeth."

"We're leaving in about twenty minutes, take your time."

Mara took the time to put on a little makeup. After crying the entire plane trip home, she looked dreadful. Her face was puffy after her sleep. She tried to cover up the worst damage, but thought she hadn't done a very convincing job. Ten minutes later she was downstairs helping Toby look for his car keys.

"Did you check your desk?" Olivia asked him.

"Yes."

"Coat pocket?"

"Yes."

"Kitchen table?"

"Yes!"

Mara jingled the keys by his ear. "Trunk of the car?"

Toby snatched his keys away from her, sticking out his tongue. "I was gonna look there, gosh! Lucky!"

"Olivia, you've got to keep him from watching Napoleon Dynamite so much."

"Don't I know it! He about drives me crazy with that stuff! Do you know he actually suggested we name the baby Tina?"

"After the llama?"

"I just like the name, gosh!"

"Shut up," both women said in unison.

"Let's go, ladies!"

"I have to pee first," Olivia said as she walked slowly to the downstairs bathroom.

"Honey, you went ten minutes ago."

"And I'll go again in another ten minutes. You try having eight pounds of baby on your bladder, see how well you manage!"

"We'll hit traffic." He glanced at his watch.

"Toby," Mara put her hand gently over his watch. "It's just traffic. A few minutes extra won't matter."

©2021 Dellani Oakes

To Buy Dellani's Books https://www.amazon.com/Dellani-Oakes/e/B007ZQCW3A/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Sunday, May 02, 2021

CURL UP WIH THIS SPICY ROMANTIC SUSPENSE~~CONDUCT UNBECOMING BY DELLANI OAKES

   CUBDOBLURB.jpg

C. Giguere5.0 out of 5 stars Teague is back…Yay!Reviewed in the United States on October 2, 2014Verified PurchaseI have been waiting for a sequel to the Ninja Tattoo and finally, it is here. Like before, the author delivers not only bad ass male characters but introduces us to Nedeya, a friend of Teague’s who can go toe to toe with the bad guys. Nedeya is involved in a military conspiracy when she witnesses her fiance being killed. While on the run, she is framed for his murder and so she must go deep into hiding just to survive. Nedeya’s friend Aileen, reaches out to Teague on her behalf but the only problem is, Aileen’s his ex! And let’s just say, that relationship didn’t end very well.

To make matters more complicated, Nedeya doesn’t want to be found. Covering her tracks well, Teague is forced to rely on the help of friends to assist on this mission impossible before it’s too late.

There are steamy scenes, action and even an explosion in this romance novel which is why it should be call a 21st century romance. There are no damsels here, and no bodice ripping nonsense, just a story about friendship, love and sacrifice. That’s why I gave Conduct Unbecoming 5 stars.

CONDUCT UNBECOMING BY Dellani Oakes

AVAILABLE AT AMAZON


Thursday, April 29, 2021

Fragrance Lingers ~ A Love in the City Romance by Dellani Oakes – Part 19


"Are we heading right to the hospital?"

"No, visiting hours are later. We'll go by the house, it's closer to the hospital. You can hang out with me and Olivia for a few days."

"I'd like that, Toby. I don't really want to be by myself."

"It's not just Mom, is it?"

Mara couldn't look at him. Was it that obvious? Was she broadcasting to the entire world that she was falling in love? She didn't answer for a minute, but walked silently toward the elevator. How did she tell her brother that she'd met the most amazing man in the world, gone to bed with him at the first possible opportunity, and was falling hopelessly in love like a little kid?

"Mara?" Toby was standing by his car. She had walked past it, half way down the aisle before stopping.

"I'm sorry, Toby. I'm just tired. I didn't sleep much last night, and got up early. Then the flight, I'm exhausted."

"So. Who's the guy?" His gaze fixed her to the spot.

Mara couldn't help grinning, a blush rising in her cheeks. "I met him when his friend hit me with a volleyball. He works down there part of the year. He's fantastic, Toby! He's smart and funny and sexy!"

"Does this paragon have a name?"

"Cole," she said quietly. "His name is Cole."

"I take it this isn't just a vacation fling?"

"No, not for either of us. I am already falling in love, Toby. For the first time in my life. Is that crazy?"

Toby smiled patiently, shaking his head slowly. "No, baby sister, it's not."

They got in the car and Toby drove carefully out of the parking garage, down the ramps and out into city traffic. He merged onto the interstate and headed for his house. It was in a suburb just outside the city.

"They didn't take Mom to the hospital downtown?"

"That's where she went first. Then, when she was stable, her own doctor had her transferred to St. Mary's. It has the best cardiac unit in the city."

He pulled off the highway and headed for home. Glancing in his mirrors, he slowed for a turn and took a narrow, private road that led to his, and five other, houses.

"We were worried sick when they couldn't find you at the hotel, Mara."

"I spent the night with Cole, at his dad's. I guess Denny doesn't have a phone."

"We thought you'd been abducted. The police were looking for you everywhere. Why didn't you tell anyone where you were?"

"I didn't think I was answerable for my whereabouts." Her temper flared before she could control herself. Worry and fatigue were an ugly combination.

"No, not if there's no one to care! Mara, Mom collapsed in your home. If the neighbor hadn't found her, who knows what would have happened! So I have my mother sick, maybe dying, and my baby sister missing for nearly twenty-four hours! Answerable for your whereabouts? Hell yes, you are!"

"I'm sorry, Toby. I deserved that. I've been thinking of myself all this time. I didn't mean to scare anyone, it just happened. We spent the day at Denny's, and he invited us to spend the night. I wasn't thinking...."

"I can't lose you too, Mara." He whispered. "Dad's gone, Mom's sick.... I think I'd go crazy if I lost you, too. Everyone leaned on me when Dad died, and it took me months to get over his death—all by myself. I couldn't call anyone and talk about my feelings, because everyone was calling and crying on my shoulder. I can't do it alone anymore, not again. Not this time."

"You won't have to. I promise. We'll both be there for each other."

They pulled into the driveway of his home. Toby put the car in park and held out his arms to her. She hugged him tightly, holding him close.

The door to the house burst open and Olivia ran out, arms wide, crying and laughing simultaneously. She was very emotional, especially now that she was nearly nine months pregnant. Three dogs and Mara's two cats followed her out creating havoc until they were rounded up and corralled once more in the house.

Olivia grasped the door jamb dramatically, hauling herself over the threshold with difficulty. "Oh, my back!"

"My niece giving you trouble today?"

"You don't know the half of it! I keep telling Toby, this one's it! I'm not going through this again."

"I told her I want three more. She slapped me."

"He'll never touch me again, if he thinks I'm doing this anymore! I got the guest room all set up for you. Toby went and got the cats. They adapted well, I was surprised. The dogs don't even bother them."

"Thanks, Olivia. I appreciate it."

"I'll help you unpack. Toby says you're staying until Mom is better."

"I guess so. Thanks, I can manage."

"Nonsense. I'm helping."

There was no arguing with Olivia when she made up her mind. She wanted to talk to Mara privately, this was a good excuse. They got to the room and Olivia shut the door behind them.

©2021 Dellani Oakes

To Buy Dellani's Books https://www.amazon.com/Dellani-Oakes/e/B007ZQCW3A/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Fragrance Lingers ~ A Love in the City Romance by Dellani Oakes – Part 18


"I hate to say this, bro, but we still have work to do."

"Yeah, it's okay, Red. Time and tide wait for no one. I know."

"And impatient directors don't wait for anyone, either. I called to let him know we'd be late. He's a little hungover since last night, so he was grumpy but amenable."

"Yeah."

"You'll see her again, bro."

"I know, Red. But dammit I just found her!"

"I can't say I know how you feel. I don't. But I'm here."

"Thanks, man."

"I'll shut up now." Red grinned and punched Cole in the shoulder.

"I'd hit you back, but you're driving my car," he remarked. "I like my car."

Cole went through the rest of the day on automatic. He was funny, charming and did his job well. At the end of the day, he went home and opened a bottle of vodka, another of Kahlua, and drank Black Russians until he fell asleep.


Mara's flight was long and tedious. Even in first class, she felt cramped, claustrophobic and irritable. She cried softly, face to the window, until the flight attendant stopped beside her. The woman was probably in her mid-twenties, she had a kind face and long blonde hair pulled back in a bow.

"You want something to drink, Miss Cross?"

Mara started to say no, but her throat was a little dry, so she asked for a Coca-Cola. The young woman handed it to her and then sat down in the empty seat next to her.

"I know it's none of my business," she said quietly. "But I've been doing this flight for five years and I've seen people too drunk to stand, singing and throwing up, sleeping off a bender, but I've never seen anyone who came back in tears. Are you okay?"

Mara's lip started to tremble. Tears started to fall from her eyes again. The attendant handed her a clean cloth napkin.

"Do you want to talk about it?"

Mara nodded. "My mom got sick while I was away. I don't know how she is." She started to sob quietly.

The flight attendant, whose name was Andi, put a comforting arm around her. "I'm so sorry. I know how scary that is. My mom got sick the first flight I took down here. I had to turn around and come right back. She's okay, and I'm sure your mom will be fine."

"I hope so."

"There's more, though, isn't there? You look so miserable, there has to be more."

"Yeah." Mara tried to hold her mouth still, but it kept falling into a pout.

"It's a man, huh?" Andi was remarkably perceptive for such a young woman.

Mara nodded. "He's fantastic. He's the best thing that ever happened to me, and I have to leave! And I just found him!"

"Oh, honey. It's okay." Andi hugged her again. "Once your mom gets better, just get back with him."

"It's not that simple," Mara said.

"Why not?"

"My job...his job.... Life!"

"It's only as complicated as we make it, that's what my mom says. She's always telling me, "Andrea Michelle, life's only as hard as you make it for yourself. If you build a mountain out of a molehill, you deserve to be stuck up top." She smiled sweetly. "I know it sounds kind of silly, but when you stop building that mountain, things have a way of working out."

"Thanks, Andi. I hope you're right."

"We're going to be landing in about fifteen minutes. Can I get you anything else?"

"I'm better now, thank you."

"Sure thing, Miss Cross." She walked up to the front of the cabin and made her announcement concerning the landing.

Mara obediently fastened her seat belt, put her seat in the upright position and locked her tray in place. The plane landed on time and her oldest brother, Toby, was waiting for her at the baggage pickup. He looked tired, worried and harassed.

His smile was warm and welcoming, his arms a comfort. He was always the one she turned to for strength. He was the one who pulled them all through after their father's death, and he was doing it again with their mother's illness. Mara promised herself he wouldn't do it alone, this time. She had to get a grip.

"Hey, baby sister. Good flight?"

"No, miserable. How's Mom?"

"Better. They're running more thorough tests, but she had a small heart attack. They think she might need a pace maker. She may need angioplasty for the blockages, but they aren't absolutely sure yet. We knew you would want to be here if she had surgery." He put his arm around her and led her from the airport.

©2021 Dellani Oakes

To Buy Dellani's Books https://www.amazon.com/Dellani-Oakes/e/B007ZQCW3A/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

WONDERFUL CHARACTERS AND PLOT IN THIS ROMANTIC SUSPENSE-FILLED BOOK ~ Room 103 by Dellani Oakes

 Now in Audio!


Back for her college reunion, Deputy Marshal Marice Houston doesn't expect to hook up with an old boyfriend. Nor, does she expect to be a witness to a deadly assault, which was motivated by a decade old rape case. Orson Roberts is dead, killed by the owner of the motel where she's staying. Was it really self-defense or was it murder? Can Marice discover the truth of what happened that night in 
Room 103

To Buy E-Book Room 103




WONDERFUL CHARACTERS AND PLOT IN THIS ROMANTIC SUSPENSE-FILLED BOOK

Room 103 is the first book in a beautiful new suspense-filled romance series by Dellani Oakes.
I love Ms. Oakes style of writing. She has such a flair for adding just the right amount of pulse throbbing romance into her suspense and murder filled tales.
In-Room 103, we meet Deputy Marshall Marice Houston, who has gone to her home town to have a fun and relaxing weekend at her College Reunion.
Little does she suspect that she will have to solve a murder, clear the name of a longtime suspect, and fall in love.
All of Ms. Oakes books are well written, wonderfully edited, and enticingly romantic and filled with suspense, even in those books that are not mysteries you will find enough romance and suspense to add to whatever the plot happens to be.
I loved Room 103 and fell in love with her new characters in this series. I can hardly wait to read Room 203.

5 star review by M M Bishop


Thursday, April 22, 2021

Fragrance Lingers ~ A Love in the City Romance by Dellani Oakes – Part 24


"Yeah?"

"Talk to me. I want to hear your voice."

"What do you want me to say?"

"Anything... Tell me about the sunset."

Cole described the sunset in such vivid detail, she could see it. Then he proceeded to describe to her exactly how he was going to make love to her when she returned.

"Dammit," he cursed softly.

"What?"

"I've gotten myself all hot and horny," he admittedly sullenly. "And you aren't here to help me out."

"I'll be back as soon as I can," she told him. "I promise. Just as soon as I can get away."

"Hurry home, Mara. I love you."

"I love you too, Cole," she replied almost automatically, but realized with a flutter that it was true.

They hung up reluctantly, neither of them wanting to break the link. The call was going to cost a fortune, but Mara didn't care. Every penny was worth it, as long as she could hear his voice.

There was a gentle tap on her door. Toby stuck his head around the edge of the door. "You okay?"

She nodded, placing the cordless phone back on the cradle.

"I'm sorry about the music earlier. That's just what song came up, it's randomized."

"No problem, bro, not like you knew." She held out her arms to him.

Toby came into the room and gave her a big hug, sitting by her on the bed. "Feeling any better?"

"No, but it was good to hear his voice."

"You remember a few years ago when Olivia dumped me?"

She nodded. How could she forget? It was a foolish spat that nearly ended in a split in the family. Half of them sided with Toby, the other half with Olivia. Mara had been stuck in the middle, hopelessly torn between her best friend and her favorite brother.

"I felt terrible the entire time. I wanted to see her so much, and it felt like we were a world apart. She was a ten minute drive away. I can't imagine what it's like to be separated by so much distance."

"It sucks," she told him, pounding her pillows.

"But think how much fun you'll have when you get back together!"

He tickled her ribs like he did when they were kids. He had her giggling and begging for mercy.

"Stop! Stop! You'll make me wake Olivia!"

"Too late!" she heard from down the hall. The door opened and Olivia looked around it much like Toby had. "We having a party in here I don't know about?"

"I invited Toby to my pity party, but he didn't like the company, so he tickled me. It's his fault." She pointed at her brother, who tried to look sheepish.

"It's always his fault, but that's one reason I love him so much. You know, I always used to say I thought he was a goof? Well, now I know he is, but damn if that isn't one of the things I love the most about him."

Toby put his hand on his wife's abdomen, grinning widely as the baby kicked him. "She's gonna have a goof for a daddy, a boss for a mommy and a tickle puss for an auntie."

"I'd rather be a tickle puss than a goof any day."

"I dunno," Toby looked maliciously at her. "The tickle puss is at the mercy of the goof!" He laughed loudly like a villain in a melodrama.

"Enough, Tobias! I'm sleepy and your daughter is finally giving me a few moments of peace, so I'm going back to bed. I suggest you follow me." She raised her eyebrows pointedly.

"I know my place." He hung his head sheepishly.

"I know your place, too, and you'd best put it to good use!"

Mara burst out laughing, watching Toby wander out the door after his wife like a puppy. Even with Mom sick and Cole miles away, it was good to be with her family. She hadn't been spending enough time with them lately. Every time the pace of her life slowed down, she'd filled it with more work so she wouldn't realize how empty it was. Now that she saw, she wanted to fill it with the important things; family, friends, and love.

Turning out the light, she lay down and curled up on her side. Closing her eyes, she pictured the sunrise with Cole by her side. Had it been only that morning? It didn't seem possible. With a contented smile on her lips, she fell asleep.

Cole couldn't sleep after talking to Mara. He had succeeded in making himself sexually frustrated, and had no solution. He tried a cold shower, but that just made him cold. He'd never been in a position where he wanted a particular woman and couldn't have her. He'd always been able to find a willing partner and probably still could, but he didn't want anyone but Mara. Being unfaithful to her wasn't an acceptable option. Impulsively, he grabbed the phone and called an airline. He made arrangements to leave the following day. The direct action felt good. At least he was doing something.

Mara called her boss, Jack Simpson, at home the following morning. He didn't know she'd returned, and was surprised to hear from her. After she explained her situation, he got very quiet.

"Gosh, Mara, I don't know if I can rearrange our schedule around sick leave and vacation. I mean, we have projects pending your final approval."

"Jack, don't jerk me around. You have six other people who could sign off on that paperwork. Besides, you weren't expecting me back for another ten days. How could they be so urgent?"

©2021 Dellani Oakes

To Buy Dellani's Books

Fragrance Lingers ~ A Love in the City Romance by Dellani Oakes – Part 17


They drove in silence for a few minutes, pulling up to her hotel just as Frank was coming on duty. He walked briskly to the car, opening the door for her with a look of deep concern.

"What's wrong, Frank?" Cole asked him.

"Miss Cross, we've been trying to find you. When you didn't come back last night, we called the police. They have been looking for you everywhere."

"Why, Frank? I'm fine. I've been with Cole and his family."

"I tried to reach Mr. Bayard at home and at his office," he said crisply. "And your cell phone wasn't available.

"We were at my dad's, Frank. He doesn't have a phone. I left my phone in the car."

"Come inside, please, Miss Cross. The manager needs to talk to you."

"Is it about my bill? What's up?"

"Just please, Miss. I'm not supposed to say. I was told only to bring you to him when you arrived."

Puzzled and upset, Mara and Cole followed him to the manager's office. He gestured to two large, leather wing chairs.

"Please sit. The manager will be here shortly."

They sat obediently in silence. Mara was angry and frustrated. Cole looked worried. They both stood when the manager, Mr. Pickering, entered. His face held concern as he asked them to sit.

"Miss Cross, we have been very worried." His voice was full of the Island flavor and his dark face fell into deep lines. "I have contacted the police, they are no longer searching for you. You understand our concern, a single woman on vacation, suddenly disappears. It was most disturbing. However, that is not the reason we were looking for you initially. There's been news from your home."

Cole took Mara's hand, squeezing her fingers gently.

"What? What's wrong?"

"You mother has fallen quite ill," Pickering told her. "Your neighbor suspected something was wrong when the mail had not been picked up. Nor had she seen your mother going out, as she usually does, when she visits your home. She called your sister and brothers, one of them brought over a key. Your mother had collapsed." He held up his hand asking for her to let him finish. "She is in the hospital and your family asks you to come home."

"Is it serious? Is she dying?"

"This I do not know, Miss. Your things have been packed and are in our storage. A flight has been selected for you by your family. It leaves in a few hours." He handed her the flight information. "Truly, I am sorry to hear of her illness. Your mother is a fine lady and I enjoy her visits. I've taken the liberty of sending a plant to her from the hotel staff."

Mara's eyes were full of tears and she was shaking uncontrollably. "Cole, what am I going to do? I have to get home! Oh, God!"

Cole put his arms around her, holding her closely. Mr. Pickering left them alone and went to get her luggage.

"I can't lose her, Cole. I can't!"

"Shh, I know, love. I know. I'll drive you to the airport. It's going to be okay."

"But why would Cissy and my brothers insist I come home? If she's going to be all right, why would they do that? Does that mean she's dying? Oh, Cole!"

Her bags were packed into the Jeep. Red was waiting at the desk, credit card in hand.

"The hotel called me when they couldn't reach you. I got over here as soon as I could. I took care of the bill, Mara. I'm driving to the airport, that way Cole doesn't have to divide his attention."

"Thanks, bro," Cole told him.

Mara couldn't speak, she just hugged Red and kissed his cheek. That was thanks enough for him and he refused to let her pay him back. They climbed into the Jeep and Red pulled into traffic.

The drive to the airport was sullen and quiet. Mara didn't feel like talking, and the men hardly knew what to say. There were no words of hope they could offer, and very little comfort that wasn't best said with strong arms. Cole kept his around her the entire way, holding her gently as she wept on his shoulder. The men got her checked in and walked her up to the security gate. Red had her carry on bag ready for the conveyor, but Cole pulled them both out of line.

"I don't want to say goodbye," he told her softly. "Call me as soon as you can, okay?" He handed her a business card. "That has all my numbers on it. Call me anytime, no matter the time. Let us know how your mom is—how you are. I'll miss you."

"I don't want to go.... If it was for anyone else but my mom, I wouldn't leave you."

"I know."

Mara clung to him, tears falling hotly down her cheeks. His shirt was getting soaked, but he didn't mind. He pulled gently away from her.

"You're going to miss your flight, babe."

Snuffling, she wiped her nose on her sleeve and walked toward the metal detectors. "I love you," she whispered and blew him a kiss.

"I love you," he said quietly. "Take care, Mara."

It took every ounce of self control Cole possessed, not to run out of the airport like an emotional child. He watched until Mara made it through the next check point. She turned and waved. He waved back, blowing a kiss, then he and Red went back to the Jeep. Red slid once more behind the wheel and took off at top speed.

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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Fragrance Lingers ~ A Love in the City Romance by Dellani Oakes – Part 21

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