Former Army Captain, Frank Atherton, has left the dangerous life of a soldier behind. Retired from the military, he now works in a large nursing home facility, as assistant director. Things are pretty quiet, until the annoying blister of a man, Ralph Penwarren arrives, doing his best to break into his mother's apartment. Soon after his arrival, Frank meets the lovely new psychiatrist on staff, Marka Ventimiglia, who takes his breath away. Their relationship seems to be moving swiftly ahead, until Ralph Penwarren is seriously injured by a bad fall. If that weren't enough, Frank's office is trashed, his car vandalized, and a dead man is found in the ravine behind his house. Are the incidents related, or simply a series of alarming coincidences?
A small spot for me to publish random thoughts that might help other writers find that tiny voice echoing feebly inside their heads.
Monday, August 31, 2020
Thursday, August 27, 2020
Emma, Dangerous by Dellani Oakes – Part 19
At dinner, Cory has a lot to say.
"Now that you've totally eviscerated the single men at the table," Tim said politely. "May we eat?"
They ate dinner in happy companionship, laughing and teasing back and forth. It was the best dinner Sam and Emma could remember. Everyone seemed genuinely fond of one another. They all pitched in to clean up, gathering dirty plates, serving dishes and so on, making a parade in and out of the kitchen.
"You realize you probably set them back at least a month in therapy," Carlos said quietly to Cory, after dinner. "Some of that was kind of hurtful."
"It had to be said. They're great guys with a lot of potential, but they need to get over themselves. No woman in her right mind would hook up with any of them right now."
"Maybe so, but to tell them their main competition is a gay man? Ouch!"
"I don't believe you're really gay. I think you've had problems with women, so you find it less painful to date guys."
"What makes you an expert? You a mind reader?"
She raised an eyebrow, staring at his pants. "That, or the fact that you get wood whenever you're close to me. Since I know I'm not a guy, I figure you're at the very least bi—at the most, seriously confused."
"I do not get wood," he whispered. "It's just the way the pants are cut."
"Right." She drew the word out long and low. "Live in denial, baby. I can wait."
"So," Glenn approached Cory as she left the kitchen. "You really think I'm hot?"
She smirked, touching his face with her fingertips. "I think you're gorgeous, and you have danger written all over you in indelible ink, especially your zipper. You would be one hell of a ride, Glenn. But the destruction would lay waste to half the planet, if we got together."
He closed his eyes, shaking his head. "Naw, ain't like that no more. When I first got here, yeah. Now?" He shook his head some more. "All I ask is that sometime you give me a chance. If it doesn't work, we go our separate ways, no hurt feelings."
"That's the sound of a man who's hard up and horny," she said with a knowing smile.
"That's the sound of a man who's finally noticed what's right in front of him. I didn't ever claim to be the smartest guy around, but I could make you happy, Cory. Think about it, okay?"
Cory nodded, bidding him good night when they got to her room. She lay down on her bed, pillow clutched to her chest as the house around her settled into the evening routine. Lights went out at 10:00, but they were allowed to watch TV until 11:00. They were on a timer and went off automatically. She didn't feel like watching TV, but didn't want to lie there alone with her thoughts either.
There was a light tapping on her door. Cory sat up expectantly. "Yes?"
"Can I come in?" It was Emma.
The door opened hesitantly and Emma glanced around it. "Hi. I just realized Raleigh never got me anything to wear. I can sleep in my underwear, or borrow a shirt from Sam, but I can't wear the same panties tomorrow."
"Oh, ew, no! I totally forgot. Let's get Vera and Donna. I know we can find something for you. Donna's more your size, but her stuff will be long."
"I don't mind. It's more comfortable that way."
"Okay, girl time. We'll go through our stuff. Also, there's a room with things other guests left behind. We'll have Molly open it up. It's early yet. Lights aren't out until ten."
"I hate to be a bother."
"No bother! It's like shopping, only without the nasty bills to pay. Come on." She grabbed Emma by the hand, leading her down the hall to Vera's room.
Loud rock music was playing, but got quieter when they knocked.
"Sorry, sorry! I'll keep it down."
Cory opened the door. "No, idiot. We've an emergency. Emma needs clothing."
©2020 Dellani Oakes
Tuesday, August 25, 2020
Emma, Dangerous by Dellani Oakes – Part 18
"It's brought a lot of changes for me too," Sam answered coolly, shaking his arm free.
"Yeah, but you don't have the baggage that girl does. Give her space and a little time."
Nodding, Sam walked out the door. He knew Raleigh was right, but it still made him uncomfortable to think that someone else read Emma better than he did. Then again, Raleigh was married, he was older, and he'd seen a lot of recovering addicts. Maybe a lot of the women went through the same thing.
"I don't want to lose her," he murmured to Raleigh as they went downstairs.
"You won't. She loves you, too."
Sam wondered how Raleigh could tell. Even he wasn't sure of that.
They walked in the kitchen, only to be shunted off to wash up before going to the dining room. The table was set, the food in serving dishes in the center of a long, wide table. A cheerful tablecloth, cloth napkins and centerpiece made it look like a restaurant. There were even name cards at each place. Sam jealously noticed that the wasn't sitting next to Emma. She was seated between Tim and Glenn. He was seated across from her next to Vera and Cory.
"They need to bring more babes," Benji remarked, bouncing nervously in his chair. "Balance the table some."
"Preferably some who aren't already taken," Glenn added. "Cory's the only single girl here. She can't stand any of us, so we're screwed."
"Who said I can't?" She raised an eyebrow at Glenn.
"Vera did the other day."
Cory giggled, tossing her head. "Well, since when do you trust a thing she says? She's inordinately unreliable."
"Not to mention a terrible tease," Vera said. "Cory doesn't hate you guys. She thinks you're all hot, especially Carlos." She winked across the table at the gay man.
"Well, there's a waste!" Carlos replied, blowing her a kiss. "But honey, if I liked girls, I'd totally be all over you."
Cory laughed louder, returning the kiss. "I wish you did like girls, Carlos. You're smokin' hot, baby."
The other men at the table looked somewhat offended. Glenn, who was used to the attention of women—lots of women, was especially annoyed.
"I guess the rest of us don't rate on the smokin' scale?"
"Did I say that? Molly, can I be blatantly honest for a moment?"
"Are you going to swear?"
"No, ma'am. I can say it all without a curse word, but I might dangle on the edge of inappropriate."
Molly smirked. "Go ahead. You have my permission to dangle."
"Thank you. Starting then with Glenn. You're so hot, your clothing is on fire. You're buff, jacked, chiseled and seriously sexy. You're the kind of man my mama warned me about, but told me would be a hell of a good ride."
Glenn didn't know whether to be offended or flattered, so sat there with his mouth hanging open.
"Tim, you're gorgeous, but you're taken. Shelby, if you ever get tired of him, send him my way, cause—da-yam!"
Her attention turned to Sam. "Sam, repeat of what I said to Tim. Emma, ditto."
Sam and Emma laughed, loving Cory's honesty. The others were still trying to catch up with the fact that she was talking so much. Normally very quiet, this was the most they had ever heard her say at one time.
"Benji, ADHD has treatments that don't require illegal drugs. Look into them, dear, then call me. Freddie, you need to lighten up. No one hates you, you just hate yourself. When you can get past that, we'll talk. You and Benji are cute as all get out, but personalities to drive a woman to drink. Since I'm trying really hard to shake that, we can never be. Sorry."
Benji and Freddie looked terribly disappointed.
©2020 Dellani Oakes
Thursday, August 20, 2020
Emma, Dangerous by Dellani Oakes – Part 17
Raleigh takes them upstairs to see their rooms.
"I got them through the women's clinic."
"Okay, tell him that, then. Do either of you take anything else?"
"Nope," Sam answered for them both. "Aside from the obvious, we're healthy enough."
"Now for the list of bad words. Think George Carlin, kind of. Obviously not the F-word. If you say the C-word in front of Molly, prepare to be decapitated."
"Which C-word?" Emma asked.
"Rhymes with hunt," Raleigh told her, blushing slightly.
"Ugh, I've never said that in my life. Not starting now," Emma said.
"Me either. Safe from that one," Sam agreed.
"She's lenient with shit and ass, but not frequently. The list is posted on your dresser mirror. You either pay up, if you get any allowance, or you do extra chores. Depending on the severity of the offense depends on what you do. She explained about chores?"
"Yeah. Good system," Sam replied.
"Molly's innovation. It works well. Just about anything that runs smoothly is due to her. She's amazing. Sorry, I'm sickening, aren't I? I'm head over heels in love with my wife."
"I hope one day a man has that expression in his eyes when he talks about me," Emma sighed. "Your whole face lights up." She blinked back tears, turning away.
Sam wanted to tell her he always felt that way about her, but didn't know if he ever looked like that, or ever would. He loved her deeply, cherished her, wanted to protect her.
"One day, maybe you'll see that in my face," he murmured. "Cause I'm crazy about you, Em."
Raleigh stepped back, giving them some space. Emma whirled around, clinging to Sam, nearly choking him. She hugged him so hard, he could hardly breathe. He held her, burying his face in her hair as she wept, her whole body shaking.
Looking somewhat embarrassed, Raleigh walked outside. He didn't leave them completely alone, but he gave them some much needed privacy. Sam held Emma while she cried, kissing her forehead, nose and cheeks.
Desperate to calm her, he sang their song to her. He called it their song because it was playing the first time they made love. Awkwardly, hesitantly. It was Sam's first time, but Emma showed him how. He was bumbling and didn't last long, but because he loved her, it was wonderful. To them, it was like her first time too, because they were together, even though her father had been abusing her for almost six years. His voice shook with the tears he too wanted to shed, but he still managed to carry the tune fairly well.
"I love that song," Emma sniffled.
"It's always been you and me against the world, baby. It always will be." He kissed her forehead.
Raleigh slowly leaned around the door. "Sorry to interrupt, but it's dinner time and Molly will skin me if you're late."
"Let me wash my face," Emma sniffed, wiping her nose on her hand. She walked into her bathroom and wet a washcloth with cold water, holding it over her eyes. "I can't seem to stop crying today. Must be hormonal," she giggled rather hysterically.
The men exchanged a pained look, shrugging when her face was covered.
"I heard that," she remarked, her voice muffled.
"Heard what? We didn't say a word," Sam protested.
"I heard that male shrug that means you don't want to think about it. It's a perfectly normal, natural thing. Why can't you guys get over it?"
"Cause to us it's totally unnatural," Sam explained. "Not to mention inconvenient."
"Look at it this way, Mr. Inconvenient," she said hotly. "At least I'm not pregnant!"
She stormed past him, running down the stairs. Sam wanted to follow her, but Raleigh grabbed his arm.
"You walked right into that one, Sam. Give her a moment to calm down. The last day has brought a lot of changes that she's gonna take time to get used to."
©2020 Dellani Oakes
Tuesday, August 18, 2020
Emma, Dangerous by Dellani Oakes – Part 16
are introduced to the other guests, and learn about the curse jar.
They all laughed. Freddie ran a palm over his shaved head in a nervous gesture.
"What I meant to say was, I'm the shlemiel of the bunch. If something can go horribly wrong, it's either my fault, or I'm in the middle of it. Perpetual scapegoat... I'm trying to work my way up the karma scale, until I get to sacrificial lamb."
Emma and Sam didn't know whether to laugh or not. They looked at him with open curiosity.
"I'm kidding! Seriously, though. I'm not ...."
A tall, imposing, well built, dark skinned man pushed carefully past Freddie, holding out his hand to Sam. "I'm Glenn. Body builder, athlete, drug addict. I think we were in school together."
"Yeah, you look familiar. Couple years ahead?" Sam replied.
"Oh, my God. I know you!" Emma blushed. "Oh, shit. I hate to say how well I know you."
Glenn looked embarrassed. He took a step back as Sam straightened up, squaring shoulders nearly as broad as the other man's. He was a couple inches shorter, but his natural aggressiveness, where Emma was concerned, made him intimidating as hell.
"I don't have a problem with you, Sammy," Glenn replied, taking another step back, hands up defensively.
"He didn't do anything wrong," Emma interjected in Glenn's defense. "It's not like he hurt me or anything, Sam. We were both pretty messed up at one of those weekend benders, and we got together. Completely voluntary."
"Yeah, I bet it was magic," Sam said with gritted teeth.
"Honest to God, dude, I don't remember," Glenn admitted with a slight frown. "Sorry, Emma."
"Until you spoke, I didn't recognize you either. Your voice is—distinctive."
She was right. His voice was deep, rich, melodic. His dark skin had an almost coppery tint to it. She kind of wished she could remember, because it probably had been pretty good. The only times she could clearly remember were those with Sam. Or the times her father forced her—those were branded on her memory.
"It's okay, Sam," she murmured, pulling on his arm. "You can't beat up every man I've ever had sex with. You'd be fighting constantly."
Sam didn't add that was mostly because she didn't know who most of them were and neither did he. She'd been lucky so far, dodging the STD bullet—especially HIV. He relaxed, taking a step back.
"Sorry, man. Habit." He held out his hand for Glenn to shake.
Taking Sam's hand, he gave it a friendly shake. "Dude, if I had a lady like Emma, I'd protect her too. There are a lot of sickos out there."
"I'm Carlos," a medium built Hispanic man stepped forward with his hand extended. "I assure you, I've never been with your lady. I don't even like women. Now you, on the other hand...!" He pointed playfully at Sam. "I'm kidding. Never saw either one of you before."
Laughing, Sam shook his hand. "Nice to meet you, Carlos."
"What's on the menu?" Raleigh asked, rubbing his hands together.
"Food," Molly replied, kissing him. "Now whist, you. Take these two and show them around, tell them about the list, and for heaven's sake, find Emma some clothing. She can't wear that to bed."
"We can totally find her something to wear," Vera looked at the other girls, nodding.
The girls continued talking as they worked. Raleigh led Sam and Emma upstairs to the third floor. Their rooms were across the hall from one another.
Their rooms were Spartan, but spacious. Each had a twin bed, dresser, desk, television and book shelf stocked with books of all kinds. There were folded linens on the end of each bed. Sam's duffel bag of personal belongings was in the middle of his bed.
"No weapons of any kind. No drugs, obviously, not even aspirin. If you have a headache, you tell us, we ask the doctor, he says whether or not it's okay. Emma, are you on birth control pills?"
"When you see the doctor tomorrow, tell him what kind and give him the name of your regular doctor."
©2020 Dellani Oakes
Thursday, August 13, 2020
Emma, Dangerous by Dellani Oakes – Part 15
"How do you know? He could be exactly like that. Emma doesn't need that kind of confusion right now."
"I know Tim, that's why. He's my kid brother."
"Sam, no one here is going to try to hurt Emma, or keep you two apart. Despite their problems, these are some of the best people I know. You both have to learn to trust, let other people in. You keep everything wrapped up inside you, that's what keeps you using."
Sam's glare was accusatory. "How do you know?"
"Cause you're just like me, dude. Come on, meet the others. Starting with Tim."
They walked over the the group. Raleigh clapped Sam on the shoulder, bringing him into the group. "Everyone, you've met Emma. Meet her other half. This is Sam. Tim, why don't we start with you?"
"I'm Tim, Raleigh's better looking, younger brother."
"I'm Shelby," a tall, thin blonde said, extending her hand to Sam. "I'm with stupid," she said, pointing at Tim.
"I'm Benji," an energetic youth with light brown hair and green eyes said. He fairly hopped around the room. He shook hands quickly, then shoved his fists back in his pockets.
"The goddess to his right is Donna," a girl said, stepping forward.
She had been beautiful once, but drugs and alcohol abuse had stolen her beauty. She was still one of the prettiest women Sam had ever seen. She was nearly six feet tall, willowy build, with a long waist and slender hips. Her hair was walnut brown, sleek and straight, falling to her shoulders. Her eyes were gray, twinkling with humor.
"This is Cory. She's rather shy, so you'll find one of us usually answers for her," Donna said.
The girl she indicated was about 16 or 17, short and round with big blue eyes and cropped brown hair.
"I can talk just fine," Cory said hesitantly. "They don't often give me a chance to consider my answer first."
"We're all too impulsive," the last young woman said. "I'm Vera. My folks named me after that Pink Floyd song from The Wall. I'm a musician by trade."
Her hair was cut in a very punk style, dyed black and streaked with different shades of blue. She bore evidence of piercings in her nose and eyebrow, but the studs were missing. Her arms had tattoos and old needle tracks. Her grip was firm, manly, her fingers calloused.
"Guitarist?" Sam asked. His own hands bore the similar callouses.
"Little bit of everything. Bass, guitar, keyboards.... I dabble on drums."
"Maybe we can jam sometime," Sam's eyes glittered. "That's if they've got guitars?"
"We have an entire music studio out back," Molly answered. "It's sound proof so the rest of us need not listen, if we'd rather not."
"You play anything, Emma?" Vera asked.
"Not really. Sam's tried to teach me, but I'm the world's worst student."
"Haven't found the right instrument then," Vera said with confidence. "When you're up to it, we'll find you one. I can play about anything. I'm probably more patient than your man here." She smiled at Sam.
"I'm Freddie," the guy next to her said, insinuating himself between the girls. He was short, slender, frail looking. "I'm the professional f**k up."
Raleigh cleared his throat. Freddie cracked a shy grin.
"Sorry, I'm not allowed to say that. I owe you forty cents, Molly."
"We charge ten cents a letter for cursing," Molly told Sam and Emma. "Raleigh's got the list, and will go over it. I won't say them." She snapped her lips shut.
"What she's not telling you is that her own hubby is so far in debt to the curse jar, he can't afford to pay it."
©2020 Dellani Oakes
Tuesday, August 11, 2020
Emma, Dangerous by Dellani Oakes – Part 14
"I can't be held responsible for that fight," she said in a subdued voice. "I was messed up and thought you were someone else."
Blinking tears, she collapsed. Her head in her hands, she wept uncontrollably. Molly enfolded her in comforting arms, gesturing to the men to leave. The rest of the people in the kitchen ignored them, going about their business. They knew they would find out eventually. Right now, it wasn't their business, and they awarded the privacy they would want for their own grief. Each of them had been there at least once, especially early on. Molly would take care of it.
Raleigh drew Sam aside, asking for help with some boxes that needed to go to the pantry. He led him to the stack by the back door. The huge walk-in pantry was roughly the size of Seattle. Each shelf was clearly labeled, making it pretty idiot proof. Posters every few feet reminded everyone to rotate the stock, putting the new behind the old. Raleigh and Sam brought in all the boxes, then set to work filling the shelves.
"So, you said you'd explain your girl's prickly nature."
"Molly said we could tell you anything in confidence."
"Dude, this whole place is about honesty and confidences. If you don't want me to tell, I don't."
"You can tell Molly, if Emma doesn't. It's her dad. He's a pervert, and he's been forcing her—ever since she was ten."
"To have sex, you mean?"
"Yeah. It's hard to say it. But yes, he's been doing that for eight years."
"Let me guess, he's a fine, upstanding citizen, whose reputation is impeccable. The state pulls her out and puts her back like a yo-yo?"
"Right on the money."
"Not the first case I've seen. You're a brave man to stand by her so long. Most guys give up."
"Emma's my other half, Raleigh. Crazy and soppy as that sounds, it's true."
"You've been watching too many chick flicks." Raleigh chuckled, making light of it, to save him embarrassment.
"You don't know the half of it. Emma loves them and makes me sit through a marathon from time to time. It's guy hell. I can tell you the storyline to The Notebook, The Piano, Sleepless in Seattle...."
"Hey, don't dis Sleepless. I happen to love that movie."
"Okay, I'll give you that and Pretty Woman, but please don't make me sit through What Dreams May Come again—ever. That's the most depressing movie I've ever seen. I'm a guy, and I sat there crying like a girl the entire time."
"That's a long damn movie to cry through."
"Soggy popcorn and warm beer.... Torture."
"Dude, nuf sed." He shuddered, laughing.
They worked until all the food was put away. The boxes were stacked by the back door once more. Dusting his hands on his jeans, Sam looked around for Emma. He spotted her with Molly, as they walked around the kitchen. Her hair was in a bun, pulled away from her face like Molly's. She was puffy around the eyes and her nose was red, but she was smiling. Molly had her arm linked through Emma's, guiding her around, introducing her to the others. Sam stood watching, a smile playing at his lips. She looked so happy. He hadn't seen her this at peace for so long, he had trouble remembering. Definitely not since she was a little girl. One of the guys said something and Emma laughed, nearly collapsing.
"Must have been pretty damn funny," Sam mumbled.
"Probably was. Tim's done standup. He's got a hell of a delivery. He's sharp."
Raleigh glanced from Sam to Tim. He could sense the young man next to him stiffen. Tim was doing silly magic tricks, pulling a guitar pick from Emma's ear. He was now juggling eggs, but Molly put an end to that, forcing him back to work.
"It's okay, Sam. Tim won't step on your action. He sees a girl who needs a good laugh, that's all. Lighten up, man. He's not like that."
©2020 Dellani Oakes
To Buy Dellani's Books
Lone Wolf by Dellani Oakes Is Now on Audible
Recipe for Adventure:
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Add a tasty villain
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Add a touch of intrigue and a dash of romance.
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Lone Wolf by Dellani Oakes
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Thursday, August 06, 2020
Emma, Dangerous by Dellani Oakes – Part 13
"As you wish, Robbie. I'll see they get there."
"Thanks. You'll be fine here. Molly's an excellent teacher."
"We've got everything covered, but if you'd like a soda, you can get one from the fridge on the far right. Top shelf. We've got most, though we'll gladly stock your favorites. No energy drinks, but any of the regular kind. There's also fresh iced tea and a variety of juices. Recycler's in the corner and you can wash a glass at the sink by the ice machine. Now that I've totally confused you both, have a seat. We'll have dinner on in a bit."
They helped themselves to drinks and took seats on a couple stools near the serving counter, so they were out of the way. Molly supervised, but came to talk to them as well. She was bright and chipper, glad to talk to them and answer any questions.
"Rules? Well, let's see. Raleigh will go over the majority of them. Basically, as pertains to meals, if you take it, you eat it. If you spill, you clean it up. If you dirty it, you rinse and put it in the dishwasher. Laundry, same deal. Do your own. If you don't know how, someone can show you. We don't allow messy rooms, either. Learning to be neat and orderly is part of kicking bad habits. A little clutter isn't a problem, but if the room smells like dirty boxers and week old socks, you'll scrub it with a toothbrush."
They stared at her, incredulous. Molly smiled, her attention distracted by a conflict in her kitchen. Once she had settled it, giving the two extra duties, she came back to Sam and Emma.
"We rotate on chores weekly. You won't have any this week, but starting next Monday you'll be on the roster over there." She pointed with her ladle to the back door of the kitchen. "I try to be fair, but complaints or arguments get you extra duties.
"Your therapy sessions start tomorrow. We work closely with A.A., following their Twelve Step Program. By the time you leave here, you should be well on your way to staying clean. If you don't mind my asking, what's the plan once you leave us?"
Emma was totally overwhelmed. Sam felt rather boggled too, but rallied faster. Clearing his throat, he answered.
"Well, we're still in the what if stages. We know we want to leave the area, maybe go to Virginia to live with my grandparents for a while, until we get on our feet. I have lots of family there. My mom, before she started drinking too much, used to take me there for visits."
"Good. So many of our guests leave us and end up back in the same circumstances as before. We generally see them again."
"Why do you all call us guests? We're patients, aren't we?" Sam asked her.
Molly smiled, patting his hand. "Perhaps, but do you want to hear yourself referred to that way?"
Sam grinned, shaking his head.
"Most of our people come to us voluntarily. I think of it more as we open our home to company. Raleigh and I live here full time."
"Really? I didn't know that."
"House parents, as it were. I won't go so far as to say Mum and Dad. We're not that old yet. But big brother and sister. If you've any problems and need a friendly ear, you've got those who'll understand. Ravenwood has helped us a lot."
"Raleigh said you met here?" Emma asked quietly.
"I was working here in the kitchen, and he came in as a guest. The naughty bugger tried to work his charms on me. I made it clear it was strictly hands off, and he became more cooperative."
"What she's not telling you," Raleigh said as he walked over. "Is that she damn near broke my arm and dislocated my shoulder." He put his arms around his wife, rubbing her belly with his chin on top of her head. "Sam, my friend, never piss off a woman with a black belt."
Sam laughed loudly, tossing his head to look at Emma. "I'll keep that in mind, Raleigh. You won't beat me up for getting fresh, will you, Em?"
She smirked, punching his arm. "I'd just bare knuckle box you, Sammy." She did up her fists, pretending to shadow box.
"She's got a mean right hook. But it's the uppercut you've gotta watch for." Sam rubbed his jaw, remembering the cracked tooth she'd given him once.
©2020 Dellani Oakes
Tuesday, August 04, 2020
Emma, Dangerous by Dellani Oakes – Part 12
"They've got guns?" Emma whispered.
"We're a full medical facility, meaning we carry some heavy drugs here. People figure that out, we can have trouble. The weapons are not used on our guests."
"Funny how you keep calling us guests," Emma muttered tersely. "It's not like I got an invitation."
Raleigh grinned, waving their paperwork. "Sure you did, just didn't have to much choice on the R.S.V.P."
Emma's shy, half smile flickered across her face. Sam caught it, grinning back, his cocky, self-assurance making her feel better. Her fingers crept into his, holding tightly. He patted her hand, bringing it to his lips. His smile made her feel better and she leaned into him, liking the warmth of his skin on hers.
The door ahead of them had Admissions blazed in bright gold and hot pink. Puzzled, Emma and Sam walked in. The woman behind the desk was hardly what they were expecting. If they had to put a name to her style, it was hippie retro. Her graying hair was long and curly, pulled back in a knotted scarf. Her skirt billowed around her like a multicolored cloud. Her peasant blouse had full sleeves that she had shoved up to her elbows. On her feet were Birkenstock sandals done in a wild floral pattern. Huge, dangling earrings glittered and clattered in counterpoint to the massive number of rings and bracelets she wore.
"Hi, kids! I'm Robbie. Whom have we today, Raleigh?"
"Samuel Masters and Emma Gallagher."
"Welcome Samuel and Emma." Robbie held out her hand to Raleigh.
He gave her a manila envelope with their names on the front. She opened it, flipping through their files.
"Thank you, Raleigh. Tell Molly you're home, and I'll send these two to the kitchen when we're done."
"I will, Robbie. See you in a bit, kids." He saluted as he left.
"Have a seat. This won't take long. Okay, I see by this that we have you in for a six week stint, pending review at three and six weeks."
She typed their information into the computer, asking several questions to clarify as she went. From time to time, Emma would zone out and not answer, so Sam answered for her. He knew her information as well as his own, having registered her at the hospital so many times. Robbie smiled at him as he rattled off the information.
"She your sister or something?"
"We're best friends. Been together since we were little. Emma and me against the world." He smiled fondly at Emma, but she was staring at the file cabinet.
Her fingers clasped his, nearly numbing them. He wiggled his hand a little so she would let go, but she held tighter. Taking her hand with both his, he raised it to his lips again, biting her fingertip. Getting the idea, she relaxed her grip, smiling at him with tears in her eyes.
"I can't believe we're really here," she said softly. "I feel like I just came home for the first time in my life."
Robbie smiled, her expression kind. "You're not the first person to say that. Despite the somewhat establishment aspect, we're like one big family here."
"No offense," Emma said with a smirk. "But my family totally sucks. So let's think of us all as great friends, shall we?"
"An excellent suggestion," Robbie said. "Call it what you will, we're a tight group, but an accepting one. There's nothing you've done that hasn't been done at least once, by most of our friends."
"My dad used to have sex with me," Emma said sternly. "Any of my friends have that particular problem?" Her fear was making her hostile.
"As a matter of fact, Emma, yes. It isn't as unusual as you might think. It's up to each of our guests to tell their history, but I imagine that most of them will share it eventually. It's part of the healing process to do so. In fact, in one way or another, Ravenwood's program has helped each of us. I'm a single mother with four kids, three of whom have been here. That's how I found out that this job was opening up. It came at a time when I needed a change."
"What about your fourth child?" Sam asked innocently.
Robbie's face saddened. "He died in an accident. He was high, trying to drive—his car hit a tree and he didn't make it."
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have asked."
"No, it's good for me to tell you about it. Good for us both. Don't ever hesitate either to ask or answer honestly. That's part of our policy. After dinner, Raleigh will show you your rooms and get you familiar with our basic rules. In the morning, I'll walk you through orientation, set up your counseling sessions, and so on. Will you be doing couple counseling?"
"Yes," Sam answered without consulting Emma.
Emma didn't look ready to make any decisions. She was overwhelmed by the situation. Sam could see her approaching panic.
Robbie made a couple more additions to their files. With a smile, she led them to the kitchen. The room was huge, with two large stoves, three side-by-side refrigerators and two dishwashers. There were islands, cooking utensils and pots in various strategic locations. A short, plump, obviously pregnant young woman stood in the middle of the room wearing a chef's apron. She held a metal ladle in her hand and was gesturing with it as she spoke. Everyone listened carefully to her instructions. When she was done speaking, they moved to their duty stations, gathered ingredients, and started on their tasks.
"Hi there!" Her voice lilted with a musical, Irish accent. "You must be Sam and Emma. I'm Molly, Raleigh's wife. I'm so delighted to meet you both."
"I'll leave you in Molly's capable hands," Robbie said. "See you tomorrow after breakfast. I need them at nine, Molly."
©2020 Dellani Oakes
Old Time Religion ~ A Love in the City Romance by Dellani Oakes – Part 25
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