Among the Shine Clan

Among the Shine Clan by Dellani Oakes – Part 29

among the shine clan coverFiddlestix ran toward the river less than a mile away. There was a special place there she had always gone when she was upset. Her feet carried her there automatically, tears streaming down her face. Collapsing into a heap on the damp bank, she heard footsteps following her, but she did not look up, assuming it was Karl.

“Hey, chica,” Blacksmith’s voice was so unexpected, she stopped crying. “Listen, we gonna go now, or what? The men are asking about you. Let’s get out of here, okay?” He helped her stand up, eyeing her appraisingly. “He meant a lot to you, huh?”

She nodded, not trusting herself to speak.

His smile was gentle, warm with understanding. “There’s other men out there. Maybe you’ll find another one who’ll treat you right, eh?”

“Do you ever have regrets, Dario?”

“I have many. What kind?”

“Where you wonder what it would have been like to settle down and have a family?”

He laughed sardonically. “Sometimes, when I am very drunk, I have these thoughts. Then I find a pretty girl, have lots of sex and tequila and I feel better. We aren’t meant for that kind of life. Other people live like that. Not us.”

They had returned to the bikes and found themselves surrounded by muscular men dressed in camouflage uniforms. Karl was sending his best men with them, and for that, Fiddlestix was grateful.

Karl kissed her cheek, hugging her tightly to him, not wanting to let her go. “If you need me, you know how to contact me, Hannah,” he whispered before releasing her.

“Yes, Karl.”

“Hannah, I’m sorry….”

Fiddlestix pushed him away, turning abruptly from him. Flinging her long leg over the motorcycle, she kicked it into action. The Harlich men flanked the companions. Once they were on the road, she approached the man in charge, talking to him on her headset, explaining what had happened the night before with the Noir. His perfunctory nod punctuated the conversation.

“So, Hannah,” he said finally, switching to a private channel. “Does this mean you’re coming back?”

“No, Dirk, I’m not.”

“Because of Karl?”

“Not entirely.”

Dirk had been Karl’s best friend in those days. He knew about her disgrace, though many didn’t.

“I can’t go back to how things were. I’d fooled myself into thinking I could recapture my past. That doesn’t work.”

He nearly whispered into the microphone. “Do you still love him?”

“I thought I did, but no.”

“There are many other men around, Hannah. You don’t have to be alone unless you want to.”

She chuckled, making a rude gesture at him. “True. What’s funny is I’ve already had an invitation from someone else today, other than Karl, I mean.” She pulled ahead of him.

Puzzled, Dirk gunned his motor, trying to catch up. She wouldn’t reestablish conversation, no matter what he asked her.

They took side road, heading south. They would catch the remnants of I-95 and ride north, around the Noir territory. It was relatively safe here, as Château Noir had no hold on this area, not yet challenging the Harlichs for control. Given the hazards, the Noir didn’t really want it anyway. Alligators, snakes, panthers, sinkholes, quicksand and bogs made it one of the most dangerous areas in the county if not the state. The road was good, maintained by the Harlichs.

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Among the Shine Clan

Among the Shine Clan by Dellani Oakes – Part 27

among the shine clan cover

The four of them walked quietly to the front door, which flew open as Karl’s hand touched it. A smiling child, who looked to be around six years old, greeted him by jumping into his arms, yelling loudly.

“Papa’s home! Everyone, he’s brought guests! Hello, Papa. I lost a tooth!”

Karl chuckled, putting the little boy down gently. “I see, it’s a magnificent gap. I’ll show you how to whistle through it later. Where’s Mama?”

The boy grabbed his father’s hand, dragging him toward the kitchen. A pretty, slight figured blonde woman moved toward them from the stove, pushing a stray lock of hair from her brow. Smiling, she greeted the men, but Fiddlestix was awarded a wary glance of a territorial female. Her mouth formed a prim line of disapproval.

“Hannah, how good to see you after all these years.”

She took Karl’s arm in a possessive grasp, dragging him to sit at the head of the table. The men sat near him, while Fiddlestix was squeezed between two of the older children, a boy and a girl who looked around fifteen and thirteen, respectively.

“Delighted to see you as well, Uta,” she snapped, obviously nothing of the kind. She looked daggers at Karl, who would not meet her gaze. Judging by the ages of the children, he certainly had not mourned her going for very long.

“Meet my little ones, Hannah. The smallest one is Alder. The strapping lad to your left is Karl the Sixth. Papa insisted. We call him Fritz. The lovely young lady to your right is Nixie and the baby is Lottie.”

“Lovely to make your acquaintance,” she remembered to use her best manners in front of Uta.

Even as children, they disliked one another. It had been Uta’s interference which had gotten Karl and Hannah in trouble, for she had told her parents that she had seen them together in the woods. Uta was a jealous, spiteful person, and here Karl was married to her! Had it not been Uta’s home, and table at which she sat, Fiddlestix would have risen, dashing from the room in tears. She wouldn’t give Uta the satisfaction. A glazed smile plastered itself on her face as she ate.

Breakfast was soon over, and a servant showed Buzzard, Blacksmith and Fiddlestix to their rooms. Baths were hot, steaming with fragrant herbs. Fiddlestix lowered herself into hers, hoping she would drown and save her from killing Karl.

“He couldn’t have waited more than a couple of months!” She muttered loudly. “I’ll bet he was in her pants before mine even got cold! The nerve of that man, the absolute, unmitigated gall of that man! Just goes to prove, all men think with their genitals!”

A soft tap sounded at her door.

“Who is it?” She snapped.

“It’s Nixie, Miss Braun. I’ve brought up some towels for you. Shall I leave them by the bathroom door?”

“Yes, thank you.”

“Certainly, Miss.”

Fiddlestix heard the door click shut and wondered how much of her tirade Nixie had overheard.

Drying off, she wrapped a towel around herself as she moved about the bathroom. A sound in the bedroom startled her. Had she not been in Karl’s house, she would have activated the pistol in her arm, but it could easily be one of his children.

Holding the towel tightly around her breasts, she peeked out the door, glancing around the room. The door was shut just as Nixie had left it, but there were cloths in a pile on the end of the bed and Karl was sitting beside them, staring at her. There was an odd expression in his eyes.

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Among the Shine Clan, Dellani Oakes

Among the Shine Clan—Part 26 by Dellani Oakes

among the shine clan coverFiddlestix and her companions have arrived in the Harlich territory, only to find that the former leader has died. His son, Karl the Fifth, is now in charge. Unsure of her welcome, Fiddlestix hesitates.

Karl chuckled. “We have both forgotten our manners. Your friends probably don’t speak a word of Dutch, and here we are babbling incoherently while they wait patiently for us to stop.”

He switched to English, reaching across his massive desk, shaking hands first with Blacksmith and then with Buzzard. “I am Karl Fumler, but I expect you know that.”

“Dario Estiban,” Blacksmith said simply.

“Tyree Delsin,” Buzzard supplied.

“Welcome to you both. So, back to why you are here,” Karl sat at the desk, folding his hands in front of him in a gesture like his father.

“We had such a time getting here, I nearly forgot our errand,” Fiddlestix said with a laugh “I come on behalf of another party. His wife is missing, and he asked the three of us to come and leave a message for her, with you.”

“I don’t know how I can possibly be of any help, Hannah. But I shall be happy to convey a message if I can. Who is the woman?”

“Her name is Scarlet Obert Varin.”

His expression hardened slightly, but he kept his aplomb. “And the message?” His manner of speech got very clipped.

“He asked me to repeat his message exactly: Tell them to have Scarlet contact me in the old way.

“That was the extent of it? And for this you three risked your lives? Ridiculous! You could have called me for a message like that!”

“No, I couldn’t, Karl. We both know that you wouldn’t have spoken to me on the phone. Any message I might have left for you wouldn’t have been delivered.”

He couldn’t contradict her, they both knew the truth.

“Varin, he sincerely wants to hear from his wife?”

“Yes,” Blacksmith interjected. “Mr. Varin worries for her safety. When he was unavailable, Mrs. Varin went into hiding.”

Karl nodded sagely. It was a familiar enough scenario in these uncertain times. “I’ve never met Scarlet,” he replied simply. “However, I do know those who might. I will see what I can find out for you. I’ll circulate the message. Scarlet will contact her husband if she is able. Now that you’ve dispatched your errand….” He seemed ready to launch into a long conversation.

“Karl, we’re rather tired. May we stay until midday?” Fiddlestix asked kindly. “Most of the Noir will be asleep by then.”

“Very well. If you like, I can send a few men with you. The Noir don’t disturb us.”

“Why don’t you move against them?”

“I can’t declare war on them when they’ve not harmed us. The second they step across that line, Baker and his bevy of lunatics will die.”

He took another deep breath, preparing a rant, if Fiddlestix didn’t miss her bet. Instead of allowing it, she cut him off again.

“Karl, if you don’t mind, I think my associates and I could use a bath and a meal.”

He chuckled. “Of course. I apologize, it’s been so long since I saw you. All your needs will be seen to, Hannah. You will all be guests in my home. Please, follow me.”

He led them to a beautiful, Tudor style house. Fiddlestix’ eyes glittered as she gazed at her old home. It was just as she remembered. It was a rambling, solid home with a high and big windows. Flowering vines clung to the walls and two massive trellises flanked the front door. These were covered with dark red roses and confederate jasmine. It looked so much the same, it made Fiddlestix want to sob with homesickness.

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Among the Shine Clan, Dellani Oakes

Among the Shine Clan – Part 25 by Dellani Oakes

among the shine clan coverFiddlestix has been hired by Donan Varin to find his wife. She, and two bodyguards, are on their way to see the Harlichs south of Daytona. But first, they have to go through the hostile Chateau Noir territory. Their leader has put a substantial bounty on Fiddlestix’ head.

They turned east, skirting the shoreline. The night-sight helped a lot. With luck, they would make it to the Harlichs without Bobby knowing they were there. Luck wasn’t with them. A guard station caught them by surprise. They weren’t as startled as the guards were. The disorganized men were dispatched in short order. However, the noise alerted the other stations. The hunt was on and they were the quarry.

“Press the yellow button,” Blacksmith said.

They hit the yellow buttons and a turbo boost kicked in, spurring them to speeds well over a hundred. Flying blindly through the woods, they dodged trees, holes and bogs. The map could not update fast enough, so it was a combination of blind faith and guesswork. Despite the boost, the guards were closing. Knowing the terrain helped their pursuers. It was going to be close.

“Ride together and hit the orange button!” Buzzard cried.

A clicking whir and Fiddlestix saw something fly from the rear of her bike. Nothing happened until the first of their antagonists entered the zone/ Shrapnel filled mini bombs exploded, riddling the group with razor sharp steel springs and rods. Others scattered a field of whirring motion sensor razors. Pandemonium ensued behind them, slowing their attackers.They road at a furious pace, making their way through the woods on prayer and adrenaline. A few more miles flew past and the going got somewhat smoother.

“We’re in Harlich territory.” Blacksmith announced, slowing his bike. “Noir won’t follow us in here.”

“There should be a guard station about half a mile to the west,” Fiddlestix told them. “I think it would be better to announce ourselves formally, don’t you?”

They displayed the orange sashes openly, riding confidently to the Harlich compound. A guard detached himself from his surroundings, weapon leveled at Fiddlestix’ bike. She stopped as soon as she saw him. Setting her kickstand, she rose slowly. Hands well out from her sides, she walked forward. Removing her helmet and goggles, she squinted at the men, looking for familiar faces. She saw none.

“State your business,” the guard yelled in heavily accented English.

“I seek an audience with Meneer Fumler,” Fiddlestix replied in flawless Dutch.

Meneer Fumler does not see just anyone,” the guard replied. “Who are you?”

She cleared her throat before replying, unsure of her welcome. “Tell him, please, that Hannah Braun wishes to speak to him.” Once her name would have opened any door here, but now she feared just the opposite.

“I’ll check. Wait here.”

The guard was back in less than five minutes. Opening the gate, ushered them in. The sun was just peeping over the river as they walked onto the compound.

“Your bikes with be tended. Follow me.”

It had been so long since she had been here, yet little had changed. The buildings were sturdily built of limestone and coquina. The houses were in orderly rows, neatly trimmed yards in front of each. All the houses faced a huge center square where the office buildings stood.

Fiddlestix forced herself to watch the guard’s back as they walked along. As they reached the main building where Karl’s office was, a flutter of fear passed through her.

“I will announce you.” The guard left them outside the door. He returned a moment later, beckoning them to follow.

Fiddlestix stood before Karl’s door, taking a deep breath, trying to relax before entering. The guard opened the door, standing aside for her to walk through. She was completely unprepared for who stood on the other side of the desk from her. This was not the fatherly figure she had anticipated, but the smiling, boyish face of Karl the Fifth!

He stepped around his desk, arms open for a welcoming hug. “Hannah, it’s so good to see you! I’d heard you were back.” He ushered her to a seat. “Why have you waited so long to come see us?”

“I was unsure how I would be received,” she replied shyly.

“I see.” He looked pensive for a moment, then curiosity took hold. Karl looked at them expectantly. “What brings you here? I assume that this is not just a social visit?”

“It’s such a surprise seeing you. I expected Papa.” She could not help falling into the old, familiar pattern of speech.

His face clouded and it was his turn to hang his head. “He died, Hannah. Cancer is indiscriminate.”

Impulsively, she reached across the desk, taking his hand in hers, squeezing gently. “I know you miss him. He was a fine man. Where are my manners? I haven’t made introductions.”

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Among the Shine Clan – Part 23 by Dellani Oakes

among the shine clan cover

Fiddlestix, now out of the military, is a solo for hire. She’s been approached by a man named Donan Varin, the Contractor King. He has a problem, and he wants her help. He’s accompanied by two bodyguards, Buzzard and Blacksmith.

The bodyguards stepped forward. Buzzard laid a restraining hand on her shoulder. Blacksmith detached her fingers from his employer’s shirt front.

“I would hate to hurt a lady, but if you do that again, ma’am, I’ll end you,” Buzzard said in a mild tone.

Shrugging their hands aside, she stalked away from Varin. “You still haven’t said what you want.”

“I hear you’re connected.”

“Maybe you heard wrong.” She lit another cigarette and waited, feigning disinterest. The set of her broad shoulders gave her away.

Varin shook his head. “You have a relationship with two groups I most need to contact. Not many can boast the same.”

“I have many acquaintances. Which ones?” She blew smoke at him casually, as if he didn’t have her full attention.

“The Shine Clan and the Harlichs.” Varin looked smug.

“I don’t know who you mean.” It was a feeble bluff.

“You know exactly who I mean. My wife also has connections with them, which is why I need your help.”

“Maybe she wanted to leave you, Varin. Did that occur to you?”

He shook his head adamantly. “Scarlet would never do that.”

“What connection does your wife have with them?”

“The same as you, blood bond.”

Fiddlestix fell silent, waiting.

“The name Scarlet Obert Varin should elicit a distinct response from both organizations.”

“Hannah Braun officially died years ago, Varin. I don’t know if my contacts will be expecting a call from me.”

“All I ask is that you try. I will pay you handsomely.”

“How handsomely?”

He named a figure that made her mind boggle. That got her full attention.

“Half now, half when the job is complete.”

“You are aware it’s a face to face. I can’t just call and expect them to talk to me.”

Varin nodded again. “I am aware of that. The boys will accompany you.”

“I’m ex Special Forces, I don’t need bodyguards.”

“It would make me feel better knowing you had company.”

Fiddlestix cracked an uncharacteristic grin, running her fingers through her short, platinum blonde, spiked hair. “I’m touched, really. But I can handle myself.”

He shook his head, adamant. “Since your last contact with the Harlichs, things have changed. Château Noir now owns most of the nearby territory. They have an open contract on you.”

“Château Noir, huh? Interesting development. When did they change the name from Black House Anarchy?”

“Two years ago,” Buzzard replied.

“You want us to go now, chica?”

“As much as I hate to admit it, Blacksmith, yes. Bad Ass Baker and his boys would like to grind me into dog food, alive.”

“Bad Ass Baker?” Buzzard looked confused. “Our intel says a guy by the name Shogun Corbett runs Noir.”

“Skinny guy with black, greasy hair and covered in tattoos with multiple piercings?”

“Yeah.” Buzzard said.

“That’s Bobby. He must have upgraded his moniker when he changed their name to Château Noir. In my day it was Bobby Alvin Baker.”

“I understand you two used to date?” This from Blacksmith.

“He had much better hygiene in those days,”was her cryptic reply. “He also was pretty bad ass in bed.”She winked at Blacksmith, who chuckled.

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Among the Shine Clan, Dellani Oakes

Among the Shine Clan Part 22 by Dellani Oakes

among the shine clan coverFiddlestix has left the military and is now freelancing as a solo. Her path leads her to Daytona Beach, where she’s sitting in a bar, waiting for something to happen.

As if on an unspoken signal, the three men approached her table, in a non-threatening manner. The bodyguards kept their hands well away from their weapons, moving in to flank the corp. He stopped by her table, asking permission to sit with a gesture of his hand. A sharp inclination of her spiked blonde head indicated he could. Taking a seat on the rickety chair, he leaned across the table in a conspiratorial manner drawing unwanted attention. Fiddlestix pressed her thick soled boot against his seat, pushing it away from the table, tapping his testicles in the process. Getting the idea, he moved back.

“Is there somewhere more appropriate we can talk?” Even his voice was medium range and uninfluenced by an accent.

Fiddlestix was formulating a snide, snappish reply when he reached up to remove his glasses. For the first time, she saw something of him that wasn’t dull brown. His eyes were a startling, vivid green. The expression in them was one of desperation. Her manner changed rapidly from sarcastic to curious.

“Sure.” she said softly.”Low’s got some private conference rooms downstairs.”

The tall, ugly one nodded slowly. The short one looked around quickly, assessing the room before Fiddlestix and the corporate rose from the table.

“Lead the way,” the short man said with a thick Hispanic accent.

Remaining wary, she strutted toward the stairs leading down to the private, secure conference rooms. They were the only aspect of Low Blow Gonzalez’ dive bar that was high tech and sophisticated, laced with a security system that made Fort Knox look like it was made from Tinker Toys. They entered one of the rooms, locking it with a code that Fiddlestix tapped in. The room would remain sealed until she released it.

The corporate took a seat in one of the broken down chairs, inviting Fiddlestix to sit. Knowing the instability of the furniture, she chose to stand instead.

“How can I be of assistance, Mr…?”

He had failed to introduce himself. Fiddlestix refused to deal with people whose names she did not know.

“Smith,” he replied with a furtive look at his bodyguards.”These two gentlemen are Blacksmith and Buzzard.”

“Your real name. I don’t deal with people who hide things from me. You want my help, be honest.”

“Donnan Varin,” he admitted quietly.

“The contractor king?”

Varin had forged an empire by building substandard housing for the poor. Dozens of lawsuits were pending. To avoid controversy, he went into hiding. Now here he sat bold as brass, begging for her help.

“Yes,” he muttered. “But it’s not what you think.”

“Mr. Varin was indisposed for awhile,” Blacksmith explained.

“A lot was done in my name,” Varin said fixing her with a commanding gaze. “My affairs were mishandled by people I thought I could trust.”

Fiddlestix propped one foot on an unsteady chair, lighting a cigarette while she waited for him to continue. Instead, he turned to Blacksmith, eyes pleading.

Blacksmith stepped forward. “What Mr. Varin is trying to say, is that while he was indisposed, things went wrong in his business and his wife disappeared.”

“Define indisposed. How could all this happen without his knowledge or consent?”

“I was medically incapacitated.”

Fiddlestix was getting annoyed, which usually meant she got violent. “That didn’t explain at all. I want plain English, Varin, or I walk.”

“Well, I was dead.”

“Dead?”

He nodded nervously. “For a period of five years, I was dead. This body is a replacement, the first one died of a rather dreadful disease.”

“You’re a clone?”

“Yes. You see, I had my former body held in stasis until I could reunite my body with my psyche.”

“Spare me the details. It sounds like it’s bordering on metaphysical, let’s not go there.” She turned away, waving her hand, ending the discussion.

“I badly need your help, Miss Braun.”

Fiddlestix whirled on him, grabbing his shirt. “Don’t ever use that name! Hannah Braun is dead.”

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Character Quotes from After Midnight by Dellani Oakes

character-quotes-imageYou’re not like any other cop I ever met.”

I hope that’s a good thing.”

A very good thing. And your lieutenant. He’s a good man.”

One of the best. Scott is the reason I became a cop.”

Older brother?”

Cousin. Only two boys in a long line of girls.”

Gotta stick together.”

Do you have any family we can call for you?”

If I did, I wouldn’t be on the street,” Amos snapped. Inhaling slowly, he pushed away the anger. “I’m sorry. No one. I was an only child. Never knew my grandparents. I don’t know if I have any aunts or uncles. None I ever met.”

You want me to check?”

Amos shrugged. “If they wanted to know me, they’ve had twenty-two years to do it.”

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Character Quotes from Lone Wolf Tales by Dellani Oakes

character-quotes-image“Which one of you sorry, low life bastards is Wallace?”

The Marine next to him pointed and Billy Wallace took a step forward, saluting smartly, even if he was in his skivvies.

“That would be me, sir!”

Ben eyed him critically. “You always watch a vid in your underwear, squid?”

“No, sir, First Lieutenant. It’s just wash day, sir,” he concluded lamely.

“At ease.” The men relaxed into their stance. “Wallace, get your gear, you’ve been tapped for a special ops. You’ll be picked up at 1800. That gives you forty-five minutes to pack and get to the shuttle pad. Pilot has your orders.”

“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir!” He saluted again, relieved when the comlink clicked off. “Special ops?” He scratched his head. “I knew I shouldn’t have taken those specialty classes.

Throwing his gear together, he grabbed his only clean uniform, wondering how to cope with his wet laundry. “Hell, y’all send that to me later, okay?”

One of the others nodded agreement. “Hey, Red Neck,” he called after Billy. “Be careful, man!”

Billy turned and grinned, his shiny shaven head reflecting a small puddle of lamp light. “Will do! Don’t wanna mess up my hair! Their laughter followed him as he walked quickly into the night.

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Character Quotes from Technically Love by Dellani Oakes

character-quotes-image“We moved quite a bit when I was a kid.”

“Military?”

“Academics.”

“Ah,” he nodded knowingly. “Professors move almost as much. My dad’s a college professor. I sympathize.”

“Dude,” she said seriously. “We academic kids have to stick together.”

Chet eyed her with mixed admiration and seduction. “Like glue, Honey.”

“Behave!” She thumped his arm playfully.

“Oh, telling me to behave after a lead in like that?”

“It wasn’t a lead anywhere but your mind,” she tossed her curls casually as if giving him the brush off.

“All right,” he said in a sarcastic, disbelieving tone. “It wasn’t.”

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Character Quotes from Ben Drexel by Dellani Oakes

character-quotes-image“Not completely hopeless, I see.”

“They’re good men, sir.”

“I meant you, Drexel. Them, I could give a shit about. At least they’re neat. It will make going through their effects simpler.”

“Excuse me?”

“We don’t live long,” VanLipsig said without really listening to Ben. He seemed lost in his own little bubble. “Our life expectancy is the shortest in the Corps, but we keep going because it’s really all we can do.” He glanced up at Ben, his eye holding sorrow. “I never wanted to do this to any of you, kid. I want you to know that I had no choice. You’d come up on the radar. I kept you under wraps as long as I could…. What they’ve done to us isn’t right, but there’s no going back now.”

“Us? You mean your team?”

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