Indian Summer – Historical Romance by Dellani Oakes

indian summer scanned cover 500 x 750We were chatting on my radio show about how a scene from a romance novel can be hot even if it doesn’t involve actual sex. It put me in mind of this scene from Indian Summer. Manuel and Gabriella find themselves desperately attracted to one another, but society’s standards are strict. It’s not proper for them to be alone together, but Manuel senses they need to talk about their relationship. They find a chance the night of her sister’s wedding. Most of the household has gone to bed and they snatch some precious moments together outside on the logia.

I hugged him as if my life depended upon it. I didn’t want a kiss, not then. All I wanted was to feel his arms around me, holding me, promising me his heart, his strength, his trust. I whispered into his chest. “I love you so.”

He stroked my hair and held me close. It was not like sometimes, that burning, aching feeling. I felt whole, complete, as if half of me had been missing for years and I hadn’t known.

“I love you more than words can ever tell, Gabriella.”

“And I love you with all my heart.”

I don’t know how long we stood there, I didn’t care. All I wanted was for him to hold me. He spoke quietly to me again.
“So, do you forgive me my transgressions?”

I looked up at him with tears in my eyes. “Whatever transgressions you may have committed, that’s between you and God. That you love me and you’ve honored me with the truth, that’s enough. But if you must have my forgiveness, then I give it to you freely.”

He held me away from him, gazing at me. A look of wonder filled his handsome face. “You’re an incredible woman, do you know that? I’ve wanted to tell you this for so long, but didn’t know how. We’ve had so little time alone. I thank God for providing this opportunity to us.” He embraced me again.

“It’s a terrible thing that our society is so very strict about what is proper to discuss or not to discuss. I dream for a day when men and women can talk freely about whatever is on their minds. And they can have time alone together without someone watching over them for fear they’ll get to know each other too well.” He cracked his wry smile, his eyes twinkling like twin stars.

“You sound just like Maria. She’s always talking about how to change things, how the customs are foolish. If she could, I think she would run naked down a street in broad daylight just to set people off.”

He laughed quietly at this so as not to wake Papa. We were enjoying our privacy too much for that.

“Well if you were to do that, I would be running wildly after you, ripping off my own.”

I didn’t know whether to be shocked or laugh, so I settled for laughter. “I believe you would too!”

“Dressed or not I would follow you to the ends of the earth, I promise you. You’re my heart and my soul. If you were taken from me, I’d look until I found you, or I died trying. Since we are telling the truth, I’ll share something else with you I’m sure has been on your mind. You’re scared of the ways between men and women, aren’t you?”

I couldn’t speak to him, the answer burned in my face and showed in my eyes. He took my chin in his hand. Raising it gently, he looked me in the eye. I tried, but couldn’t meet his gaze.

“Mi Cariña, there is nothing to fear, I promise you. Would I ever do anything to hurt you?”

I shook my head, wide eyed.

“Then don’t be afraid of this, for it’s wonderful, not something to fear.” He held me close, but gently. “When we are close, or we kiss, don’t you feel something stirring inside you? And does it please you, what you feel?”

I tried to meet his gaze, but found that I couldn’t. “It makes me feel good, but ashamed as well.”

“Why ashamed, my sweet?”

“Because I’m not sure I should feel these things for you right now. It’s wrong.” Sighing, I hesitated. I simply didn’t know what to say.
“You think it’s wrong for you to want me to touch you, to get to know your body?”

He was nuzzling my neck as he moved us out of the direct line of sight from the window. His voice changed, grew deeper, more sensual, full of barely controlled passion.

“You don’t think it’s right, but you want it, don’t you?” His breath was hot on my neck, his lips demanding mine.

I couldn’t restrain myself. I wanted him, in a way I couldn’t describe. It felt so very good to have him touch me, kiss me, hold me. I could feel him hard against me and I knew that was what I wanted. That would ease the burning inside me. He could quench the fire with his power. But I knew we couldn’t, mustn’t, wouldn’t until we married. I clung to him, my passion meeting his own, with his hands traveling my body in an erotic journey, exploring with his hands and lips.

“You mustn’t!”

The words exploded in my mind and I jumped as if someone had shouted behind me. Summoning all my resolve, I pushed gently away from him. At first I thought I’d made him angry. Then I realized he was not angry with me, but with himself. Anger fought with lust as he gazed down at me, embarrassed by his behavior. I could read shame in his eyes.

“I’m so very sorry. I’ve dishonored you with my conduct. I’m like a stallion after a choice mare. I’m so ashamed!”

He grabbed his hat and started for the gate. I took his arm, holding him back.

“You’ve nothing to be ashamed of. Nothing!” I took his face between my hands, kissing him hard on the lips. “If you’re guilty, then so am I, for all I could think of was how much I wanted you! I need you to quench this fire inside.”

“But you had the control, you pulled away. Gabriella, don’t you understand? If you hadn’t stopped me, I would have ravaged you here and now! It’s how I am. I’m a wicked man and I don’t deserve you!” He made as if to pull away, but I restrained him once again.

“No you mustn’t say that! You’re not wicked, only human. God doesn’t expect us to be perfect, my love, but society does. So we don’t embarrass our families or dishonor them, then we must not.”

He agreed hesitantly, desire fighting honor. I could see the inner struggle pulling him apart. This love, this great passion would drive us both mad!

“You’re right. Of course you’re right. Oh, God, Gabriella, I can’t wait to marry you! If I could shout our love to the four winds and marry you tonight, I would do so! This just isn’t enough. I want all of you, not the little bit we’re allowed when we can snatch it.”

He buried his face in my hair and I breathed in deeply his scent of sandalwood.

“Perhaps someday, sometime in our future, our lives can be different, Manuel. I can only hope.”

He kissed me again, deeply, his tongue probing my mouth. I couldn’t get enough of him. I felt if I had to stop kissing him I was going to die on the spot. I knew my father was near, my sister was just inside, but I didn’t care.

His hands fondled me again in places he shouldn’t touch, but I wanted him to. I gave myself over the passion I felt, but part of me knew it was wrong. A tiny voice kept insisting that we must stop and yet I knew I didn’t want to.

But I couldn’t, mustn’t – not here, not like animals! This should be a beautiful moment, not one of harsh lust. I tried to pull away, but he held me tightly, not wanting to let me go. I grabbed his face as he leaned over to kiss my breasts.

“No,” I whispered, not wanting to. “No, not this way.”

I wanted more than anything to let him touch me again, to kiss me, but I couldn’t allow it. There was much anger in his face. But I saw reason prevail as he stood straight, adjusting his coat, shirt and tie. Briefly I saw the temper flair that Aunt Securo had mentioned. It was not directed at me, but again with himself. He was furious at his own weakness.

“I’m so sorry.” I started but it hardly seemed enough.

© Dellani Oakes

To Buy Indian Summer http://tinyurl.com/l6juqd5

Writing the Problem Child

castillo vista

Castillo de San Marcos – St. Augustine, FL

Every author will tell you that they have secret books – those that will probably never see the light of day. Our skeletons in the closet, if you will pardon the cliché. We also have our problem children – those books that, for whatever reason, were harder to write than others. The more experienced and prolific the author, the more of these they are likely to have. Some problem children allow themselves to be finished, others do not.

I have such a problem child – Indian Summer. This one allowed me to finish it, but there was great doubt for a long time. The problem was several fold. First of all, I chose first person, which is difficult for a new writer. However, Gabriella was determined to speak for herself, so I had no choice but to make it work.
Another problem with the original manuscript was that I tried writing it as a diary. NEVER do that as the entire book. It’s boring and it doesn’t work at all.

Third, and most difficult for me to overcome – there wasn’t a lot of information on-line and the books I most needed were frequently missing from the shelves. If it hadn’t been for a happy accident, I would never have found the information I needed – but that’s subject for another post.

I had chosen a time period in the 1830’s, little knowing what a problem this would present. My basic idea was that Gabriella was forced to marry Manuel by an uncaring father. Manuel, a drunkard womanizing gambler, was abusive. To get away from him, Gabriella fled to New Smyrna from St. Augustine, to live with her sister at the sugar mill. When the sugar mill was attacked, she would find friendly Indians and be taken in by the tribe.

After some research, I found out that the tribe I wanted to use died out circa 1777. That bumped my time period back about six decades. While there was a great deal to be found about American owned Florida of the 1830’s, there wasn’t much on the Spanish occupation. Yes, there were books, but as I said, they were hard to find. However, with some digging, I found that there was a major siege of St. Augustine, by the British, in 1740. I chose to move my date back another 38 years, to 1739, the year before the siege. (This decision wasn’t made until later.)

My troubles didn’t stop there. After a time, Gabriella stopped talking. I wrote a few scenes, mostly scribbling them in a notebook late at night, but she abjectly refused to move forward. Something was wrong. Rather than figuring it out, I dropped the notebook in a drawer and left it there. I didn’t entirely forget about Gabriella and her struggles, but the voice was muted. I was a busy mother and didn’t have time or the wherewithal to diagnose and heal Indian Summer’s woes.

Several years later, I was cleaning out the drawer. I found the notebook and started reading. I remember thinking, “This is crap.” I almost tore the pages out to throw them away, and then I came to a scene that caught my attention. It’s one that happens later in the book after Gabriella meets Sailfish, the Indian man. I read the first few sentences – then more. “This is pretty damn good,” I concluded. “I can work with this.”

I carefully removed the pages from the notebook and carried them to the computer. My first step was to type everything out NOT as a diary. I still used Gabriella’s voice, but as if she were speaking. As I typed, the story began to unfold. Gabriella started speaking again, her voice loud and clear.

As the story progressed, I found I had less and less control over the action. Somewhere around the time that Manuel takes Gabriella to a horse race on her birthday, it got away from me and galloped off like a runaway horse.
Manuel, the evil, womanizing gambler refused to be bad. In fact, he reformed!

Gabriella, the shy violet of the piece, decided that she would not sit quietly while she was shoved around and manipulated. She also refused to fall in love with anyone but Manuel.

Sailfish was forced to take a secondary role in the book. He did so grudgingly. I finally had to promise him his own book so he would behave. It’s not finished yet (it’s another problem child) but I do have a good start on Savage Heart.

A secondary love interest, became the villain. He snuck up on me. I wasn’t expecting that at all. That’s what made him the perfect man for the job. The governor, Gabriella’s father, didn’t suspect him either.

At the time, the experience of having the characters take off on their own was extremely disconcerting. Later, I realized it was a far better book than I had envisioned. Now, I delight in the moment the characters become so real, they move the action instead of me. That’s when I know I’m doing my job right, recording their lives as they live them.

Below is the scene that grabbed my attention as I read through my scribbles. The way it appears in the book is almost identical to the original. From Chapter 13 & 14 of Indian Summer by Dellani Oakes.

The ocean felt blood warm and comforting. I hadn’t realized how much my body ached from my new activities. The tension of the last few weeks washed from my body as the water closed over me. It buoyed me up, letting me float gently on the waves. I closed my eyes to the bright morning sun and rested. I didn’t realize how far I drifted, for the tide was going out. I heard a noise, a shout from the beach and looked up. I was much further out than I intended and began to swim slowly back in.

Before I saw what was happening, a man dove into the water and swam rapidly past me. It was not until then I saw the fin on the water. Shark! I could formulate no other thoughts but the horror of that image, that word. I had seen people attacked by sharks, their bodies torn and bloody, bloated from the water they died in. I swam for my life as quickly as I could. The man met the shark not far from the
shore. I scrambled out, running to my clothing. I had the ridiculous notion that it would somehow protect me. There was a battle going on in the waves, but I couldn’t see it clearly. The man raised his knife, the sun glittering off the blade. He brought it down on the shark again and again with a dull, liquid “thunk.” Blood was everywhere, but whether it was his or the shark’s I didn’t know.

Forgetting my clothing for the moment, I grabbed my knife. Foolishly, I dashed back into the water as man and shark dove under! I couldn’t see either of them, just blood on the waves. A small ripple where they went down was the only other thing visible. Suddenly, the water beside me erupted as a huge shark leapt out of the water not five feet from me! I screamed, frozen to the spot. I saw the knife in its ugly, brutish head, between its eyes. It was fighting fiercely, despite numerous stab wounds.

Clinging to it stubbornly was a man. Sailfish! He was covered in blood, slipping from the shark’s hide. The vicious beast gave a last squirm as the life left it. It shivered once more and died. Sailfish drew his blade from it, racing toward me.

“Run!” He yelled.

I was stupefied, I couldn’t make my legs work. I stood there naked and dripping, too terrified to move.

“Run!” He yelled again. “Gabriella, get out of the water!”

Before he finished speaking, I saw the fins racing toward all the blood, toward us! I turned and ran, splashing and flailing to get to shore. He caught up with me, righting me as I fell. Impatient at my lack of speed, he lifted me out of the water, carrying me to the sand. His long legs covered the distance in less time than it takes to tell of it. I stared in shock and horror as the dead shark danced crazily in the water, the others tearing its carcass to pieces in a horrific frenzy! A scream threatened to erupt from my throat. I opened my mouth, but no sound came out. Gradually, the furor died down and the sharks swam away. Nothing was left of the dead one. I sank to my knees, retching. I had not eaten yet that morning, so it was dry heaves. Sometimes that’s worse than actually vomiting. I became aware of strong hands helping me sit up, of the same hands dressing me like a baby and the muscular arms around me, holding me while I cried.

All the sorrow, anger, and fear that had built in me since the night of my capture, came pouring out in a flood of tears. I felt so safe in his arms. I clung to him, weeping as if my heart were broken. He held me, rocked me, and stroked my hair, all the while speaking in low monotones. None of it made sense to me for he spoke in his own tongue, but the flow of the words and the tone were comforting. I cried a long time, finally coming to a stop. He continued to hold me, giving me his comfort.

Soon, however, the touch changed, I felt the comforting become a caress as a lover would touch his beloved. I don’t know why, but I felt a tingling sensation for the first time since we met. He was so strong, virile, warm and so alive. He stopped rocking me, but continued to hold me, turning my tear-streaked face gently to his. I gazed into his jet black eyes, lost in their depths. His strong jaw was working, trying to hold the emotions in. I felt his manhood pressing against me and faltered in my resolve.

God help me, I loved Manuel! How could I dishonor him by kissing another man? Even as I thought this, Sailfish lowered his lips to mine and kissed me with a passion not even Manuel had equaled. I melted into his embrace, his lips locked with mine, his tongue probing my mouth. I burned inside, my heart fluttering like a trapped bird. I felt swept away as if the ocean waves had carried me off into the water once more. Wave after hot wave coursed through my body. He touched me all the places I knew he shouldn’t, but somehow I couldn’t bring myself to stop him. I was so tired of fighting desire, sick of saying no, weary of being proper.

I believe I would have allowed him to continue had we not heard shouts coming from on the mound. There was a ruckus on the river side of the island. Reluctantly, he let go of me, turning to the lookout. Sailfish called out to him, demanding to know what was wrong. I couldn’t understand his answer, for they spoke in their native tongue. Sailfish all but dumped me on the sand as he rose and ran toward the camp, shouting as he went. I gathered myself up running after him, curious and afraid all at once.

I was sure it had to do with James and me. I was afraid for all these people, worried they would be injured. I was terrified that Sailfish would kill James, or worse, James would kill him.

To purchase Indian Summer

Indian Summer – Excerpt

indian summer scanned cover 500 x 750Gabriella Deza is the youngest daughter of the Spanish Governor of Florida. The year is 1739 and trouble is, as usual, brewing with the British. It is nearing Gabriella’s fifteenth birthday, a major step for a Spanish girl, where she becomes a woman. Her father gives her charge over her younger brother, asking her to care for him while he and his wife are gone to Jamaica. The day of their return, a terrible storm hits the shore.

 There was a nagging feeling of dread rising in my mind. I felt hot then cold all over as if I were taking sick again. I had the feeling that Manuel needed me, something was horribly, terribly wrong. I couldn’t suppress it, for it seared my soul. My dreams nagged my thoughts, causing shivers of dread down my spine.

Without saying a word to anyone, I wended my way as quickly and quietly to the door as I could. It was hardly more than three minutes after Manuel left, and yet he was nowhere in sight. He must have taken his buggy. Having no such vehicle available to me, I ran to the fortress with as much speed as I could muster. I was grateful to Grand-mère for the dress as it provided more mobility than any of my other outfits would have.

The hair rose on my arms as if I were cold, my breath came in shuddering gasps and yet I ran until I thought my lungs would burst. It was then I saw it, a flicker, a flame and suddenly the entire southeast bastion of the fort seemed to be on fire!

Silhouetted against it, I saw a man. My dream came rushing back of an instant and I knew it to be James the spy! I couldn’t contain my anger. It drove me onward, compelling me to be hasty, chiding my slowness. Anger burned within me, hot and fierce as the signal fire before me, filling me with a fury driving away my fear.

I finally reached the gate, passing the ladies and the buggy without fully noticing. I saw no sign of Manuel, James or anyone else. In fact, the postern gate was open and unguarded, just as in my dream! I stifled the shriek I felt rising in my throat. Fear gripped me, cold unreasoning fear. Dread of ghosts of dead soldiers floated through my mind, making me shiver again.

For the first time in my life, I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t think or make any decision. I stood there stupidly, gaping at the sight in front of me, riveted to the spot. That was my undoing. Stealthily out of the shadows, James was upon me. He grabbed me in his strong arms, holding me to him, using me as a shield, a gun pointed at my head!

An involuntary scream ripped from my throat! James chided me, goaded me on, pulling my hair, waving the gun before me!

“Go ahead and scream, lass. Scream for all you’re worth! It will bring him to me. I’ve waited, plotted, planned for this moment. Before the sun rises, he’ll be dead and you, my lass, you will be mine!”

He planted a rough, brutal kiss on my cheek, nipping my ear, causing me to scream again. I writhed away from him, but he held me fast. He shifted his hold upon me, crushing me against his pelvis. I could feel the lust in him. It disgusted and terrified me. He seemed to feed off my fear, growing more bold.

“That’s it, that’s it! He’ll be here any minute that upstart Spanish bastard!”

He was turning around from side to side, holding me in front of him, pulling my hair to keep me on my feet, for I was near to fainting. A shadow moved stealthily toward us. I hoped James had not seen. Perhaps I only hoped so much that it was Manuel, I imagined it. But no, I heard a pistol being cocked and knew James heard it to. From our left, Manuel emerged quietly from the shadows, pistol in hand.

The light from the signal fire threw wavering shadows and highlights over his face, making him look demonic, his handsome face contorted into an unyielding mask of cold rage and hatred. His hand was steady, pointing the gun at James, who tried in vain to keep me in front of him. Manuel lifted his chin standing still.

“Let her go, James, or I shall drop you where you stand.”

“If you shoot me, she’s dead.” He put the gun up against my head.

“Don’t be so sure of that, Doctor.”

I could hear panic rising in James’ voice. His breath coming in fast gulps, hot on my neck. “Drop your gun. I’ll let her go if you drop your gun!”

“Do you take me for a complete fool? You drop your gun and I’ll give you a head start to the gate to run like the cowardly cur you are. Stand away from her now.”

James’ hand holding the weapon was beginning to falter. I summoned all my resolve and slammed my elbow into his ribs, stamped on his foot and hit him in his private parts as hard as I could with both my fists together.

He gasped for breath, falling to the ground, dropping his gun. Manuel kept him covered while I jumped out of reach. All I could think of was getting away, returning to the safety of my home, of Manuel’s arms. I was in a panic, terrified! Then I saw the man behind Manuel, musket raised like a club, the sailor who had met James.

Manuel couldn’t get a shot off in time, but caught the blow of the musket with his pistol stock, forcing the man away from him. They grappled for what seemed hours, but was only a few seconds. Unfortunately, neither of us watched James. He lunged for his pistol, grabbing it before I could warn Manuel. I could do nothing to stop him. I was too far away. I tried to scream, to alert Manuel in some way, but the sound caught in my throat.

Manuel and the sailor turned just as James raised his gun to shoot. James’ shot caught the other man in the back, the bullet slamming through him as if he were jelly. The echo in the stone courtyard was deafening. Then they fell!

“Manuel! Dear God, he’s been shot!” I screamed to no one.

The other fellow was dead, but Manuel was still moving. I ran to be by his side, but James grabbed my hair again and dragged me away! The last I saw, Manuel was lying in a pool of blood, his life draining from him and I could do nothing!

Indian Summer – Excerpt

indian summer scanned cover 500 x 750Indian Summer is an historical romance set in 1739, St. Augustine, Florida during the Spanish Era. Although I took a few liberties for literary purposes, I tried to capture the spirit of the times.

Gabriella Deza is the youngest daughter of the Spanish Governor, Ferdinand Deza. Her  mother, who was English, died when she was five. Her father remarried a French woman a few years later and Clara gave him his first and only son, Marcos. In this scene, Marcos runs away from the house during a thunderstorm because his mother and father are on a ship that is probably going to crash.

The rain was so heavy, I soon lost track of Marcos in the storm. I knew he’d be heading to the wharf, so I found my way there as best I could. Once I reached the shore I began to call him. My voice was drowned by the sound of the wind.

“Please,” I begged of the men that I knew. “Will you help me find my brother?”

But all were too busy to listen to a young lady who was too foolish to stay out of the storm. I could see Papa’s ship in the ocean heading toward the wharf, as the waves pounded it on all sides. It looked ready to break apart! I began to pray as I ran looking for my little brother.

“Oh Lord, protect them and help me find my brother!” I repeated over and over as I ran through the crowd, pushing my way in the press of men.

It was then I saw Marcos. He was trying to help deploy ropes. The men on the shore tied off stout hemp lines to the pier and were roping themselves in to wade out into the storm. They formed a life line should the ship break apart. Other men were standing and holding the ropes to bring in the others if they foundered in the waves. No one was watching my brother. They were all too busy with their appointed tasks.

I saw the approaching wave before he did, for he was not looking at the sea. He had turned briefly to implore the men once more to let him help, but none gave him their ear.

“Marcos!” I called, though he couldn’t possibly hear me. “Marcos, behind you!”

The wave moved faster than I could, with all my damp skirts around my legs. I knew I couldn’t reach him and he was going to die. Despite his faults, I realized I dearly loved my little brother. I didn’t want to lose him. I couldn’t even think what his death would do to Papa.

As I ran, I watched the wave build higher. It rose until I could hardly see the top. The ship rode the crest. The men on shore saw the swell approaching. They dropped the ropes, running inland as fast as they could in the wet sand. Several fell and were swept away by the waters. The ropes held them and they were able to pull
themselves out of the waves.

Marcos was calling to them. “Where are you going? My mamá is on that ship!”

He hadn’t turned around, distracted by their flight. The ship loomed nearer and the wave grew. I couldn’t reach him through the wet sand and the press of men running against me.

“God, I beg you please save him! I swear I’ll be good to him all my days! Oh, Mother of God, protect him! I promised Papa!”

Lightning flashed across the sky illuminating the beach, lighting Marco’s face like a ghost! It was then he turned and saw the ship as the wave approached him. He froze.

“Marcos!” I screamed, “Marcos run!”

He heard my voice, but he was paralyzed with fear. I ran, screaming for him to move. There was no way he could escape. The water was too deep, its pull stronger than he. The darkness and rain enveloped him, obscuring my view. In the next flash of lightning, I saw the ship looming ever closer and screamed for all I was worth!

Suddenly, another figure appeared on the beach. A man, large and strong, was running toward my brother, a rope around his waist. He came upon Marcos just as the wave broke on the shore, grabbing him securely. He dropped to the ground, tucking the little head against his massive chest, holding my brother with an inhuman strength. He turned his body, taking the brunt of the wave on his back and powerful shoulders. Marcos grasped his waist just before the wave’s surge covered them.

The ship swerved hard to starboard, hitting the corner of the pier not far away, shuddering to a halt. The water rushed around the ship, up the beach, over my brother and the man. I couldn’t see what happened next, for I had to retreat out of the wave’s reach. The greedy fingers of water clutched my dress, determined to drag me into the fray. Were it not for the aid of the men on shore, who held me fast, I would have been spirited away and surely drowned.

I babbled every prayer I knew, calling on God to help them. Little by little the waves receded and I could move closer, looking for them. I saw the rope tied to the pier, taut with weight, and began to pull. Men from the shore saw me and raced to my side. Together we hauled them in. I feared both were surely drowned. Finally, their sodden forms broke the surface of the waves. I rushed forward, but the men held me back, for the currents were wild and treacherous.

For more about Dellani and her books:

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http://TheNinjaTattoo.wordpress.com

http://dellanioakes.wordpress.com

http://dulcetbydellanioakes.wordpress.com

http://LoneWolfbyDellaniOakes.wordpress.com

http://writersanctuary.blogspot.com

© Dellani Oakes