Character Quotes from Savage Heart

Savage Heart is the much anticipated (and demanded) sequel to my historical romance, Indian Summer. Set in the early summer of 1740, Gabriella and Manuel are now happily (or maybe not so happily) married.

savage heart cover“Señora Enriques is feeling a bit under the weather. I need to check on her.” Manuel moved toward the steps to the house quickly.

“She sounded a might put out to me,” Willem replied, spitting in the dirt as he led the horses away to the barn.

“Yes,” Manuel said softly. “Yes, she was.” He paused on the steps. “Willem, did you hear everything?”

“Entire country heard, I’ll warrant, sir.”

“And you think I’m wrong?”

“Not my business to judge right nor wrong on your decisions, sir. I can agree or not as I choose, makes no difference. But I will say this, that girl loves ye above her own life. If ye go ‘gainst her wishes, ye might not have a home to come back to. She’d as likely leave ye as mind ye.”

Manuel hung his head, laughing sardonically. “You’ve put your finger upon it, Willem. As usual, you point out my foibles.”

“We all work to our strengths, sir,” the old Irishman said with a smirk. “Give her a big kiss, love her hard and maybe she’ll forgive ye. But don’t niver lie to her, sir, or I guarantee—that she’ll not forgive.”

© 2016 Dellani Oakes

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Savage Heart – Sequel to Indian Summer

savage heart coverIndian Summer was not only my first historical romance, it was my first published novel. After it was completed, I felt compelled to write another story for Sailfish. He was so incredibly lonely and needed a high spirited woman of his own. It took me awhile, but I finally finished Savage Heart. Below is an excerpt from this sweeping historical romance.

Sailfish is desperately in love with Gabriella Deza-Enriques, the daughter of the Spanish Governor and wife of his closest friend. Even though he knows she is married to another, he still loves her. Meli is a young woman he meets while on the road to visit St. Augustine for Gabriella’s birthday. She is injured and he saves her life. She’s not ungrateful, but she does have a way of getting under his skin.

Sailfish woke at noon the next day, to find Meli lying next to him. Her green eyes held humor as she gazed at him. He sat up slowly, wondering what she found so humorous.

“You snore,” she giggled. “And talk in your sleep. Who is Gabriella? Is she the one you love?”

“What does it matter? She’s married to another man.”

“Ah. Was she your woman first?” Her green eyes sparkled merrily.

“No.”

“So, did you try to steal her away from the other man?”

“No.”

“Tell me what happened and I’ll quit asking you,” she teased.

“And what fun would that be for you?”

Sailfish said no more, setting about breaking their primitive camp. He kicked dirt over the coals of their fire, pouring water from the river onto the dirt.

“I’m better today, thank you,” she said by way of making conversation.

Sailfish ignored her, going about his business with a singularity of focus unmatched by many.

“Why, that’s very good to hear, Meli.” She lowered her voice, pretending to be him. “Do you think you can walk all right on your own?” She kept her voice low, standing in a manly fashion with her hands on her hips. She captured his cadence and movements well, including the casual toss of his head.

“Why yes,” she turned her body, taking a more feminine stance. She batted her eyelashes. “I believe I can walk just fine today.”

Despite himself, Sailfish laughed at her, unconsciously tossing his head. “I hear insane people are very popular in towns. Perhaps they will pay to see you talk to yourself.”

© 2016 Dellani Oakes

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Scenery of St. Augustine

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The top of Castillo de San Marcos looking south toward the bell tower. This tower. We look north with the Mantanzas River to the right.

I recently came across some photographs I’d taken of St. Augustine, Florida. My family and I have taken several trips there, over the years. Not as many as I might wish, because it’s a truly beautiful place. I’m not talking about the commercialized sprawl of a big city, but the historic downtown. The city has done well keeping history alive, with many museums and historical sites.

On one trip, my husband and I visited The Fountain of Youth. I’d love to say that drinking the water made us younger, but it’s really just strong mineral water. It’s no wonder it was considered the Fountain of Youth. Drinking that water would give strength to the nutrient deprived Europeans. It probably kept the Native population healthier too.

 

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Re-enactors at The Fountain of Youth. The gentleman was very helpful with nailing down a date I’d been tracking. The woman was quite knowledgeable about daily life. They were fascinating.

 

 

At the Fountain of Youth, history comes alive. They have people there who talk about the time and share stories about St. Augustine. On the river’s edge, they have canons set up and a man in period clothing who talks about and fires them.

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The artillery man at The Fountain of Youth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The north approach to Fort Matanzas. The south has a well armed gun deck.

 

On the same trip, we drove down to Fort Matanzas on the Mantanzas river. This fort was added after the English siege of 1740. The Governor of St. Augustine decided they needed more defense to their south, something they hadn’t considered problematic before. It wasn’t large, but it was well armed. Anyone foolish enough to come up the river at that point, would be caught in a blaze of cannon fire.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Matanzas River looking south to show the many bends in the river, making this an ideal spot for a well armed fort.

 

The park ranger talked about living conditions at the fort. It was fascinating. It’s so tiny, you wonder how so many men lived in such close proximity without wanting to kill each other.

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Living quarters at Fort Matanzas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The re-enactor portraying the Spanish Governor. He was very kind and helpful finding me some information I needed.

On another trip, which I made with my children, we visited Fort Mose, just north of Castillo de San Marcos. This was the Black Militia stockade. The governor of St. Augustine had a brilliant idea. The English, who were encroaching from the north, had many Black slaves. The Governor told them if they wished to become Catholic, he would take them in and give them a home.

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Highlander Re-enactors. I didn’t have a chance to talk to them, but don’t they look bonnie in their kilts?

During the 1740 siege, led by General James Oglethorpe of the British Army, Fort Mose was evacuated in order to protect the residents. The British Army took it over. Understandably angry about that, the Black Militia, along with Spanish Army regulars, planned a dawn raid on the fort and captured it from the British. My children and I went up to see a re-enactment of that battle.

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The re-enactor portraying James Oglethorpe was kind enough to chat with me while I asked him questions. He was amazing.

I’m sure that the photos make clear why I set my first novel, Indian Summer, here. The history and beauty of this place spoke to me. I could almost hear Gabriella’s laughter echo in the walls of the Castillo de San Marcos. Though she isn’t based on a real person, who’s to say that someone with her spirit and cleverness didn’t exist? She will always be real to me. Indian Summer is an historical romance set in St. Augustine, Florida in the year 1739, a year before this siege took place. The sequel (coming eventually) Savage Heart, is set during this historic siege.

 

© 2014 Dellani Oakes including all photographs

To Buy Indian Summer

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

Excerpt from “Savage Heart” – sequel to “Indian Summer”

View of the ocean from Turtle Mound

View of the ocean from Turtle Mound

War with the British looms on the horizon. Governor Deza knows that things could get dangerous very quickly. He insists that Gabriella and her sisters join their step-mother and go to Jamaica. Manuel plans to infiltrate the British army, posing as an Indian. For very obvious reasons, Gabriella doesn’t want him to go. They talk about it on their ride home.

“I love you so, Gabriella. You are a part of me like no other.”

“Then why are you so determined to leave?”

He was discouraged but not surprised by her sudden change of tactic. Gabriella was well known for her sneaky ways of getting the truth from him. He sighed gently, clucking to the horses to go faster. Pricking up their ears, the two graceful mares began a steady trot.

“I must, my love. You know this better than anyone.”

“Sailfish or one of his men could do the job as well. You know that’s true. His skill with languages is equal to yours. He’s brave and strong, an excellent warrior. He’d do a remarkable job.”

“He has one failing as an agent of espionage.”

“What failing could he possibly have?”

“He doesn’t know the ways of the English as well as I. He might not see trouble coming. Englishmen say one thing with their lips, but their bodies belie their words. My brother, as skillful as he is, can’t interpret them as accurately as I.”

“Take him with you, then. If he’s with you, I won’t worry.”

“You’ll always worry about me, Bella.”

“I won’t worry as much with him by your side. He will be here in a few days for my party.”

“How can I ask such a thing? I could get him killed!”

Furious, she raised her voice. “I will, then.”

Manuel’s temper also flared. “Why would he do something so dangerous for you?”

“Because he, unlike you, loves me enough to do what I ask!”

They pulled up in front of their home. Rather than waiting for Manuel to help her down, she scrambled from the carriage. Rushing inside, Gabriella slammed the door behind her.

Manuel couldn’t speak. His mouth hung open as he stared at his front door. He couldn’t believe that she had said that, nor that she would have the gall to ask his blood brother to help him on this dangerous mission.

“She’d risk us both to save but one of us.” Manuel wondered for a moment, if she ever had to choose, which man would she pick?

It had always bothered him that she had spent so much time alone with Sailfish. He knew how much his brother loved her. It was painfully evident in his eyes every time they met. He longed to touch her, kiss her, make love to her. Had she been unfaithful to him while they were apart?

His better sense prevailed whenever he got in a mental battle of what if. Gabriella loved him and he knew it. She was very religious, making her choices by the teachings of the Church. She would never have let Sailfish make love to her. Still, doubts lingered.

Sometimes when she spoke to his brother and they shared a laugh over something that had happened in her time with the tribe, her eyes glittered in a way they never did for him. There was more than just friendship on both their parts. Manuel’s logical side protested he had no right to feel this way. After all, she had married him. She was his, but had she been his brother’s first?

Shaking his head to clear it, he drew a deep, cleansing breath, wishing he knew the answers to these questions. He could never ask Gabriella. If she even thought he didn’t trust her, she would surely leave him. He couldn’t stand the idea of losing her for any reason. But lack of trust was worse than infidelity. If she’d been unfaithful, and he didn’t want to believe for a moment that she had, it was before they were wed.

“Evenin’, young master.”

Manuel jumped, startling the horses. Holding the bridle of one of them, he calmed them.

“I didn’t hear you, Willem.”

“Sorry to startle you, sir. I heard you arrive and thought as you might need help with the ladies, an all.”

“Thank you. As a matter of fact, if you’d take them, Señora Enriques is feeling a bit under the weather. I need to check on her.” Manuel moved toward the steps to the house quickly.

“She sounded a might put out to me,” Willem replied, spitting in the dirt as he led the horses away to the barn.

“Yes.” Manuel said softly. “Yes, she was.” He paused on the steps. “Willem, did you hear everything?”

“Entire country heard, I’ll warrant, sir.”

“And you think I’m wrong?”

“Not my business to judge right nor wrong on your decisions, sir. I can agree or not as I choose, makes no difference. But I will say this, that girl loves ye above her own life. If ye go ‘gainst her wishes, ye might not have a home to come back to. She’d as likely leave ye as mind ye.”

Manuel hung his head, laughing sardonically. “You’ve put your finger upon it, Willem. As usual, you point out my foibles.”

“We all work to our strengths, sir,” the old Irishman said with a smirk. “Give her a big kiss, love her hard and maybe she’ll forgive ye. But don’t niver lie to her, sir, or I guarantee—that she’ll not forgive.”

“Thanks, Willem. Good night then.”

“Good night, sir.” He tipped his hat, spit and led the horses to the stable.

Manuel took the stairs to their bedroom two at a time. He heard Gabriella talking. Wondering if she spoke to Consuela, their maid, he lingered outside the door, trying not to make any noise.

“He’s so stubborn! I can’t believe what a pig headed man he can be! How can he think to leave me now, when less than a year ago, he was just coming back from his spying upon James? The gall! To think I’d stand for it!”

He heard a hairbrush clatter on the floor. Some very unladylike language followed that she would never have used around anyone but him. In point of fact, she’d probably learned it from him. He knew she must be alone.

Location Location Location

indian summer scanned cover 500 x 750The setting for a book is as important to me as characters. Where and when the book takes place can be crucial. For instance, not too likely to have people freezing to death in Florida in August. Conversely, no one is going to die from heat stroke in the Arctic in the winter.

Indian Summer is set in Florida in 1739. I used two locations in the state to tell my story. The first, of course, is St. Augustine, the seat of Spanish power and a strategic location on the coast.

The fortress, the Castillo de San Marcos, is in St. Augustine and has the  honor of never being taken by force.

castillo vista

The second part of the story is set on an island that is now New Smyrna Beach (established in 1768). The turtle shaped mound (Turtle Mound) is located at the south end of the island in what is now a national park, Canaveral National Seashore.

It is thought that Turtle Mound was used as a lookout post. When you see the view, you can understand why. These photos show the view of the ocean, but the river is clearly visible from the other side of the mound.

View of the ocean from Turtle Mound

View of the ocean from Turtle Mound

View from atop Turtle Mound

View from atop Turtle Mound

Writing the Problem Child

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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!

In His Own Words – Sailfish of the River People

If you’ve read Indian Summer, you know Sailfish. He is Manuel’s best friend who helps Gabriella when she is pursued by the spy. While I was writing Indian Summer, Sailfish kept trying to do more and be more than I could allow him to be in that novel, so I gave him his own book. It’s not quite finished, but I’m having a great time writing Savage Heart.

Below is an interview with Sailfish. It incorporates some of the elements from Savage Heart.

What is your name?
You may call me Sailfish as my own language is hard for you to pronounce.

What do you want most?
I want to find love and gain the acceptance of my people.

Why is this so important to you?
Why does anyone want love? As to the acceptance, if I am to be chief after my uncle, I must have their approval.

What makes you happy or sad?
The death of my beautiful wife and son—that made me very sad. That Gabriella loves me for nothing but a dear friend, also saddens me. But finding Meli, that makes me happy.

How do you treat the people in your life? 

I hope that I treat them well. I do my best, but often I disappoint them somehow. Or perhaps I disappoint myself?

Can people count on you?
My friends and family can always count on me for help.

What makes you angry?
The British general, Oglethorpe, makes me angry, as does the Spanish king. The fighting between these two nations has torn my country apart.

Do you stand up for your beliefs?
With everything that I am, and all that makes me a man, I stand for what I believe.

What excites you?
The thrill of the hunt, the beauty of a perfect sunrise, joy in the eyes of the woman I love.

What do you do for a living?
I am a warrior and scout.

What kind of books do you like?
I don’t have access to books, although my Blood Brother taught me to read. I don’t have time to sit and read a book. I never really saw the point.

What kind of music?
I like the music of the wind in branches, the pounding of the waves on the shore, the songs of birds and call of animals. All these are music to me.

What’s the one thing you’d most like to do before you die?
I want to find true love again. I thought I’d found it with Gabriella, but that was not to be. Perhaps with Meli? Who can say?

If you could, what’s one thing you’d change about yourself?
A soulful look settles on his noble features and he hangs his head in silence.  I think I would not fall in love with Gabriella.

In Her Own Words – Gabriella Deza of Indian Summer

Who are you?

I am Gabriella Deza, youngest daughter of Governor Ferdinand Deza.

What is your story?

I haven’t much of one yet, I’m only just 15, but what there is of it is told in Indian Summer.

Where and when do you live?

I live in the village of St. Augustine, Florida territory. The year is 1739.

Are you the hero of your own story?

Me a hero? Heavens, no! That would be Manuel Enriques, my father’s aid du camp and the love of my life.

What is your problem in the story?

Quite by chance, I found out a terrible secret. A British spy is trying to overthrow my father, capture the fort and take over the town!

How does the author see you?

Headstrong, demure, capable, passionate, honest, loving. I am these things and ever so much more.

What do you think of yourself?

I think I am all those things and more. For one so young, my life suddenly became rather complicated.

Do you have a hero?

My father, Manuel and Sailfish are my heroes. They are all so brave and noble. Though, in their own way, all men are heroes, don’t you think?

Do you have any special strengths?

My faith in God is my greatest strength. My faith has seen me through very trying times. I would not be the woman I am without it.

Do you have any special weaknesses?

My passion for Manuel is nearly my undoing. All he need do is look at me and I go weak in the knees.

What do you believe?

I believe in God and I believe in the love of Manuel and my family. I also believe in my own abilities to cope with any situation life presents.

What makes you happy?

Many things make me happy, but when Manuel kisses me, I can’t think of anything but how happy I am. There is only one thing which would make me happier, and that would be to marry him.

What do you regret?

That I with all my education, I never learned how to shoot a pistol.

Has anyone ever betrayed you?

Yes, the man who spies on us, using our friendship against us. He betrays me, my family and my home. I hope I have a hand in bringing him to justice.

What was your childhood like?

Delightful in so many ways, but also sad because we lost Mama when I was five and Grandmama not long after. However, Papa and his new wife, Clara, have provided a loving home for the four of us. My older sisters, little brother and I have lived in relative comfort our entire lives.

Who was your first love?

My first and only love is Manuel. I never realized how much he loves me nor I him, until he declared his love for me on my birthday. He is the most magnificent man alive and I love him more than my own life.

What is your most prized possession? Why?

My peso necklace, because Manuel gave it to me. Though my parents gave me pearls for my birthday, the peso shows Manuel’s love for me. He can’t ask me to marry him, it wouldn’t be proper, but that shows each of us our promise to wed.

What is your favorite color? Why?

Apple green, because it was Mama’s favorite as well, and I am most like her of all three of us girls.

If you were stranded on a desert island, would you rather be stranded with, a man or a woman?

Do not think badly of me of saying this, but I would want to be stranded only with Manuel. I can think of no one else with whom I have enough in common to spend any period of time. Only if we were married, of course. Anything else would be scandalous!

How do you envision your future?

I see my future happily married to Manuel, having his children and loving him for the rest of my life.

© Dellani Oakes