Home > Broken Loyalty (Jacky Leon #3)

Broken Loyalty (Jacky Leon #3)
Author: Kristen Banet, K.N. Banet

Chapter One

January 18th, 2020

I wasn’t expecting much from the day as I woke up, got ready for work, and headed out the door of my beautiful home in the woods. Another Saturday. Another opening. Another closing. Drinks to pour and finances to keep an eye on. Patrons to chat with.

More Heath Everson.

Just another day in the life.

Walking the trail between my bar and my home, I pushed my hands into my hoodie pockets to fight off the cold. I ran a little warmer than I had as a human, but that didn’t mean thirty-three degrees Fahrenheit wasn’t a bit chilly. If I were covered in fur, it wouldn’t bother me at all, but I was in human form. I already knew my nose was going to be pink by the time I made it to the bar, but that was a normal occurrence for me in the dead of winter. Some nights, I didn’t bother with the cold and just stayed in the upstairs apartment, but for some reason I hadn’t this time.

I walked to the backdoor of my bar, passing my little old hatchback, which didn’t look so good anymore. It was eight years old, and I knew I had to replace it soon, but buying a new car was more hassle than I wanted to deal with.

Locking the backdoor behind me once I was inside, I rubbed my hands together. For some reason, I wasn’t really looking forward to work. The idea of just another normal day annoyed me as I went into the small work room behind the bar where the dishwasher was. I unloaded the clean glasses, feeling sluggish and tired, but I knew I had gotten enough sleep. Once that chore was done, I filled up two large trays with clean glasses and took them out to the bar, arranging them to use over the evening. I checked my liquor amounts, eyeballing what I would need to order on Sunday when I was closed. I considered the dirty floors, annoyed I would need to mop the next day as well.

“I love my job,” I said to myself, frowning at my bar. Bad days happened. I loved Kick Shot, I loved my place, I loved the little thing I had carved out in Jacksonville, Texas.

But today, I just wasn’t feeling it. What kept me going as I slogged through my chores was that it was Saturday. It was the last night of the week for me, and it was Heath Night. The werewolf Alpha would come to unwind, and I could do the same, kind of. I still had to run the bar, but it was nice to have an ear that listened when I needed to vent.

It was an hour before opening when there was a soft knock at the front door. I frowned, unable to see through the window’s closed blinds.

“I’m closed!”

The knock repeated, and I grumbled, realizing I probably hadn’t yelled loudly enough. Instead of raising my voice, I walked to the door, unlocked it, and pulled it open. Without missing a beat, I glared at the two young men at the door.

“Kick Shot opens in one hour. Come back later.” I’d moved to close the door again when one of them reached out and stopped it. They were human, but that didn’t mean I tolerated anyone trying to force their way into my bar. I reached out and grabbed the young man’s wrist, squeezing. “What do you think you’re doing?” I demanded, a growl in my voice. I was in no mood for this.

“We’re your new employees,” he said quickly in a crisp English accent, not reacting in any way to my grip on him. He wore a perfect navy-blue suit, his auburn hair styled like he was about to walk into a board room. His face seemed too young and too calm.

“I didn’t hire any new employees,” I snapped.

“We were sent by your family from other establishments. It was said you needed help here, and we were chosen to come and get real world experience in the business by working for you.”

I took him in, eyeing his face and sniffing the air. He was telling the truth. His expressive green eyes were wide and innocent, and his body language was relaxed, even though I was holding his wrist with enough strength that I could easily break it.

That means…I’m not sure what’s more worrisome. If he had been lying, I could knock him around and definitely win, and I’d have to deal with whoever tried to send them. But he isn’t. That means my fucking family has finally decided to stick their nose into my business. Great.

“I can’t get rid of you, can I?” I asked blandly, letting the anger drop off my face.

“No, probably not. We were told to quickly explain to you what was happening, and if you still rejected us, to camp outside your door until you let us stay.”

I sighed and let go of the young man.

“Come inside, you two. Tell me your names, exactly what you’re supposed to be doing for me, and who in my family decided to send you. I need to know what region of the world to send you back to if I don’t like the idea of you being here.” I opened the door wider, and the first one, the talker, walked in like a professional, looking around the bar as if he already owned it. The other slunk in, his shoulders slouched, his eyes away from me. As I closed the door and relocked it, the talker walked to the pool tables and examined them. “Names. And don’t touch anything.”

“Ah. I’m Oliver Price. I’ll be your new manager. I’ve been training to run restaurants and other similar establishments for five years since I was seventeen. Both of my parents are in the business. My father works for Mister Davor at his London location as the manager, and my mother is the head chef of Madam Zuri’s restaurant, also in London. My family has worked for yours for four hundred years.” The young man beamed. I did the mental math and wanted to kill my family for sending me a twenty-two-year-old boy to manage a bar in Texas. I already had two werewolves and a twelve-year-old human girl to keep an eye on. Oliver was going to be eaten alive by the locals.

“And you?” I demanded, turning to the slouching one.

“Dirk Jaeger,” he mumbled. “Twenty-four. Bartender.”

“For whom and from where?”

“Berlin. Niko’s club,” he said, not looking me in the eye. Other than his refusal of eye contact, there was no scent of a lie on his person. He just wasn’t comfortable with the answer. It worked with his leather jacket and dark jeans look. His dark hair threatened to fall over his eyes if he let it go any longer. Avoidance—he wanted everyone to avoid him, including me.

“So, if I call Zuri, Davor, and Niko, they can all back up what you just said?” I asked, looking between them.

“Yes, Miss Leon,” Oliver said confidently.

I pulled my phone out of my pocket and started texting, putting it into the family chat for everyone to see. I was ready to go for the throat, knowing I couldn’t toss out either of the young men, but I felt violated; my siblings had sent two invaders into my personal space without warning. They knew better. They knew I didn’t want employees or staff in any way. I wanted to do this on my own, and it was my choice.

Jacky: Which of you assholes decided the best way for me to have staff was to hire them for me?

It only took thirty seconds for an answer to pop up.

Hasan: I did. I told them to pick two people who would do well with some time in your territory and at a small location without too much pressure or stress.

That deflated my bravado immediately.

Of course, it was Hasan. I’m going to have to insult him by sending them back when he was the one who wanted me to have them. Fantastic. He’s going to love this.

Hasan: It’s a new year, and with your new role as my representative in the Americas, I thought it best you had some help with Kick Shot, so werecat affairs don’t interrupt or hurt your business.

Jacky: We announced that seven months ago. Why so long? You know I’m just going to send them back to where they came from.

Hasan: You would, but I’ve sent them as a holiday gift, and you would never return a gift from your father.

Mischa: HAHAHAHAHA

I put my phone down on the bar slowly, knowing if I wasn’t careful, I would break it. It kept going off as I looked at the two young men hovering around my space.

There’s really no getting rid of them, then. I’ll just have to make do.

“Dirk Jaeger and Oliver Price, bartender and manager,” I said with barely restrained annoyance. “Well, it’s Saturday night, and we’re closed Sunday and Monday, so why don’t the both of you head to wherever you’re staying and come back on Tuesday? Say around—”

“We can start immediately,” Oliver said, cutting in with enthusiasm. “I’ve already read over a report of your business given to me by Madam Zuri. I’m certain Dirk will be more than capable of handling the bar without any special training.”

“I’ll be fine,” the other young man said gruffly. “It’s the American South. Everyone drinks cheap beer.”

“Let’s not stereotype my clientele.” He was right. Everyone who came to Kick Shot drank cheap beer. By the look he gave me, he thought this was going to be a boring job.

“Okay…” I rubbed my hands on my jeans nervously. “I know what a bartender does, but what exactly are you going to do, Oliver?”

“Make your business grow and run it efficiently, so you can focus on the important things in your life,” he declared, smiling. “Don’t worry, I won’t make any changes without your permission. I can also handle your accounting. Both of our salaries are covered for the next year since we’re technically in training. At the end of the year, we’ll probably go back home and work in other establishments.”

“And I’ll be alone again,” I whispered blissfully.

“Maybe,” Oliver said with that smile.

“Look. I like running and working in my bar. There’s no way you two are going to be here five nights a week. I like working here alone.”

“But, Miss Leon—”

“Go somewhere and enjoy the area for a few days,” I ordered.

“Um. We don’t have a place to stay yet. No one arranged living quarters for us. We also don’t have vehicles yet. We paid for a very expensive taxi,” Oliver said softly, deflating a little as if he knew this was somehow going to upset me.

He was right.

“My fucking family,” I muttered, shaking my head. “I have an apartment upstairs. You two can use it. I have a house back in the woods, and I’ll stay there. How much was the taxi?”

   
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