Home > Oath Sworn (Jacky Leon #1)

Oath Sworn (Jacky Leon #1)
Author: Kristen Banet, K.N. Banet

Chapter One

August 23, 2018

Summer in East Texas was never easy. When it wasn’t over ninety degrees, it was humid and sticky, where sweat just made life miserable, even if it was cooling down a little. The pine trees that covered the area and the shade they provided weren’t all that amazing. Normally, the pine needles had a tendency to get in places they shouldn’t when someone tried to use the shade that was offered.

The heat was all I could think about as I stood behind the bar, closing my eyes and trying to ignore the pounding in my head. I could hear the news, which was the source of my growing headache, from the television in the corner of the room. I didn’t want to think about what was being said, so I focused on the heat and wondering if it would ever end, like I did every summer just outside the small town of Jacksonville. It was ninety-five degrees and well past dusk. It didn’t have the right to be this hot after the sun went down. Only Hell had the right to be this fucking hot, and East Texas wasn’t Hell, no matter how hard it tried to be sometimes.

“For those who are just tuning in, we’ve got breaking news. Earlier today, the Dallas-Fort Worth Pack experienced a hostile takeover, unsanctioned by the Werewolf Council of North America. The Council is telling people to stay in their homes and not approach any werewolves that they may see, stating that during events like this one, a werewolf can be prone to lashing out at any perceived threats. Our Governor here in Texas is also asking people of the Metroplex to use caution and lock their doors tonight.”

And the werewolves in DFW didn’t have the right to be so stupid, but they were wolves. I kind of figured they were always that stupid, whether they had right to be or not. My head throbbed in annoyance. Do they not understand that just because humans know about them, they can’t run off and start small wars in the middle of big cities?

“Jacky! Can I get another beer?” a rough voice called across the dimly-lit room.

With a sigh, I stopped staring out of the window and looked back over my patrons, wondering how long I had until I could toss everyone out. Because Joey, the man across the bar, was calling for me. Jacky Leon. Sometimes I loved when Joey, my most wonderful and consistent regular, called out for me, and sometimes I hated it.

Tonight, I hated it. I wasn’t in the mood, and it was mostly because of the werewolves running around just about two hours away from me. Sadly, I had a job to do.

“Yeah. I got you, Joey,” I said back, sighing heavily. I didn’t need to ask what he was drinking or what he could possibly want. I already knew. See, Kick Shot was my bar and had been for six years. Joey was the most regular of the regulars. He never changed. He always wanted Blue Moon—ironic, really. I held it up. “I’m not coming to you. Get off your ass and come get your own damn beer.”

“Ah, Jacky, don’t you love me anymore? My knee hurts, and—”

“No. Six years now, Joey, and still you’re asking me to play waitress. It’s never going to happen. Get up, come get your beer, go sit back down.” I shook the beer just a little, hoping he would just get up and do it without another comment. There were five other people in the bar tonight, slow for a Thursday, but that didn’t mean I was suddenly also the waitress.

He groaned and pushed away from his buddies. It wasn’t that I didn’t like Joey, but I wasn’t a waitress. I was the owner of the damn bar and I didn’t run around and give people drinks. Not that there’s anything wrong with waitressing, but I had tried that when I first opened the place and it hadn’t gone well. I’d caught people grabbing their own drinks for free while I was running around. Now, I could have fixed the problem by hiring servers—or really, anyone—to help out, but I didn’t. I was stubborn like that. I had wanted to own a bar by myself and work in it alone, so I did. If that meant my patrons had to walk twenty feet to get their drink, then so be it.

His friends were laughing at him as he walked to me, like always. Joey’s friends were all locals like him and I knew all their names. Sometimes it felt like I knew everyone’s name. John grew up in Jacksonville, the son of a couple of teachers at the high school. He’d gone to college and followed in their footsteps, becoming a teacher himself. Mark was new, at least by Jacksonville’s standards. He’d lived there for five years and still was considered the new face. Adam was another local, and like Joey, once played football at the high school, dreaming of the pros. He married his high school sweetheart and just never left.

But Joey’s special. I liked him more than most of my patrons, which was why I took a second beer out and put it next to the first.

“So you don’t need to make the walk again any time soon. On the house,” I explained, smiling kindly. He gave me a worried expression, looking over the two bottles. He picked up one, cracked it open, and took a swig before continuing to examine me.

“You okay, Jacky? Seems like something’s bothering you.”

“Why do you say that?” This was why Joey was special. He cared a bit more than most. I didn’t know why and I probably never would, but he noticed things. He noticed when I was having an off day or needed some space. He sometimes stayed to help me close up, shooing people out when they wouldn’t leave at closing. He was just too good of a guy, and sometimes I wanted to strangle him for it. Tonight was one of those nights.

“You seem distant, Jacky. Is this about the werewolves in the city? I mean, DFW is just down the road…”

“It’s nearly two hours away,” I countered. “And why would the werewolves in Dallas have anything to do with me?”

“Oh come on, Jacky! Admit it already! You’re a werewolf! We’ve known for years!” Adam called out from across the bar.

It started right there. Every voice in the bar rose, all asking or demanding for me to admit to something that I couldn’t.

“I’m not a werewolf,” I said politely, for probably the fifth time in the last twenty-four hours. Whenever the werewolves had drama that hit the news, I ran into the same question, the same accusation. “I’m not even sure where you keep getting this idea, Joey, but I’m not a werewolf.” I had to fight the deadly urge to go over the bar and smack the closest human to me, poor Joey, though I couldn’t shake the feeling he deserved it for starting this up again. If I’ve told them once, I’ve told them a thousand times. I wasn’t a werewolf. I would never be a werewolf. They just refused to drop it, much to my annoyance.

Sadly, I couldn’t hit Joey over the head. It would probably kill him.

“You’re always closed on a full moon. Let’s just be honest here.” He had a point. He had a very good point, but lots of places were now closed on full moons. No one, human or otherwise, wanted to go out when the werewolves were running.

“Lots of places are closed on full moons, including half of town. It’s the only thing that interrupts Friday night football at the Tomato Bowl. Speaking of, why aren’t you down there tonight? You never miss a game, even the odd Thursday game.” I grabbed a rag and began wiping down my bar, hoping the physical work would help me ignore the fools. Hoping.

It didn’t. It never did.

“It’s an away game tonight, Jacky. You would know that if you kept up with the schedule. I bring you one every year, and you never do. You should, if you ever want anyone in town to think you belong.” He gave me one of those mock glares that was supposed to make me think he was mad, but all I could do was laugh. There was nothing scary about Joey and there never would be.

“I’m not a werewolf, so trying to belong and fit in with the local community isn’t on my political agenda, so…I have the right not to care about the local high school football team and their ridiculously-named stadium in the middle of town,” I retorted, shaking my head. They called the thing the Tomato Bowl. How was I ever supposed to take that seriously, or be remotely interested in it past making fun of it? “At least I remembered there was a game today…on a Thursday. Be proud of me.” It was one of the reasons my bar was so empty when normally I could get ten or so people in on a weeknight, more the closer the weekend got. “Go drink your beer, Joey, and-” I looked over to my clock on the wall above the window I had previously been staring out of, “-I close in an hour.”

“Fine, fine.” He waved a dismissive hand at me, then grabbed both his drinks and sauntered off. In another life, I would have found a saunter like that attractive, but Joey was absolutely not my type. Physically, he was fine, except the beginning of a beer gut. He was an average five foot nine, only an inch taller than myself, with a decent build. He had clean brown hair and nice brown eyes. He kept a perpetual scruff that didn’t turn me off.

Like always, though, there were some problems. Off the top of my head, I could think of three. One, he was a blazing alcoholic, and that had always been a turn off for me. Two, I didn’t fix men, and Joey was the type who needed a woman to come in and fix him. Desperately. I didn’t have it in me. So, while he might have been attractive, I wouldn’t overstep friendly bartender, no matter how kind he was. He could be attractive and kind might work with other women, but I was never going to fall for it. I couldn’t.

Three? My kind didn’t date humans. Never. Not even for a fling. Not even a one night stand. It was completely out of the question.

An hour later, and the news was still talking about the werewolves in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. I still had a throbbing headache, which wasn’t normal since I almost never got headaches, and Joey was long gone, earlier than normal.

“All right, everyone! Time to get the fuck up and get the fuck out!” I yelled over the news and the quiet country music that I naturally blocked out. I hated country, but the regulars didn’t and it paid to keep them happy. “Move!” It was what I said every night, and like a good little herd of sheep, everyone, all of the three people left in my bar, stood up.

“G’night, Jacky!” one called, followed by the other two.

I waved towards the door, continuing to try and usher them out. I still had to clean up before I could leave and they were taking their sweet-ass time. “Goodbye, boys! Drive home safe or call Ubers!” If they even knew what Uber was, I’d be amazed. Does Uber even get to this area? I have no idea.

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