Home > Broken Loyalty (Jacky Leon #3)(5)

Broken Loyalty (Jacky Leon #3)(5)
Author: Kristen Banet, K.N. Banet

I shook my head as he continued chuckling all the way down the stairs.

Chapter Three

Come Monday, I was already warming up to the new arrivals. I walked into the bar around noon just like I had on Sunday and looked around, noticing how clean it was. Dirk was efficient, and he didn’t give me any shit the day before about doing a couple of hours of cleaning. Oliver was even willing to jump in, helping push around the furniture for the deep cleaning Kick Shot needed.

“Ah, Miss Jacky! Good afternoon!”

I stopped at the bottom of the stairs and looked up to see Oliver, trotting down like he was lighter than a feather. He was just the one I wanted to see today. Sunday had been my chance to really see how Dirk was going to be once I had him settled in. Standoffish, a bit angry—all things I had figured with him from Saturday night.

Now, I needed to really get into Oliver’s head.

“How’s your day been?” I asked casually. “Both of you settling in up there?”

“It’s wonderful. Thank you so much for extending the offer to let us stay there while we look for our own residences.” He stopped beside me, grinning.

“So, I asked Zuri and Davor to send me a little information about you, but neither of them has gotten back to me.” Not unusual. It could take them weeks to acknowledge I even messaged them. Davor dislikes me, and Zuri lives in her own world. I pointed to the bar. “So, we’re going to sit down and have a long discussion about who you are, why you want to do this, and why they picked you to come to Texas.”

The blush that crept up Oliver’s neck and face was almost cute in a boyish kind of way. He walked past me and sat at the bar like a kid put in a timeout, and I felt a little guilty. I didn’t want him to think I was mad at him.

“Calm down,” I ordered. “I just need to know the people who are supposed to work for me. You showed up right before I opened Saturday night, and yesterday, we had more work to do, and I had prior engagements.” It had been bowling Sunday, where Carey and I once again defeated the werewolves of her family. “So, you and I are going to have a chat about who you are, what your goals are for the future, and the like.”

“Oh, like you had with Dirk yesterday,” Oliver said, nodding quickly.

“Yeah.” Which went nowhere. He was going to bartend, and that was that.

“Well, I grew up seeing Madam Zuri and Mister Davor and wanted to do what my parents did. I wanted to work for them. I can’t cook like my mother, so my father took me under his wing when I was done with sixth-form. I just graduated from university, but they wanted me to get more work experience, and finding a place for me took a few months. Then they said if I could tolerate America for a year, I could work for someone else in the Family at a smaller location. I didn’t know it would be this small, but it’s a good place to start.” Oliver grinned, but something about it seemed fake. He was sent to another country to work at an establishment that was probably nothing compared to what my siblings had, nor carried any of the prestige.

“Do you think you could be happy here for a year?”

“Definitely. I know you want small, slow changes, but I really think you could expand Kick Shot into something amazing.” He seemed too eager to please all of a sudden, as if he was trying to prove himself, and I recognized it. Deep in my fucking soul, I recognized it.

Someone out there had crushed his self-confidence at one point, maybe repeatedly. Someone made him feel like he couldn’t do this job, couldn’t succeed.

With the realization I had two rescue cases, not just one, I knew every piece of my argument about trying to send them back before the year was up would fail. Not just to my siblings, but to myself. I would hate myself, kicking out two people who needed help in their own ways.

“What kind of changes would you make to Kick Shot?” I asked, hoping to start building the young man’s confidence.

“I think you need to build a patio area. No pool tables, but a second bartender who would work outside when the weather is warm enough. A fire pit, maybe, for colder evenings and when people just want to sit outside. Even if you never open a restaurant or offer more food, that can at least grow your business and give people more options. Right now, it seems your business nights might see fifty people pass through the doors, and that’s close to a full house for you, which isn’t enough to sustain the business. You’ve been in the red for a long time. A year, at least.”

“And since it was just me working here, with a lot of wealth behind me, that was okay.” I hadn’t been in the red the entire time Kick Shot was open, but the major repairs I did after defending Carey had slid my investment versus income into a bad place for the bar. On top of that, I’d lost some clients when the werewolves moved into my territory, and Heath started to frequent Kick Shot, another hit that I couldn’t do anything about. Some people didn’t want to drink with werewolves, and I couldn’t fight that.

“But now, you have two employees,” he pointed out.

“Who my siblings hired for me and have paid through the year, probably double what I make at this bar,” I countered. “I know my books, Oliver.”

“Still, a patio. You can at least invest a little to put the business back in the black and earn a little profit.”

“Okay. What would phase two be?”

“Marketing. Bringing in more business with advertised special nights. Since you don’t offer food…”

“You think if I offer more food, hire a couple of cooks and waitresses, this place will bring in more money and be able to support itself, including the staff I would need to hire?”

“Yeah…” Oliver was obviously trying not to smile.

“And this marketing?”

“Start with human clients, building up a more local image. Then we use the local image to build more of a legacy. You’ve been here for several years, a truly self-run business. We can get people passing through who have heard of this place and seen the good reviews. Tyler has a college, I believe? The small city north of here?”

“That’s right.”

“We’re a bit out of the way, but I think we could swing some college students as well. Some like this type of atmosphere.”

“And you want to do all of this in a year?” I nearly laughed in his face but bit my tongue. That wouldn’t help anything.

“No, but I could leave a plan for whatever manager you bring in when I leave.” His smile was innocent as if he had figured out all of my business problems in two days and could save me from financial ruin with just a simple plan.

“And we would start with some easy renovations. The patio.”

“That’s right! It can go out in the back. We could install another door that isn’t near the staircase, and it could wrap around the far side of the building, away from the bar. And you definitely need to hire a waitress out of pocket. Dirk said there were complaints on Saturday.”

“There are always complaints,” I mumbled, shaking my head as the waitress problem was once again brought up. “I’ll consider it, but don’t expect much any time soon.”

“Of course.” Oliver’s grin was beaming now as he realized I was listening to him. Really listening to him, as if his input mattered, and I would definitely consider it.

There was actually one thing I was willing to give him right now.

“If we started building the patio now, we could have it open in under a month, couldn’t we?” I looked away from him, thinking about how Heath had joked about having a table and some chairs out back so he and I could talk in peace. Having outdoor seating was just a good idea. It would keep the pool players inside and free up some space for them when things got crowded, while others could wander outside. It would also give me a smokers’ area, instead of them leaving their butts in the little ashtray right outside the front door.

“If you found a good contractor,” Oliver said, nodding as he chewed on his bottom lip. I figured it was his thinking face. “Do you know anyone?”

“I do, actually. Now, I’m going to let you enjoy the rest of your day off. Thank you for talking to me, Oliver.”

“Of course, Miss Jacky!” He jumped up and ran up the stairs in the back of the building.

Miss Jacky. I was just going to have to get used to that.

Checking the time, I realized I had a few hours before picking up Carey, but now, I had a reason to leave early for Heath’s.

I left out the back and jumped into my hatchback. I knew he still had his feet in the real estate business, not that I found out much past that. He sat on the boards of a couple of companies in Dallas, and I had an acute knowledge that he had long hours some days, sometimes leaving my territory for a couple of days. Certainly, he knew a contractor or even had some control over a construction company I could use.

I stopped in the driveway, getting out as Landon walked out the front door, frowning at me.

“She’s still at school,” he said, eyeing me as if I was there to break into their house. Landon and I, even after more than a year, still hadn’t found any reason to speak to each other on a regular basis, and he was as standoffish and defensive as he ever was. His dark eyes gave nothing away—no excitement nor distrust. He was just Landon.

“Actually, I was hoping to talk about some potential business with Heath. I know he’s home.”

Landon glowered for a moment before turning to walk inside. I followed in a rush, grateful to see he was holding the door open for me, an open invitation to go inside. I only went into their house for a handful of reasons. The last time I’d joined them was for Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve dinner. Before that, I couldn’t really recall.

It was a clean, modern home. Heath preferred warm, neutral colors while I preferred cool neutrals, but I wasn’t going to judge him for it- well, not to his face.

Everything is brown. I don’t understand the fascination with having only brown furniture and things filling up every space visible. He gets fancy modern furniture in the oldest feeling color—brown.

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