There was nothing Jack needed more after a conversation with the Mayor than an ice-cold beer. It felt like the only reason he ever called was to bust Jack’s balls. He waited until the end of the day before calling Mayor Ford back, hoping he’d left the office. No such luck. Jack had to listen to the Mayor rail on for half an hour about traffic signs, something that was not part of his jurisdiction. But it was clear that Marty Ford would do everything in his power to make Jack sorry for beating his brother in the election. River and Jesse were on duty tonight, so The Red Oak was his destination before heading home.
When Jack sat down in front of Dusty, an ice-cold Budweiser appeared on a fresh coaster. Dusty was the owner and bartender of The Red Oak for as long as most people could remember. Like all good saloonkeepers, he knew when someone wanted to talk and when they wanted to be left alone. Tonight Jack was somewhere in between.
“Long day at the office?” Dusty asked as he wiped down the bar in front of the recently vacated seat to Jack’s right.
“It seems like every day is becoming one of thosedays,” Jack said, as he polished off his beer on the third swig.
“It’s what you signed up for, my friend. Can’t say I didn’t warn you,” Dusty said with a snicker.
He was right. Before the election, Dusty implored Jack to reconsider running. He said it wasn’t because Jack wouldn’t be good at the job, he just didn’t think Jack had really grasped the politics that were involved.
He was right about that.
“You know I love the job, old man,” Jack said putting a hand over his empty bottle, signaling he wanted to wait before having another. “It’s just the little annoyances that I could do without.” He reached for the bowl of nuts in front of him.
Jack popped a handful of nuts into his mouth just as the front door swung open. His eyes fixed on a young woman looking around the bar in search of someone. She was tall and lean with long, wavy blonde hair with highlights sprinkled throughout her thick locks. Her tan skin glowed under the dim bar lights. She had on a light green jacket over a floral print dress with her long, toned legs in full view. Her worn leather purse hung across her front like a seat belt strap matching a pair of weathered cowboy boots.
“Take a picture, it’d last longer,” Dusty said with a smirk.
“Do you know her?” Jack asked. She waved across the room, and he watched as she went to hug the Morgan siblings. Jack could swear he’d never seen this woman before, but something about her seemed familiar.
“Never seen her before. But something tells me you’ll get the skinny on the newcomer sooner rather than later,” Dusty said with a twinkle in his eye as he returned to washing glasses in the sink behind the bar.
Jack tried to not look obvious as he watched the unknown woman. It was clear from their body language that Betty and Paulie were very familiar with her. Jack tried to study the woman harder when a voice to his left hijacked his attention.
“Two Jack and cokes,” the voice placed an order with Dusty. A low growl escaped Jack’s throat when he realized who it was.
Rick and Gabe Ford were the Mayor’s sons. Rick was the oldest and graduated high school in Tommy’s class. Gabe shared no resemblance with his older brother. Jack never saw Rick wearing anything other than all black, with a permanent scowl on his face. Gabe, on the other hand, looked like he could play the rich villain in an eighties brat pack movie. If you looked up the definition of yuppie in the Urban Dictionary, a full-page photo of Gabe Ford would be front and center.
“Long day keeping the streets of Black Paw safe today, Sheriff?” Gabe leaned on the bar facing Jack with a smirk on his face. He was a real politician in the making. Gabe had a gift for emulating care and concern when deep down he had no interest in anything other than his own personal gain.
“How are you boys doing tonight?” Jack said as he tried to conceal the pain of forcing pleasantries.
“Just enjoying the ambiance of this fine establishment.” To anyone else, Gabe’s words sounded sincere. But Jack knew Gabe felt that most places and people in Black Paw were beneath him.
“This shithole happens to be one of the only places to get a drink in this loser town.” Rick did not try to hold back his distaste for his surroundings.
“Maybe you’d like to find another shithole, then?” Dusty looked up from the sink behind the bar where he was washing glasses.
“Now, now. Pay no mind to my brother here. He’s never been known for his eloquent word choices.” Gabe piped up to diffuse a potential situation. He sounded as if he had more to add on the subject but became distracted. “Well, now, what do we have here?”
Jack turned his body around on the barstool to meet the direction of his gaze. Gabe’s eyes were focused like laser beams on Betty and the unknown woman as they walked together to the women’s bathroom on the opposite side of the room.
Gabe downed the remnants of his Jack and coke. “Gentlemen, this night has just taken a turn for the interesting.”
“Indeed it has,” Jack growled under his breath and motioned for Dusty to bring him another beer.
“I love your hair. It makes me want to grow mine out again,” Betty said as she washed her hands in the restroom sink.
“I think your hair is awesome. It’s very edgy. I don’t think I could pull it off,” Sienna said as she reapplied her lip-gloss in the bathroom mirror. She watched as Betty played with the black spikes that she had gelled in different directions. It really suited her, and Sienna truly admired her unique look. She felt like a “Plain Jane” in comparison.
“Don’t be ridiculous, I would kill to rock your effortless, California sunshine look.” Betty struggled to tame a particularly stubborn lock of hair in the back of her head. The odd angle her arms moved in caused her shirt to rise, exposing her midriff.
“Now thatis something I’ve been thinking of doing for a while.” Sienna pointed down to her small silver, hoop-shaped, belly button ring.
“Oh, this.” Betty dropped her hands to her stomach and started to rotate the small silver ring until a shiny red gem appeared. “This stupid thing is always getting twisted around. I guess the ruby isn’t heavy enough to keep it weighted. I honestly forget it’s even there.”
As the two women exited the restroom, Sienna smiled, having enjoyed the small girlfriend ritual of going to the bathroom together.
The Red Oak had a rustic, Montana charm with a large fireplace, wood paneling and plenty of dated décor that added to the warm atmosphere.
Betty and Paulie got Sienna up to date on all the entertaining gossip she’d missed. Laila, their mom, had a larger than life personality and was constantly getting involved in town issues. With bright, red hair and adorned continuously in an array of gemstones, Laila was as colorful on the outside as she was on the inside. Sienna laughed hysterically as Paulie described Laila’s latest argument with the board members at the last town council meeting. Something about the street signs not being gender neutral.
“Your mom hasn’t changed a bit. She always made me smile,” Sienna said, finishing the last sip of her vodka cranberry.
“Can I get you another one, Sienna? I’m heading up to the bar for a refill,” Paulie asked, reaching for her glass.
“No, I better not. I have to drive, and I’m still a little fuzzy on the route,” She said putting her hand over her empty glass. “I’ll just have a glass of water.”
“Nonsense! Paulie, get her another one. I’m the designated driver tonight so leave your car and we’ll give you a ride home. You just got back into town, and I’m having too much fun reconnecting. Your car will be fine in the parking lot,” Betty said as she directed Paulie to the bar.
“Are you sure? I don’t want to be a pain,” Sienna said skeptically.
“I’m positive! Your grandparents’ house is on our way,” Betty assured her.
Paulie appeared with another round. Sienna missed hanging out with other Supernaturals. She made a lot of human friends over the years, but it wasn’t the same. Around Supernaturals, she could relax, and there was no fear of trying to hide anything. Of course, just like humans, there were plenty of evil Supernaturals who needed to be avoided.
“Sienna Harris? I thought that was you.” She turned around to a familiar looking face with dark brown hair and a small white patch behind his ear.
“Gabe?” she asked recognizing the distinct white patch of hair.
“Aren’t you a sight for sore eyes? When did you get back in town?” Gabe asked, as he looked her over, lingering on her exposed legs.
“Just yesterday.” Sienna crossed her legs, while discreetly pulling the hem of her dress a little lower.
“I hope you’re staying around for a while.” Gabe responded. He was wearing a pair of dark, brown trousers with a white button-up shirt. His brown shoes shined from a fresh polish, as did the giant, gold watch on his left wrist. Gabe was two years ahead of Betty and Sienna in school, but it was hard not to remember him. He was definitely the most popular boy in town. And from the looks of it, he had done well for himself. But who wouldn’t expect that from the Mayor’s son? “Mind if I join you?” Gabe asked.
“We were just catching Sienna up on the latest gossip,” Betty said with a bit of discomfort. Sienna was picking up on a tense vibe from her.
Gabe pulled up a chair and wedged in between the girls at their table. He had aged well. His hazel eyes looked at Sienna with interest, and his smile revealed perfect, white teeth. He appeared to be around Sienna’s height, and she could see the outline of muscular legs as his body flexed when he sat down.
“I heard you were out East? Looks like it’s worked well for you,” Gabe said as he crossed his arms and leaned back in his chair.
“Looks like things have been working out well for you too,” she said eyeing the gold watch he was playing with absentmindedly.
Was she flirting with him? He was definitely attractive, but something about him turned Sienna off, and she couldn’t put her finger on it. What she did know was that the last cocktail she had was now catching up with her. When Sienna reached for Betty’s water without asking, she could see Gabe lick his lower lip from the corner of her eye.
Just then Sienna heard heated, male voices by the bar. Paulie was talking to a large guy, but she couldn’t make out what they were saying. By the looks on their faces, they were anything but friends.
Paulie started to walk back towards their table with two drinks in one hand but then looked over his shoulder, and made one last remark. The large guy walked towards him, and without skipping a beat, Paulie swung at him with his free hand. The large guy sensed the oncoming assault and ducked the blow while landing his own fist right on Paulie’s nose, sending blood and alcohol flying through the air. Betty and Sienna jumped up out of their chairs and Gabe jumped back to miss having the various liquids land on his freshly pressed clothes. Before Paulie could recover, the whole bar came to a standstill when someone stood between the two fighters.
“That’s enough, boys,” the stranger said in a deep voice. He looked each man in the face, and when it was clear they were both backing down, the stranger looked directly into Sienna’s eyes. She’d recognize those eyes anywhere.
That was Jack Ross.
The boy who comforted Sienna on the day of her mom’s funeral was standing before her. He had grown into the most seductive, handsome man she’d ever seen. Sienna’s wolf spirit started to stir. She obviously couldn’t handle four vodka drinks any better than Sienna could.
Betty rushed towards Paulie to evaluate his bloody nose. His assailant moved back to the bar to order another drink, but Jack stopped him before he could sit down.
“Gabe, I think you need to take your brother home.” Jack looked at Gabe with a scowl.
Sienna never would have recognized Rick Ford. Gabe’s older brother had not been in school at the same time as her and she had no real memory of him, despite the fact that his family lived next door to her. Before Rick could protest Jack’s decree, Gabe grabbed his jacket from a nearby chair.
“Aye aye, Sherriff,” Gabe said as he walked towards his brother. “Let’s go, Rick. Until we meet again,” he said looking at Sienna with a wink.
Sheriff? Jack Ross was the sheriff? Sienna was shocked.
“Shit, Paulie, this is gushing like a broken fire hydrant,” Betty said as she tried to stop the bleeding with wadded up bar napkins.
“I’m fine,” Paulie said unconvincingly.
“Jack, can you give Sienna a ride home. She’s had too many, and I have to get Paulie home to Mom. This will definitely need some jade and I don’t have any on me,” Betty said to Jack.
Jack stared at Sienna with wide eyes when Betty said her name.
“Of course.” Jack held out Sienna’s jacket so she could slip into it. He held the door open for her as they headed out into the cold, autumn night.