Willow The James Children Chapter One

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FREE
Kathi S. Barton Author
#free
#darkfantasy #erotica #romance
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~CHAPTER 1~
Jared Stone pulled up in front of the bar simply named “Jim’s” at a quarter till one in the morning. He’d sat in his hotel room for over an hour and just wanted a beer and a few hours around people who spoke English for a change. The hotel staff, while very nice, just didn’t cut it. He got out of his truck and went inside. He loved the place at first glance. There were several televisions on, all to a game on Monday night football. The stools around the bar were evenly spaced and a little worn. Most of them were filled with butts that kept hopping up and down with the announcer on the television over the bar. The bar itself was a work of art, inlaid with different woods both light and dark to form a scene of the different highlights around Ohio, including the famous horseshoe stadium and a few buckeyes. There were several booths as well as half dozen or so tables with chairs scattered around the room. Jared could see a sectioned off area in the back and from the sounds, he thought it might be a pool room. He heard some shouting too, but ignored it as best he could as he sat up at the bar. A young woman walked toward him while she rubbed down the bar. She looked barely old enough to be there and all Jared could think was he really needed to get out more. “What’ll you have? Got draft and menu’s short tonight while the game is on.” A crash and loud voices punctuated the cheers around the bar. The girl turned. “When your boss gets here, I hope you all get canned.” Then under her breath, “Fucking construction workers.” Jared started to stand and go see the men in the back when the front door exploded open. In walked a blur of jeans, flannel, and dark hair. He looked back to the bartender when she yelled, “Catch.” He watched as a Louisville Slugger sailed through the air and land in Flannel’s hand. Jared was impressed. She hadn’t even broken stride. Then he realized she was headed to the back room and he got up to follow her. He watched as the woman slapped the bat under her arm and pulled a handful of her rich, dark hair up and off her neck. By the time she was steamrolling through the doorway, the bat was back in her hand and her hair was in a haphazard knot at the back of her head. Jared got a nice view of what he considered a fine ass and shapely long legs before he lost her. By the time he got to the doorjamb where she had gone, he could see a dozen or so men standing around two pool tables. He could also see that most of them were wearing J.R. Stone Construction t-shirts. Jared stepped into the room to listen to her talk to his men. “…nothing better to do at,” she jerked her sleeve up and looked at the watch on her wrist, “one fucking o’clock in the morning than to come down here and babysit a bunch of overgrown idiots.” Jared nearly burst out laughing when every man dropped their heads and mumbled something to her. “Donaldson, get Sherman and take him to the ER,” she snapped. The sea of men parted to show a man sitting in one of the few booths with a bloodied towel at his head. Jared wondered how she’d seen the men. Even with her height, most of the men in front of the injured one were a good five to six inches taller. “I’m okay, boss. Nothing more than—” “Did you think I was requesting you to go? I was not. Donaldson, now. And tell the doc to send the bill to me. Understand?”
A burly man broke from the standing pack and helped the injured Sherman up and out the door. Jared got a good look at the cut as they went by him and was surprised that the man was standing. The men shuffled again. He would bet she wasn’t finished. “Conley, tell me what happened. And you aren’t reciting War and Peace. Short informative sentences will do.” “Well now,” Conley started, and moved to the front of the pack. “Sherman there was playing a game of pool with Talbor, Denny, and me. He was winning. Sank the eight in—” A sharp look from Miss Flannel had him straighten up. “Sherman was winning and Talbor there got pissy. Said we was cheating.” “He fucking was. I seen him—” The bat raised so quickly that Jared was sure it had been spring loaded. The man speaking, Talbor, Jared assumed, snarled at her. “When it’s your turn you can wow me with your side.” Her voice was low and calm but full of venom. “I’m listening to Conley and you will shut the fuck up. Conley?” “Talbor started yelling about suing. Sherman ignored him. You know how he can do that. Can talk to the man all day and it’s like he ain’t heard a word. But he’s listening, he can—” This time, she slapped the bat in her hand. “Sorry, Will. Anyway, when Sherman didn’t fight back, Talbor hit him with his stick.” The woman turned toward Talbor now. “I’ve had about all you I can take, Talbor. Tomorrow morning, you stay off my site. I don’t want—” Her head snapped back from the blow. Talbor’s fist shot out so fast no one could have prevented it. Jared was two steps in when Miss Flannel leapt forward and hit Talbor back. Her fist hit him in the nose and blood spurted forward. Then in a move that Jared was both impressed and startled by, she had the bat around the man’s throat and him on the floor in front of her. Talbor held it from his neck with both hands as blood stained the front of his shirt. The muscles in his forearms were bunched and corded trying to push it away, showing the girl was as strong as she was gutsy. “You’re going to pay for this, bitch,” he snarled at her. “When my daddy finds out, he’ll yank your permits so quick that that fucker Stone won’t have no choice but to fire your tight fucking ass. I’ve been talking to him you know? Stone. He ain’t no happier about you than anybody else is.” Jared stopped his forward motion. This was why he was here. His father had called him home from the job site in Paris to come here to fire his foreman. Jared had a sneaky suspicion that Will James was the woman before him and not the man his father thought she was. She let Talbor go and he fell forward. She stepped around him and Jared got his first look at Miss Flannel. Her eye was swollen shut and her lip was bleeding. Blood stained her shirt front too. One of the men standing there stopped her from falling or Jared wasn’t sure what she would have done. When she turned back to him again, he took a breath. Even bloodied and beat up, she was beautiful. Jared was suddenly glad that he had been sent to Ohio. ~o0o~ Willow looked at her men. She was exhausted and hurting. All she wanted to do was sit down on one of the numerous stools and bawl, bawl like a little baby. But it wouldn’t solve the problems she was now dealing with. “You all have ten minutes to clean this mess up and set the room to rights. I want this floor cleaned and chairs put back where they were.” She leaned against the pool table, careful not to
get her blood in the green felt. “If you aren’t on time tomorrow, I will dock you an hour’s pay. You don’t show…then I suggest you use your day off wisely and find another gig.” She turned away and noticed the man standing there, but ignored him. A patron of the bar had come to see the show, she figured. When Talbor started in again on suing her and Stone Construction, she stood up, left the room, and went to the bar where Lindsey was. Willow handed her the bat back, took the bag of ice, and put it on her eye. “Bastard outta be locked up. His daddy’s been bailing his ass out for more’n ten years.” Willow nodded. “You hurt much?” Lindsey asked her. “Enough.” Willow pulled her credit card out of her back pocket and slid it across the bar. “Run this for damages. Don’t worry your insurance company. They’ll just raise your rates anyway. I’m sorry about this, Lins.” Willow noticed the man from the doorway slide back onto a stool about midway down the bar. Willow couldn’t see much of him because of the shadows. She could only see that he was tall and dark-haired. “Sorry about this, Will, but you know Durk the Jerk. If I don’t get some money, he’ll make me pay it outta my own pocket.” Lindsey gave her back the card. Willow knew that and also that Lindsey would only charge what she thought was fair. Her boss, Durk Josephs, would double whatever he thought he could get out of Willow. Willow looked down at her credit card. Willow D. James, it said, and she wondered every time she used it who that girl was. She was a long way from that rich girl who was named there. Moving toward the door, Willow followed her men out the door. Some of them would follow her home. She knew they would no matter what she told them to do. She didn’t bother. She was tired and her head was pounding. Sliding under the steering wheel of her truck, she started up and headed home. Willow loved her house. She’d bought it ten years ago just after she started working for Stone. She’d only been a gopher then. Fetching coffee and nails, bringing equipment to the other men, whatever they needed. Tony Ranch had been the foreman then and had been a bastard and treated her like shit. It wasn’t until a year later that he’d been promoted and Tommy Patel had been promoted into his position. That’s when she had started working on the site as a worker and not some slave to Ranch. Willow had been going to school then. At nineteen, she was in her last year of a business degree with one more year of architectural design. She already had a landscaping degree from attending college while in high school. Her parents loved her so they indulged what they thought of as a whim. She smiled when she thought about the day she’d gotten her first site job and how they had tried to hide their disappointment. Her brother Alexander had been the one to tell them that she would be brilliant at it. She secretly thought they had hoped she would grow bored with it and move on to more feminine projects. She hadn’t. And now, if one asked them, they would tell people it had been their idea all along. Her smile reminded her of her split lip. Turning on the lights in her bedroom, she heard the vehicle that had followed her home drive away. She was in the bathroom a few minutes later. She looked at her watch and discovered it was just shy of two-thirty. Fuck, she was tired. Debating whether to shower and stay up or go have her lip stitched, she turned on the water. No reason she couldn’t do both. By three, she was sitting on a gurney waiting for the nurse to come in and sew her up. “Want to explain how a woman I know never took a drink in her life gets her lip split in a bar fight? Or do you have some extra sideline work going on that I’m not aware of?”
Willow rolled to her back when Shannon Weiss came in with a small arsenal of medical supplies. “Nope. Just building buildings. Talbor did it.” “Ah. Say no more.” Shannon shook her head. “Punk-assed bastard. Why don’t you fire him? He’s gotta have a file a mile wide by now. And what’s he worked for you now…six, seven months?” “Five. But I can’t. The last time I tried, our permits were yanked for nine days. Stone was pissed. Said I either make it work or else he’d find someone who would.” Willow shrugged. “So I’m making it work.” She didn’t say anything while her mouth was being stitched. The Novocain made it difficult anyway. So she just closed her eyes. She used to like coming to work. At least until Stone moved away to the warmer climates during the colder months—not that she’d ever met him. All their conversations had been through emails. Willow supposed that the Carolinas weren’t all that far, but it wasn’t like the big boss was all that close either. She felt herself drifting off and with a raised hand to stall Shannon, she asked her to wake her when she was finished.

 

Willow Teaser 2

 

Willow Teaser 3

 

Willow Teaser

 

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