“I don’t think I understand what you’re telling me.” Chloe wasn’t mad, but she was
pretty frustrated. This training session was taking much longer than it should have. If the
man would only listen to her, she knew he’d get it. “You’re saying that all I have to do is
keep putting a little screw in the back of each of these here things, and that’s it? All the
time? That don’t seem like a job at all. I think a monkey could do it.”
It was on the tip of her tongue to tell him that monkeys could do it, with a great fewer
questions too. But instead, she nodded at him and told him to get to work. If he did it or
not, she really didn’t care anymore. Today was her freedom day.
Chloe Davis had given her notice over eight weeks ago. She’d only meant to give
them two weeks, but the owner of the little computer shop had begged her to stay on for
another month. Well, begged wasn’t really the term she might have used. He sort of
tricked her into it with fat tears. So she had stayed. And then two more weeks, then two
more after that. So now today was her last day. She was not going to extend her notice
again. Whatever she had hoped to find there was either hidden better than her skills
could ferret out or it wasn’t there. She needed to move on before she made herself crazy
She’d been working in this place since she’d left her other job, when she’d figured
out they were as crooked as the people they were arresting. But it had been here. Her
fellow officers hadn’t bothered to hunt down here. None of them cared, it seemed, that
her dad had been murdered by the people working in this little dive of a computer shop.
And she was worn out. The trip, the one her and her dad had been planning when he’d
been killed, was something she needed to do now so she could get a fresh start.
The trip had been something that she’d been saving for since she’d read about the
cruise in the paper. Her and her dad would have four weeks of travel, a whole month for
just the two of them. Sometimes in a plane, others on a ship. They were to see Europe and
every other country on the list of things they wanted to do. Now he was gone and she
was going to do it in his honor. And she was going to fucking enjoy it, if that was possible
Glancing at the clock, she was surprised to see that it was just after five. Time to leave.
Chloe wasn’t going to miss this place nor the people that worked here. The turnover was
so huge, she’d stopped trying to make friends with the staff. Two weeks; that was about
how long any of them lasted once they figured out they were working for a failing
company. She was here only to find information, which she’d failed at as well.
Yesterday she’d taken all her personal things home with her. There hadn’t been all
that much. No pictures graced her desk like they did for the few people she worked with.
There had been a little bouquet of artificial flowers, a little box that had been a birthday
gift, and a blotter pad. She had pens that she’d bought over the years—most of them were
cheap anyway—and a calendar.
It was old, out of date by six years. But it had special meaning to her. Her dad had
given it to her, his last gift to her before he’d been murdered on the job. He’d written
something for her on every day of it, even beyond the date that he’d passed away, leaving
her alone in the world.
“There you are. I bet you can’t wait for the weekend. Me either. To have no reason to
get up until Monday morning will be a thrill.” Chloe said nothing to her boss, George
Flynn, as she gathered her purse and the last two things that were on her desk. “I guess
you have plans for the weekend. Before coming back on Monday.”
“I’m not.” He asked her what she was doing then. “Oh, I’m going to sleep in. Not
much however; I have things to get done all day on Saturday. But I’m not returning on
Monday. I told you, several times this week, that today was my last day. I even wrote
you a note, reminding you that today was it for me. I’m not coming back on Monday or
any other day. I’m done.”
“I can’t let you go. You can’t just up and leave me like this. No, no this can’t be right.
You said you’d give me two weeks. I need those two weeks. I’ve not told my dad yet that
you said you might not be staying. You have to give me those two weeks. Come on,
Chloe, you know that you’re the only one that does anything around here. Even I don’t
do as much as you do.” She told him that she’d given him eight weeks and she wasn’t
extending it again. “I can’t let you go, Chloe. I really can’t. This place needs you here.
You’re the only reason that we’re still alive. My dad will be pretty upset if I let one of his
best employees go without any kind of notice.”
“As I’ve told you, several times, I’ve given you my notice that I’m leaving this week.
Today, it’s my last day. I’m done with this place.” As she moved by him, he grabbed her
arm. It hurt, but she looked him in the eye, and he just shook his head when she asked
him to let her go. “What the hell do you think you’re doing? I’m done here, George. I’ve
worked out my notice more than I should have, and I want you to let me go.”
His hand came out quickly, striking her across the face before she could think to back
off. And when she hit the back of her head on the desk behind her when she fell, Chloe
felt sick to her stomach, the pain was so bad. But she was more upset that he’d hit her for
leaving when it was scheduled.
George pulled her back up, never loosening his grip on her arm. “Look what you
made me do, Chloe. And I can’t let you go. I never told anyone that you gave your notice,
so see, it’s fine. You can come back on Monday and no one has to know that you were
leaving. You can’t anyway. I want you to stay here. My dad will too. Once he finds out
that you’re carrying this company all on your own. He said that we have to stay in
business. That it’s imperative that we never close our doors for any reason. So he’ll be
thrilled to know that, you know, I was able to make you stay. And I’m going to. I need
you to stay here. I can’t keep this place open without you being here.”
She jerked from him and felt her skin burn in pain. Something was wrong with him,
she thought. And he was dangerous too. Chloe had noticed over the last several weeks
that he’d been coming into working later and later and then leaving early. And he was
acting strangely. She was pretty sure that he was stoned about all the time now; she’d
seen enough of it on the job to know what it looked like.
“You’ll have to learn to live with disappointment. I certainly have. Now, I gave you
my notice and I’m leaving.” Standing up, she made her way to the door, afraid now for
the first time since she started working here. She spoke to George over her shoulder,
keeping her distance from him in the event he tried to hit her again. “I have held up my
end of the bargain and I’m leaving here. Today.”
Going down the elevator to the lower level, she held onto her things like a lifeline.
This place had gotten stranger and stranger, and she was glad to be quit of them. But as
soon as the doors opened, she knew she was fucked. Security was there when she got out
of the doors.
Chloe wasn’t sure what they thought they were going to do, but she tried to hand the
first one her badge and he wouldn’t take it. This was surreal. She was leaving and they
were barring her from it. It wasn’t like she was running off; she’d given her notice. She
wanted to scream at them.
Taking out her phone, only meaning to take their pictures, she flinched when the man
to her left knocked it out of her hand and crushed it under his boot. Chloe was terrified
now and wasn’t sure what she was going to do. Normally she was armed, as she had a
concealed weapon permit, but she’d left it at home today. Then the door behind the
security team opened and a tall elderly man came in and looked at her. For some reason
she thought that this man alone could take all the security team alone, but she also didn’t
want him to get hurt.
He was holding one of their bags, a large one that had the name of the company,
Flynn Ark Computers, blazed on the side. She’d bet anything he was bringing it back
because it no longer worked. Which was, sadly, par for the course of this place.
He looked at her, then at the men, and asked her if she was all right. One of the
security team drew out his gun and had it pointed down at his side. This shit was getting
too real. But she was desperate and needed to leave.
“No, they won’t let me leave. They’re detaining me from going home for the day. I
hate to say this, but I need your help. George Flynn, the man behind me, has already hurt
me by slapping me. Please, can you help me?” The elderly man just stared at her, then he
She just knew that no one was going to help her, and she wasn’t even sure what was
going on. Then the elderly man came back, his arms now free of the computer bag he’d
had in his hand. He stood there, his arms across his chest as he sort of rocked back on his
“I haven’t a clue what the devil is going on here, but that little lady there said you
hurt her. Is that right? ‘Cause I’m thinking she wants to leave here.” George started
talking behind her. How he needed her to stay. “I don’t care a little bit that you want her
to stay. The thing is, she don’t want to. And in my book, that trumps what you want. You
and your men, you back on up now, and me and her will get ourselves out of here.”
“You can’t just come in here and take one of my employees. I tried to explain to her
that she can’t go, and she just won’t listen. Now you just go on and toddle away and we’ll
get this fixed. She’ll want to stay here when I explain it to her.” The elderly man only
cocked a brow at George. “She needs to work here. I want her to. I don’t know why she’d
even want to leave here in the first place. Just because I let her give me that paper saying
she was leaving doesn’t mean that I have to let her go. This might be a crappy job, but
my dad said I have to keep the doors open, and if she’s not here taking up my slack, then
we’ll be out of business.”
He wiped at his nose, something that he’d done several times while standing there.
When he came away with blood on his hand, he pulled out a hand towel and wiped it
away. The strip of cloth was nearly covered with blood, both fresh and dried. The elderly
man snorted and then laughed.
“Well, sir, she don’t seem to think so, and if she wants to go then I think you’d better
let her. In fact, I’m gonna have to insist on it. You just don’t treat women the way you are.
They’re too precious for that to be going on.” He told her to come to him and she did, as
far as she could before the armed guard stopped her. “You just back off, boy, and we’ll
just be going about our business.”
“Look here, old man, I don’t think you heard me well. I told her that I’d let her go
when I had enough people that knew her job. Nobody knows her job as well as she does.
And it’s hard to replace her. Not that I tried all that much, but she can’t just leave me in
a lurch like this. My dad will be pissed.” The nice gentleman told her again to come along
with him and they worked their way to the door. “You’re not leaving here, Chloe. I told
you, you’re going to work for me. And you damned well will until I say differently. I’m
in enough trouble with my daddy as it is.”
Rocket, one of the security team, stepped in front of them when they were right in
front of the door. The low growl coming from the older man startled her, but she held on
tight to his hand when he took hers. The man was going to get hurt because of her, and
she was worried about that. When Rocket backed away, his head down, Chloe thought
they’d be free when two more men came at them. They were going to die, she thought.
Just because she’d given her notice like a good employee. The elderly man laughed a little
and she looked at him.
“You see them men out there?” She looked outside of the building through the big
glass door and nodded. “You go on out there with them and when you’re safe, I’m gonna
kick me some bottom in here as soon as I get me some reinforcements.” She looked at the
nice man and put her hand on his shoulder. He wasn’t going to get killed because of her,
“Just come out with me. Those men, they look like they could keep us safe. Come out
with me.” He just gave her a little shove and she ran into something hard. She looked up
into the face of one of the men that had been standing outside. “They’re going to hurt
him. Please, make him come out with me.”
“Grandda?” The elderly man said he had this. “Maybe so, but she’s afraid, and if you
get your ass handed to you, I’m going to have to kill these men. And then Grandma is
going to eat you and us alive for letting you get hurt. Don’t you think this would go a lot
better if you just come with us? I do.”
“She’s always been a party pooper, your grandma. You know that, don’t you? But
they were about to kidnap this here girl. She asked me for help. Not you and them others,
but me. And I’m just chivalrous enough to want to help her. This here man, he’s trying
to say she is gonna do something she don’t wanna. That ain’t right in any book and you
know it.” He turned from George to look at the man that held her gently by her arms.
“You thinking I can’t handle these young men here? You might be right. I don’t think
they’re gonna play fairly anyways. That’s why I asked you to come on in and help me
George tried to take her from the man holding her. He didn’t get the chance before
the man behind her not only growled like the other had, but grabbed George’s hand and
twisted it. George went to the floor like he’d been tossed there, and didn’t look like he
was going to be getting up any time soon. She hated to be glad at someone else’s pain,
but he’d slapped her first, and she had a feeling that he’d have done a lot worse had these
men not come to help. George started shouting almost the moment he touched the floor.
“You mother fucker. I don’t know what’s going on here or why you resorted to
violence against me, and frankly, I don’t really care. But she isn’t leaving. I told her, over
and over, that I need her here. Chloe is the only one that does her job and does it well. If
I let her leave, then my dad is going to be very upset with me. She has to understand that
I cannot be in any more trouble with him. He’ll cut me off, and I need that money.”
George cried out when the man jerked his wrist again. “That fucking hurt, you bastard.
Come on, Chloe. You just go back and retract your notice and then I’ll see you on Monday,
just like normal. Then we’ll talk about how you’re going to make it up to me for this man
hurting me. If you don’t, then I’m not sure what’s going to happen to your last check.
You know that I can hold it.”
“Chloe, is it?” She nodded at the man behind her. “My name is Trent Calhoun. That’s
my grandda, Trent Calhoun the third; he goes by James. Those other men, the ones out
there waiting on us, are my brothers. Not that you need to know who they are right this
moment, but you can trust them. And if you’d be so kind as to go out to them, I’d really
appreciate it. Grandda and I have to talk to these men about respecting other people’s
“They’ll hurt you.” Trent stretched his neck and she heard it pop. Looking at George
now, she shook her head. No, she thought, they’d hurt George, and right now, she didn’t
care as much as she might have at one time. “These men will hurt you, I think. And after
this, I really could care less if they did. I’m not sure where all this came from, but I
wouldn’t work here now if you gave me a million dollars. You’re a prick.”
She heard the older man, James, laugh, and she turned to the door again. The guards
there didn’t look like they were going to move, but she saw the door open and two of the
men from outside were there with her. The guards, seemingly as a single unit, moved
back out of their way. While not outnumbered or outgunned, they were certainly out
smarted and out muscled. The Calhoun brothers were frigging huge in comparison, and
she thought more dangerous even unarmed. Chloe looked back at George and his men.
Turning when one of the brothers said her name, she looked into his eyes that seemed
bright with humor.
“He wants you to come with us.” Chloe had no idea why but she was willing to go
with these men, anywhere so long as it wasn’t here. Not just because George was being
so weird and scary, but she had a feeling that they’d not harm her. Moving out onto the
sidewalk, she let out a breath that she’d been holding. The younger of the two men spoke
again. “Are you all right? Did he hurt you?”
Nodding then shaking her head, Chloe frowned when the man laughed. Pulling her
sweater sleeve above her wrist, she showed him her arm. The bruise there was huge
already, and a perfect imprint of a hand. It sort of made her sick to her stomach to know
that someone would hurt her like this over a job. When the police showed up, she looked
up at the man who had asked after her injuries.
“They had to be called in. He was trying to detain you. And while you did get away,
we have to cover our own butts so as not to get sued for helping you. Besides, I’m pretty
sure that my grandda was going to hurt one of them. He cannot stand the unjust, as he
calls it.” She thanked him and he smiled at her. “You’re not going to like the fact that
you’re going to have to go to the hospital, are you?”
“I’m fine.” He shook his head. “No, really, I’ve been bruised before. This is no big
deal. I just don’t understand what came over him. For the last few weeks, he’s been…well,
he’s been off his rocker, I guess.”
“I’d say that you’ve got that about right. But you’re going to be safe now, so don’t
worry too much over it. But I have to insist that you head on over to the emergency room.
That way you have a record of what was done to you and why we had to step in.” She
tried to tell him she was fine. “Fine or not, you need to have someone look at that. What
if it’s sprained really badly?”
In the end not only did she end up at the hospital, but the men, all four of them,
stayed with her. She hadn’t felt this protected since her daddy had died. George had
sprained her arm. The bruising would go away and she’d heal, but she just didn’t
understand what had come over him.
James sat in the lobby and watched the comings and goings of the people. There were
all manner of sickness and hurts coming in. The nurses and staff were doing their best,
but there just weren’t enough of them to go around. When the seat next to him moved,
he looked over at Scott.
“They send you here to bust me up too?” Scott told him it was called busting his
chops, but no, he’d just come by. “That man, he was hurting that girl. Scared her some
too, I think. He just wasn’t gonna let her go without a fight.”
“Trent said that he was high. No excuse, mind you, but that can affect a person’s
thinking. Also, I had Joe make a few calls. Flynn’s dad is on the way to the station to see
his son. I guess William Flynn, his father, is on some of the boards that you’re on around
town. Flynn the senior has been putting his son in some rehab places for a few years now,
and it’s never taken. Or whatever they call it. Joe said she’d let us know what goes on
down there. In addition, and this is just my opinion, I think there is more to this than him
wanting her to retract her notice. Trent said he was rabid about it almost. Do you know
William?” James nodded and looked at his grandson. “I’m fine, Grandda. I promise you.”
Yesterday when they’d been working in the shop, Scott had just dropped to the floor.
James had never been so terrified in his entire life. And when Scott finally came around,
he’d made him sit on the floor for another hour before he’d let him stand. James thought
for sure he’d lost his grandson.
“You been to see that quack?” Scott told him he had an appointment tomorrow. “You
should go on up to that desk and tell them what you told me. That ain’t right and you
“I’m just exhausted. I’ve not been eating as well as I should; the house is coming
along nicely now and I’ve been putting in too many hours. I really need to hire me a cook
and someone to clean up after me all the time.” It didn’t make him feel any better about
his grandson, but James thought that might help some. “Grandda, I promise you, I’m just
“Why? What are you not telling me? Something happening you don’t want to share
with me? Hell boy, I done told you everything about me.” Scott said he knew, too much.
“Well, I want you to know me inside and out. Now that we’re going to live forever.”
“You still pissed about that? What are you going to think when those great
grandbabies come along? That you sure wish you didn’t have immortality?” James glared
at Scott. “Don’t give me that shit. You know as well as I do that you’re going to be walking
that little girl down the aisle and acting as if you invented living forever.”
“Ever tell you that I don’t like you much?” Scott laughed and James felt it all the way
to his heart. “You gonna find you a mate and forget about your old grandda. That’s
what’s got me so tied up.”
“You know better than that. You are my world. And any woman that comes into my
life is going to have to know that.” Scott looked around the lobby of the hospital much
like James had. “They’re understaffed here. Trent said he was going to try and get some
of the younger pack to go to college to be nurses and doctors. Not only that, but whatever
they want to do. We have set up different scholarships for them. He’s also setting up a
clinic for the pack.”
“I heard tell that man that’s coming in with his new business, he’s moving here too.
That’ll sure help with the money flow around here. He’s been buying up a few of the
properties about and helping turn them into shops and such. I heard tell that he’s having
some issues out there in the building department. You know anything about that?” Scott
nodded and told him it was permit issues, but he thought Joe was handling that. “I sure
hope so. He’s gonna bring this town back to its former self if he keeps that up. I guess the
land out there, it’s been cleared of everything, and they’ve started on the construction of
“The men and women working on the construction are applying to work in the plant
once it’s up and running. At first it won’t be as many jobs as we need, but Doug said that
within a year he’ll have over a thousand jobs to fill here. And I guess Joe is working on
another guy to come out and put a plant in.” James was right proud of his grandchildren.
And loved the women that they’d been mated to as much as if they were his own.
“Grandda, is that the doctor?”
They both stood up when a man in a white lab coat came toward them. Trent had
gone home, telling them that he’d see them later. Both Sterl and Elijah had left as well,
telling him that they’d be around should he need them. James had been dealing with
pricks like the one in that place even before these kids had been born. And now they were
treating him like he was some kid. He was a grown man, damn it.
“Miss Davis is getting dressed now. She has a sprained wrist that we’ve wrapped up.
And there is some tearing to her skin that I’m not worried about, but it is painful to her.
The bruising will fade after some time, but she’ll need to be watched for a while, I think.
She’s a little shaken up by this.” James said he’d be too if a man he worked for hurt him.
“Yes, about that. Mr. Flynn has called here and said we were to detain her. I guess he’s
thinking that somehow what happened is all her fault. This is with the backing of his
security team too, I guess. Whatever that little shit told his daddy, he is bringing the
police. If I were you, I’d not wait around for them.”
“Damn it all to hell and back. When?” The doc said they had about twenty minutes.
“Well, that rules out walking out, trying to get her going all gentle like. They’ll be coming
with their lights and sirens running for sure now. You willing to help us spring her?”
“Yes. I have also taken pictures of her injuries, had her write out her statement with
a witness, and have given her copies of everything.” James and Scott made their way to
the curtained area as the doctor continued. “She’s aware of the police coming and why. I
also suggested to her that she needs to leave with the two of you. Her home will be
watched as well, so they’ll head there next if I don’t miss my bet. I don’t know what sort
of burr he has up his butt about her, but I don’t think I’d wait around to find out.”
Scott said he’d get the car. James wasn’t sure what he was gonna do with a pretty
little thing, but he’d sure keep her safe. Nobody should be afraid to leave their job, not
like she’d been. Chloe came around the curtain just as he was reaching for it. She looked
so upset that he felt his wolf run along his skin needing to protect her.
“I don’t know what to do. I didn’t do anything and now the police are coming. And
I know them well enough to know that they’re going to hurt me worse than George did.
What the hell is going on around here when a person can’t just quit their job without pain
and suffering?” Grandda told her he didn’t know and that he had it. “Yes, I’m sure you
do, Mr. Calhoun, but this man is after me. And while I’m afraid, there isn’t any reason
for you to be involved any more. I can handle him.”
“They’re coming here to arrest you, or worse, like you said. That boy of his, he sure
enough told a tale that will get you into trouble, if I don’t know any better. And when
they do get here, there might be a lot more bloodshed than they think if they try and take
you against your will…or mine, for that matter. Men like William Flynn, they get what
they want simply because they think they can. I don’t cotton to that, no ma’am, I do not.”
James knew William well enough to know that he was a bastard and a bad man to do
business with. And to his way of thinking, the apple never fell far from the tree. “You
come on with us and we’ll put you up proper like. Then when we figure out what the
heck is going on with them, we’ll help you get yourself settled again. All right?”
“I don’t know why he’s doing this to me. I gave him my notice, and even worked
past it to help out. But I have plans. Damn it, I never did a thing wrong while I was there.
I even, against my better judgment, tried to help him out by trying to train a few of the
people I worked with on how to keep the place running.” He gave her a gentle nudge
toward the front of the lobby and she went with him. “What is wrong with people
nowadays? My dad would have kicked his ass for treating an employee like that.”
“Your daddy need to be called?” Chloe told him he’d been murdered. “I’m sorry,
darling, I am. But we’re going to have to get our feet moving here.”
He saw them before they saw him and Chloe. James pushed her into a curtained area
and told her to be still. As the police moved by him, he reached for Scott and told him
there was a change of plans, and to meet them at the back entrance. Pulling Chloe along
when the police moved down the hall, they nearly ran out of the department.
By the time they were nearly out of the hospital, his heart was going a mile a minute.
He wasn’t worried about the police or the other men, but he was excited. He’d not had
this much fun in years. Well, not all of it was fun, but he was enjoying himself a bit too
much. He wasn’t worried about the girl getting hurt, but he was worried about the police.
They could be a little off at times. Jasmine touched his mind just as Scott was pulling the
truck up in front of them.
You old poop, what are you doing now? He told her as he opened the door to leave the
hospital. Trent said that that man hurt that girl. Is she all right? You bring her here. I’ll help you
take care of her.
She’s not a puppy, Jas. She’s a full grown woman. He laughed because he’d been thinking
the same thing. I’m gonna bring her there. She’s got nowhere else to go for now. That dumb butt
done went and called the police on her. He told her he’d be there soon, that Scott was there
with the truck now.
James got in once the girl was in the back seat. He looked over at Scott when he’d not
moved. Saying his name got him nothing, so he snapped his fingers in front of his face.
Scott looked at him with the most pained look, and James felt his fear for his grandson
“Son?” He shook his head. “Come on now, what is it? You hurting? Scott? Tell me.
What is it?”
“Nothing.” He started the truck but James put his hand over his before he was able
to shift. “Grandda, this is neither the time nor the place for this. The police are coming
now. And…and I’d appreciate it if you’d just leave it alone for a moment.”
“Hell no, I’m not going to do any such thing. You tell me what ails you or we’re going
to sit right here until them police come out here and arrest us all.” Scott looked at him
again and James felt a moment of fear. Scott’s wolf was moving along his skin like he was
ready to do some terrible business. “Scott?”
“She’s my mate.” James was so shocked by the confession that he leaned back in the
seat and looked at them both. The girl was his mate? That pretty little thing was Scott’s
mate? As they drove out of the parking lot and onto the road, he started laughing. That,
of course, pissed off his grandson.
“You gotta admit, this is just perfect.” Scott asked him why. “Well, she needs some
protecting, and there ain’t no better man in the world for the job than you. Might even
shake your world up a little.”
“Excuse me, what are you talking about?” James looked at Chloe and thought of her
as his granddaughter. “I’m not sure what you think is going on here, but I’m not a mate
to anyone. Not now. Not ever. I have plans.”
“Yeah, well, so did I, but I guess neither of us is getting what we want.” James started
to tell Scott he was going to get more, so much more, when he turned to him. “Don’t. I
don’t want to hear about how my life is better now. How I’m going to be the happiest
man in the world. I’m not, so let it go.”
James held his tongue, the hardest thing he’d ever done. He reached out to his Jas
and told her what was going on and what Scott had said. James glanced back at Chloe
and noticed she was just as hard set on this not working as Scott, and told his own mate.
I’d not worry about it, James. They’ll work it out. He told her that the girl had already
been hurt once today. And I’m sure she will be again before this is done. Bring her here like you
wanted and we’ll sort this out.
He wasn’t so sure that there would be any sorting today. And he doubted very much
if Chloe was going to be staying with them. Scott might not be happy about having a
mate, but James knew he’d care for her with his life.