Oath Sworn by 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.