Kennick:A Volanis Brothers Novel

By: Meg Jackson

The only application that had made her pause was the last in the pile: a strip club. She didn’t know if that one would make it very far past the Town Clerk, but deep down she knew…it would draw money to Kingdom, too.

She was excited. Even if they were gypsies, all of the myths and legends about the famous nomads couldn’t be true. It was the modern day; they weren’t baby-stealing, fortune-telling, swindlers anymore. Hell, there was even that reality show on TLC about gypsies. And if they were so invested in opening businesses in the town, they must have some idea about sticking around. Even if only for a year or two, the amount of money that they could bring in for the town might help stave off the swiftly-falling debt ceiling for another decade.

She couldn’t wait to tell Mayor Gunderson and the rest of the men. Especially that asshole Bob. This time, he wouldn’t be able to say shit about a woman not contributing something meaningful to the conversation.

“Gossip,” Ed said, leaning in slightly, a smile on his mouth. Ed Kerry was probably the only openly gay man in the town’s upper echelon of business owners and government officials, and he made no attempt to hide his flamboyant side, much to Bob Talkee's quiet, but clear, disdain.

“Bad gossip,” Mayor Gunderson cut in, a scowl on his face, his mood changing quickly in that way only drunks and people with bipolar disorder have.

“Seems like we’ve got some new residents,” Phil explained, taking a deep swill of his beer. “Gypsies.”

“Oh,” Kim said, only somewhat unhappy that she hadn’t been able to bring that revelation to the table. She also wasn’t happy about the Mayor’s immediate attitude on the subject. She’d never counted him as much of a bigot, but then again, they’d never had a gypsy invasion in town. At least, not while she’d been alive and working for him. “I know. I met some of them today.”

“You did?” Ed asked, his interest peaking. “How did that happen? What were they like?”

“Three men came by with some business applications,” Kim said, happy to see that even Bob was listening to her with all his attention. “They’re going to be opening about seven new places in town. And they were – well, normal, I guess.”

Normal and God-help-me hot, she thought, blushing at her own mind. She hadn’t been able to forget Kennick’s face, his impressive stature, the way his lips spread in a grin that seemed damn inviting. It made her feel hot under the collar just remembering it. She hadn’t been so immediately attracted to a man since high school, when she’d fostered a raging crush on the school’s lacrosse star, Cal Strongbow.

“New businesses?” Mayor Gunderson sneered. “We don’t need their dirty money.”

Kim frowned. They sure as hell did need their money – dirty or not.

“Actually, it all seemed pretty straight up,” she said after taking a sip of her beer. “They completed all the applications meticulously. And, honestly, the businesses they’re planning could do wonders for Kingdom. You know, a veterinary practice, an importers, cheese shop.”

Kim purposely left out the tattoo parlor and the strip club. It didn’t seem the right time to introduce those trickier subjects.

“I doubt they’ll be planning to employ any locals though,” Phil interjected. “Those people like to keep the money in their own pockets.”

“Even so,” Kim said, pointedly, “people just travelling through will want to stop and pick up some cheese, or foreign coffee or whatever. And there’s not another cheese shop between Starling and Dover. Anyone in, like, Hamilton Falls or Springtown will want to come and shop there.”

“So?” Mayor Gunderson said, petulant as a child.

“So…even if they keep all the profits and don’t employ any locals, they still have to shop here, and go to school here, and pay taxes here.”

“They probably don’t even pay taxes,” Bob said dourly, apparently riding Mayor Gunderson’s pessimism train.

Kim only shrugged, feeling disappointed in the cold reception her good news was getting. She’d hoped these men could put aside their prejudices to be happy about something – anything – happening in their soon-to-be-broke town.

“Well, I think it’ll be interesting,” Ed said, clapping Mayor Gunderson on the back. “You should look at the bright side, Tom.”

“What bright side?” he sneered. “I know what those dirty, lying fuckers are capable of more than any of you. I was on the force last time they decided to come and screw things up here in Kingdom. Last time gypsies landed in Kingdom, someone died. Or have you all forgotten that?”

The mood at the table changed immediately, turning cold as Mayor Gunderson swallowed the last of his beer and gazed around, fixing each individual in a cold – albeit somewhat dazed – stare.

“Of course, Tom,” Ed said softly, removing his hand from the Mayor’s back. “Of course we remember.”

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