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I seem to be having technical difficulties today. I post my blog, and all the content disappears. *sigh* So, I'm going to try this from the beginning. Again. For the third time. If it doesn't work, I think I'll discard this and try again another day. Also, formatting seems to be my nemesis today.
Whatever I had typed the first time had been nicely thought out, so I apoligize if my introduction is a little lackluster this third time. I've been working on some short stories with the characters from my Isabella Howerton series, and some of the things that happened before the first book. The following short story takes place about a year before Bloody Beginnings. So, without further ado...
Sign on the Dotted Line
Copyright © 2015 Laura Hysell
“So, what’s the big news?” Jared asked as he pulled up a chair and aligned himself so he could see the rest of the room. The bar Justin had chosen was just outside of the hub of Portland, looking more suited to a small town than the big city. Jared had picked out a single bartender, two older men sipping whiskey, and a young couple attempting a game of pool. Not exactly a lively tavern.
Justin glanced up over the rim of his beer and grinned. “I found you a job,” Justin responded, running a hand through his blond hair.
Jared blinked at Justin and opened his mouth to respond when the bartender walked over. She was an older woman with her mousy hair pulled back in a bun. “What’ll it be?” she asked.
“Bring a pitcher,” Justin responded quickly, pointing at his own beer. “And three more glasses.”
The bartender nodded and ambled off. “Three glasses? Who else is joining us?”
Justin grinned again, and the excitement he’d been trying to suppress began to leak through. His blue eyes lit up as he looked toward the opening front door. Jared watched warily, his hand idly going to the gun on his side, until he spotted Kirk walking through the door wearing a rumpled suit, obviously just coming from work. He eased back as Kirk ambled to the table and plopped down in a chair. The bartender came by as well and set the pitcher and mugs on the table.
Jared filled his own mug and drank it slowly as Kirk and Justin made small talk. They’d all met their first year in college and became fast friends, but after the death of Justin’s dad, the three had gone their separate ways for a time. Kirk finished college with a business degree, and ended up working a series of odd jobs. Justin took a couple years off to work and take care of his sister before finally going back to school. As far as Jared knew, he was working on his PhD while employed by some pharmaceutical company. Justin had always been the smartest of the three friends. Jared had quit college just six months from graduation and enlisted in the Army. It was both the best and worst decision of his life.
“Are you going to tell us what this job is?” Jared asked, interrupting Kirk as he began describing his latest supposed female conquest.
“Job?” Kirk asked, his playboy façade quickly changing. Kirk was all talk and no action. “You know I’ve been looking for a new job.”
Justin nodded and pulled two packets from a bag sitting on the floor. He slid the packets toward the two men and leaned back, the grin still plastered to his face. “You don’t even have to interview. I’m going on a little expedition, and was told to put a security team together.”
“Security? What sort of security?” Jared asked as he perused the document. Nuva Drug was offering a very handsome pay for Jared to be the supervisor of a security team for a special research expedition to an undisclosed location.
“Jared, with your military background, I want you in charge. We’re going on a little research expedition in Romania. I know you speak a few languages,” he added.
Jared grunted in return. At least Justin was disclosing the location. “I speak little bits of a lot of languages. I would hardly consider myself fluent in any though. And I don’t speak Romanian.”
Justin shrugged, seeming unconcerned. “It doesn’t matter. You speak more than the rest of us do. This is an easy job, Jared.”
“A lot of money for this easy job.”
“I’m in,” Kirk said as he poured himself a beer and immediately took a long swig.
“Aw, Justin, did you tell them already?” a sweet, southern voice drawled from the front of the bar.
Jared looked up as Sarah ambled in, sashaying her hips side to side with each step of her black high-heeled boots. She quickly slid a chair next to Justin’s and reached over to give him a long, sloppy kiss. Jared and Kirk exchanged glances, both men shaking their heads. Neither of them had expected to see Sarah.
Justin finally detached himself from Sarah and looked back at his two best friends. “Sarah is working with me at Nuva Drug. She’s on the expedition. Guys, this could be the breakthrough of a lifetime. I want you two there with us. If we find what I’m hoping we find, it could be a real game-changer.”
“What are you hoping to find?” Jared asked as he darted looks at the couple who had broken up and gotten back together over a dozen times.
“A miracle cure,” Sarah responded in her thick accent. Jared noticed her accent always thickened when she was being overly dramatic.
Jared cringed as he watched Kirk scrawl his signature across the paperwork. Kirk looked up at him sheepishly as he slid the paper back toward Justin. “I’m working at a mall, Jared. Do you have any idea what it’s like managing a mall? And I’m not even the manager, just the assistant manager! This expedition pays twice what my yearly salary is. You don’t even have a job, Jared.”
Kirk’s words were a bruise to the ego, but they were true. Since Jared had left the Army, he’d been hard-pressed to hold down a steady job. Now, one of his best friends was offering him a great paying job, and he was questioning it. Justin would never lead him into something dangerous. Jared stared at the paper in front of him, feeling a strange sense of unease. It was probably just because of Sarah. She and Justin had a rollercoaster relationship that made him sick.
Kirk slid his pen over to Jared, urging him to sign the paper. “It shouldn’t take more than a couple months. We’ll be back home before you know it!” Justin pushed. “Come on, Jared. Please.”
Jared sighed and looked back at the papers, his eyes skimming over the legal jargon as he flipped pages. He stopped at the last page, staring at the spot waiting for his signature. What did he have to lose?