Kennick:A Volanis Brothers NovelBy: Meg Jackson
And she did it all without her boss’ salary or public recognition. It was all for one simple reason: she loved her town, loved the people in it, and wanted to improve things. She could have run for office herself, but in many ways Kingdom was still way behind the times, and a young woman wouldn’t stand a chance against the established candidates, all middle-aged men with connections. Kim's blue eyes, long blonde hair, and button nose helped her get dates, but they'd be no such help when it came to votes. So she did her part from the sidelines, hoping that someday she’d get her chance to reap the benefits.
But that chance would not come on that Friday. Instead, it was more of the same-old-same old. Mrs. Tenor was still mad about her mail coming in the afternoon instead of the morning. Mr. Caldwich wanted to know why no one had fixed the pothole on Warren Street. The animal shelter wanted to host an adoption event at Williston Park. Kim agreed to come out and help volunteer at that; she worked at the animal shelter on weekends, finding the company of cats and dogs somewhat less stressful than the company of people.
As Kim filled her day, reaching out to some local business owners to see if anyone had enough funds to perhaps take on one of the town councils’ propositions, she grew increasingly frustrated. Either there was no money, or there was no desire to put the energy into a new venture. She knew, for instance, that Kyle Jonas, who owned the town’s only hotel, was still doing well for himself, but he had laughed in her ear when she’d asked if he’d be interested in investing in a new business to help revitalize Main Street.
Soon, she’d have to start seeking outside interests from one of the well-to-do towns surrounding Kingdom, and that would hurt her pride. She knew that Kingdom was somewhat looked down upon by the more wealthy towns as being an eyesore – when tourists drove through Kingdom’s boarded-up streets on their way to, say, Hamilton Falls, they might get the wrong idea about rural Delaware.
All the more reason for you to start funneling some of that yuppie cash into our town, she’d think bitterly, but still hated the thought that, in accepting help from the outside, the true nature of Kingdom as a small, friendly, middle-class working town would be corrupted. It was a screwed-either-way scenario, no matter how Kim tried to see the bright side.
Before she knew it, the clock was telling her to go home – she’d barely looked up from the budget spreadsheet she’d been studying when Mayor Gunderson had left, reminding her about their “date” that night. Kim coughed, immediately worried she was coming down with something. If she was, she’d have to forego the gym and the pint at Sammy’s.
At the back of her mind, she was relieved at the prospect of ditching both plans.
In fact, she knew herself well enough to be aware that the cough wasn’t a sign of anything, but an excuse. The day had been long. She wanted to go home and stay there. Anxiety was starting to nip at her heels when she thought about braving a social excursion, or being exposed to the other people at the gym.
No matter how fast she ran on the treadmill, she always felt like the people around her were making fun of her for not going hard enough. And as much as she loved the people of her town, she had always been the sort of girl to think people talked about her behind her back. Even though she knew all this was ridiculous, because people mostly only thought about themselves and didn’t have a thought to spare on her, it still kept her from living her life comfortably.
But she’d fought it her whole life, and would continue to fight it, pressing herself to face those absurd fears with all the courage in her marrow. If anyone knew what a struggle it was for Kimberly James to make it through a day, they would bow to her strength. But for Kim, it was all just weakness and fear.
Just as she turned off her computer, double-checking her paperwork to see if she’d missed any of her day’s tasks, a knock on the glass door to the office forced her head to snap up. It was a quarter past five; the office was closed. But Kim wasn’t in any rush to leave, and if anything welcomed the opportunity to stall her dreaded appointment with the Stairmaster. Her heels clicked on the linoleum as she walked to the door.
When she could see the three men standing on the other side, her breath caught in her throat.
They were big. And they were handsome. And they were strangers.
She knew almost everyone in town, even if just by their face, from crossing paths in the supermarket or DMV. But she certainly didn’t know any of these men. The three shared intense green eyes and impressive statures. The man who stood closest to the door had long, shaggy brown hair that fell across his forehead, while the two standing behind him wore their hair short, one blonde and the other with hair so dark it almost looked black. Kim took a deep breath before swinging the door open. Even through the safety of the glass, she felt the affect they had on her.
It was enormous, and purely physical.
“Hi,” she said, clearing her throat as the long-haired man caught her eye. “Office is closed…can I help you with anything?”