Throwing the wrench down onto the tool pad, Jagger scrubbed a hand down his face. There were days he loved being a mechanic. Then there were days like today where he knew he should have listened to his mother and gotten into something else. Not that he’d ever tell the woman, even if he was still speaking to her. She already thought too highly of her own opinions. Gods only knew where the woman was today, at least she wasn’t in Shifter Falls giving him even more trouble so that was good.
He grabbed the bottle of water he’d been working on and took a long haul while staring at the engine in question. He was missing something, and it was really starting to piss him off that he couldn’t figure it out.
For the last ten years, he’d been head mechanic at the only automotive shop in Shifter Falls. They were the only one there because they only hired the best and did the best work. Competitors didn’t stand a hope in hell. There had been a few other places that had tried to start up in the Falls. But they’d all shut down within a year because they hadn’t had what it took to work in such a closely knit town. That and they’d been outsiders, something that didn’t go over well with the very private residents who ran the town.
Founded by a shifter pack more than two hundred years prior, the town was home to six different types of shifters. Only through harsh laws and firm hands at the helm of each pack did it work. Especially considering the mix the Falls had running around.
There were plenty of humans living and working there, too, but the majority of the population was other. Sometimes there were problems. Sometimes there were all-out fights, but in the end they all knew they had to live together so things had better damn well work out. Which they usually did, eventually.
Moving to the open door of the bay he was working in, he stared out at the falling snow. The weatherman had predicted another couple of inches throughout the day, and more overnight. Great for all the tourists currently running around Shifter Falls in search of as many wintertime activities as they could find. It also had its perks for the business. It was amazing how many out-of-state tourists had no idea how to handle driving in snow.
He spotted a friend and lifted a hand in greeting. Conroy Hayden was the owner of On The Plate, one of four restaurants in Shifter Falls. The guy was a damn connoisseur when it came to flavors. Likely why his restaurant had managed to get rave reviews in several travel and food magazines. Since then people had come to Shifter Falls not only for the events held but in the hopes to get a table in his restaurant.
“Con, good to see you. I have to admit I didn’t think you’d actually get out during the lunch rush.”
The large redhead shrugged and shot him a smirk. “Figured I should bring you something to eat or you’d forget. Again.”
Jagger spotted the bag then and felt his belly rumble. He’d only had a piece of toast and several cups of coffee for breakfast that morning. It was already one in the afternoon and he wasn’t exactly a small guy. Waving Conroy into the bay, he followed behind the man, shooting the troublesome engine a glare. He cleared off a spot on his work table before grabbing a couple stools to set in front. He took one while Conroy unloaded the bag, hitting Jagger with the scent of cooked meat and spices. His stomach let out a hungry snarl that earned him a knowing look from his friend. Jagger held his tongue, knowing anything he said would only provide Con with more ammo to use against him at a later date.
He accepted the plate from his friend and unwrapped it. A huge pile of roast beef he knew was slow cooked, mashed potatoes, and seasonal greens from the greenhouse at the end of town. Con handed him a little container which held gravy, utensils, and a napkin.
“Thanks,” he said. Cutting off a piece of the beef, Jagger slowly chewed the perfectly cooked meat. It practically melted on his tongue. “Damn this is good,” he practically moaned. Another bite he chewed slowly. He knew better than to shove Con’s food down his throat as fast as possible. The man would beat him silly. And Con was nearly as large as Jagger. They’d both taken boxing as kids, but Jagger had plain meanness on his side. Con was a good soul who wanted to help others, which was why he’d gotten into feeding folks. He said the food was good for the soul and part of why On The Plate did the soup kitchen for those who needed a helping hand.
After finishing the meal, Jagger wiped his mouth while Con packed up the dishes. The secondary dish caught his attention. “What’s that?”
“Dessert,” Con told him.
Accepting the dish, he pulled the top off and inhaled the scent from the hot dessert. It was a crumble of some sort. Rhubarb, for sure, definitely strawberries, but there was something else. He took a bite and let out a moan of pleasure.
“I’m going to assume you like it.”
“Dude, this is spectacular. What all’s in here?”
“The usual, but I threw in some cranberries this time for a more seasonal flavor. Gives it a different taste.”
He nodded, it did at that. Scraping out the last, he licked off the spoon under Con’s knowing watch and passed it back. Another wipe with his napkin before he tossed it into the garbage closest and leveled a look at his friend. “I guess this wasn’t just your need to feed me, since you usually dump and run. What’s going on?”
“Don’t know yet but figured I’d give you a heads-up. The sheriff and a couple deputies were in for lunch today and we got to talking. Apparently there are rumblings from the city council about another pack wanting to set up shop here. They’re calling an emergency meeting tomorrow night to discuss it with the alphas and their seconds. You’ll be getting the call soon, but I wanted to let you know before you got it. I know how much you hate surprises.”
That was an understatement. The last surprise Jagger had gotten was his parents divorcing, his father leaving the Falls, and his mother hooking up with the first of many younger males to keep her bed warm. Since then he’d managed to avoid being surprised with the help of those he called and considered to be true friends, like Conroy. Without them, he’d have been caught with his pants down more than once. But they looked out for him, and he helped look out for them in turn. They were more his family than his parents ever had been.
“I’ll be ready, thanks.” Standing, he gave his friend the quintessential man hug and walked him out of the bay. He stayed there a moment longer to watch the comings and goings of the locals and tourists before turning to face his current nemesis. One way or another he was damn well going to get this thing running. Then he could take it over to the hotel and return it to the tourist to which it belonged.
“All right, you giant hunk of metal, let’s get down to business.”