In Jack's Arms (Fighting Connollys)(4)

By: Roxie Rivera


Chuckling, Eric waved at me and disappeared into the main area of the shop. I popped into our finance

manager's office and waited for her to finish up the note she was making before asking her to request extra cash from the bank before she clocked out. In the final days of the month, we always experienced an

upswing in loan demand, and with the added surge of customers who typically came to us when they

needed to bond out their relatives, I hated the idea of running low on cash when we needed it most.

After a quick chat with the employees on the night shift, I returned to the storeroom and picked up

where I'd left off on the inventory. Just as I was getting really sick of numbers and barcodes, Dan, the night manager, called out to me. "Abby, you in here somewhere?"

"At the back, in stereos and speakers," I shouted. "What do you need?"

"Where is Mattie?"

"His shift ended at four. He's probably at the gym. Why?"

Shuffling feet on concrete heralded Dan's arrival at the line of shelves behind me. "Was Mattie pulling past due tickets today?"

"Yes. I asked him to go through and pull everything that was a week beyond the grace period. Those

customers have had ample time to come in and renew the loan or pay off the balance."

I scanned a barcode and steeled myself for the inevitable disagreement I knew was coming. Dan had

been with the shop for nearly as long as I had been alive, but he didn't agree with my decision to allow

Mattie to work with us. If Dan had his way, Mattie would only be allowed to clean the glass cases or sweep the place. My brother could do so much more—and I intended to make sure he got the chance to prove

himself.

"Well, he seems to have taken some of the merchandise from the shop."

"What?" I stepped into the small walking space between shelves so I could see Dan. "What did he take?"

"A watch."

"Whose watch was it?"

"Nick Connolly's."

"Oh." The elder Connolly had been a longtime customer of the shop, and a few months earlier, he had come in to pawn a watch to raise some quick cash. To pay his light bill, he had said, but I had suspected it was for a card game. Between his alcoholism and gambling addiction, the old guy was a damned mess, but

I hoped the bullet he had recently taken while trying to save his youngest son's girlfriend might put him on the wagon for good. "I'm sure he thought he was helping friends."

"He can't do that, Abby. It's property of the shop, and that's on our books. We can't keep the doors open if your brother is skipping off with inventory whenever he pleases. This is why I don't like him messing

with my stuff. He isn't smart enough to—"

"Dan," I interrupted him as respectfully as possible even though I was steaming inside. "First it's not your stuff. It's the store's stuff. Second, I'm quite aware of how the pawn business works and how to balance our books and inventory. My business degree sort of covered all that. As for Mattie taking the

watch, I'm sure this was an isolated case. He's never taken a thing from this store, not even a pencil from my desk, without asking permission two or three times. That's just the way he is."

"Well—I don't like it."

I bit my tongue rather than reminding him where he could go if he didn't. "Mattie is a Kirkwood, and

this is our family's business. He belongs here. End of story. Okay?"

Dan sighed. "Sure. Fine."

"I'll sort out the watch situation."

"I'm sure you will," he grumbled on his way back to the front of the shop.

Setting aside the barcode scanner and logbook, I found a stack of crates to sit on and rubbed my

temples for a few seconds. Exhaling with frustration, I tugged my cell phone from the pocket of my jeans

and dialed Mattie's number. Five rings later, someone finally answered, but it wasn't my brother.

"Hi, Abby."

I blinked as the gruff, rumbling waves of Jack Connolly's voice rolled through me. A girlish quiver of

giddiness filtered through my belly and into my chest. "Hey, Jack. Um…I guess that answers my question about Mattie's whereabouts."

"He's here. I've got him doing circuits. Do you need him?"

"No, it can wait." I suddenly found myself wishing I had some other reason to keep Jack on the line.

Man, how pathetic! I was pining over a man who only saw me as a client of his gym and the big sister of

one of his players. Jack was so outrageously sexy that women were literally falling at his feet. A girl like me? I had no chance with a man like that.

I had seen the women he chatted up after class and around the baseball fields. They were blue or green-

eyed beauties with killer curves and mega sex appeal. Me? I was basically the exact opposite of those girls with my cocoa skin, dark eyes and jet black curly hair. Instead of a knockout figure, I had a petite body