Friday, May 1, 2015

Jace By Kathi S Barton Release Day 5/1/15

Jace The Pride Of The Double Deuce Book One
Release Day 5/1/15
Author Kathi S Barton 

The Double Deuce Ranch is in trouble. The taxes have tripled over the years, and the repair bills and cost of supplies are more than the Douglas men can scrape together to save the ranch. Short of a miracle they are on the street.

Holly Snow has already bought four ranches this month saving them from the greedy banker. She'll save the Double Deuce, too, if Georgie Douglas will let her. Something underhanded is driving all the ranches into foreclosure and she is determined to get to the bottom of it. To her, money is no object.

Jace Douglas knows from the moment he sees Holly in that jail cell, beaten but proud, that she is his mate. His cat wants to claim his mate, but he doesn't have two nickels to rub together, there is no way he is taking her for a mate. He can't afford her. He is out of her league...

Fate, however, has other ideas, and money, although a huge factor, never is the issue between them. Jace likes to play...a little rough. And Holly might be of a mind to just play along...

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Chapter 1
There was no way that he could move now, not without drawing attention to himself. Instead, Jace simply sat as still as he was able. The drama playing out in front of him was one that he might have enjoyed under other circumstances, but not today. Today he had other things he wanted to get finished. When his brother looked his way, Jace tensed but didn’t so much as let his fur ruffle.
“You want to weigh in on this?” Jace yawned to show how much he wanted to be involved in anything. “This is fucking insane. You of all people have to see the stupidity in this.”
“And I’m standing right here.” They both looked at their brother when he spoke. Gerard didn’t look like he wanted to be there anymore than Jace did. “I’m an adult, the last time I looked, and I’m pretty sure I’ve been making decisions on my own for some time. I’m going to do this, Mason. No matter how pissed off you get.”
“I forbid it.” They both looked at Mason like he really had gone off the deep end. “And furthermore, as the oldest, I say you are to…you are to go to your room. And stay there.”
The burst of laughter had them both looking toward the tree. Jace had no idea how long their aunt had been sitting there, but from the looks of it, long enough. She swung on the swing that had been there for as long as he could remember and just smiled.
“You do know that he is telling you the truth, Mason. You can’t no more order him around than you can me.” Her swing went higher still, and all Jace could think about was how carefree she looked, when they all knew that it was a lie. “And if he wants to move into his own place, why do you care? All of you could have left here ages ago. I’m an adult too, in the event you missed it. Are you planning to send me to my room as well? I’m telling you now that I’d enjoy it a great deal more than your brother there would. You’ll have to fix dinner, of course. Then there’s the laundry to be done. And I’m pretty sure that the strawberries that I picked this morning aren’t going to make themselves into jam even if you do order them to.”
“He thinks he’s going to help out by moving somewhere else. How the hell is paying rent to someone he doesn’t know going to help our situation?” Mason looked at him, then back at Aunt Georgie. “You don’t want that, do you?”
She stopped swinging and looked at them all before putting her gaze back on Mason. “First of all, watch your language. Secondly, it’s not our problem, Mason; it’s all mine. You guys should have been out of the nest a long time ago. I’ll deal with this as I have every other problem that has come along. With grace and dignity.”
“You’re our family. All we have. Of course it’s our problem too.” She got off the swing and walked to them all. Jace wondered briefly if she was going to hit Mason on the back of the head as she’d always done when any of them messed up, but she only kissed Mason on the cheek as he continued. “Aunt Georgie, we can’t abandon you. Not like this.”
“You’re not. I’m going to go to the bank tomorrow and see what I can work out. Who knows, perhaps there will be a miracle that will save not just the farm, but you guys as well.” Jace watched her move away from them. Mason looked like someone had just ejected him from the biggest game of his life, and Gerard just looked depressed.
Jace stood up and shifted to human. He was pulling on his clothes when Mason spoke. He wasn’t sure at first who he was talking to, but realized after a few seconds that it was him. He turned to look at him as he buttoned up his shirt.
“I’m working as much overtime as I can do. I’m exhausted as you are, and yet it seems like we’re doing everything wrong.” Jace nodded at Mason. “We’re going to lose this place…our only home, Jace. I’m not ready to lose that too.”
“I know, but fighting with Gerard is pointless. He needs to be closer to his job. The gas money alone will help him pay his rent. And when this all goes down—because we both know that it’s a matter of when, not if—when it goes down, we’ll all need to have a place to live.” Mason nodded and followed him as he moved toward the house. Jace had come out here to be alone, but had been drawn into the family issues instead. He was sick of all of this, but wouldn’t turn his back on his family. Ever.
The farm had been left to them…all six of the boys. Aunt Georgie had been their only living relative, and came when they needed her when their parents were killed in a plane crash that took the lives of a great many people. The compensation hadn’t been a lot, but it had helped them for a long time. But the farm, like a great many of them around their area, had been going downhill for a long time prior to that. It had taken another twenty years for the end to actually come.
The youngest of them, Gerard, had been just five and Mason, the oldest, had been fifteen. Darin had been thirteen, Jace had been eleven, Zack had just turned nine the day before, and Logan was seven. Much too young to be alone, and too stubborn even back then to give up without a fight. And fight they had…for every nickel, every crop, and every head of herd they’d tried to make it work with. Nothing had given them enough to catch up on the back taxes and the much needed repairs.
Jace was leaving for his job when his phone rang. He was almost afraid to answer it. He was getting more and more calls about past due bills than ever before. Aunt Georgie had been crying just yesterday about how they were going to have to figure out another way to get grain for the cows. There just wasn’t anymore credit.
“Jace here.” The silence at the other end nearly had him hanging up, but the person started coughing and he waited. As soon as they spoke, Jace was ready with any number of reasons why the bill, whatever it was, hadn’t been paid. But the man spoke first.
“Mr. Douglas? Mr. Jace Douglas?” He told him that was right and cringed at being called Mr. Douglas. He’d not been called that since high school. “I have a…I would like for you to come to my office, please. There is a matter of your back taxes that I’d like to speak with you about.”
“Mr…what was your name?” The man hurried through his name, and Jace could have sworn that the man said he was an ass hit man at the end, but wasn’t sure. “Mr.
Clarke, I’m very aware of the back taxes. As well as the bill at the vet’s office and the one at the hospital. We don’t have the money. In a few days, if not sooner, there will be a bank man coming out here to chain the door up, and we’ll be living out of our cars. So if you want to talk about the taxes, it won’t do you a fucking bit of good. We’re broke.”
Upon hearing the coughing again, Jace hung up. He had to get to work, and waiting for the man to tell him how much he owed and why wasn’t going to cut it. So as he drove himself into town, he tried to think where he’d get the money to put a deposit down on a dive, because at this point, it was all he could afford. He was pretty sure it would be all any of them could afford.
His phone was ringing at his desk when he arrived. Instead of answering it, he ignored it for now. Jace had to be on the floor by two and it was coming up on that now. Pulling on his coat and hat, he moved to the kitchen to begin the night’s meal plan. By the time the first order was given to him, Jace had not only forgotten about the call, he’d completely pushed the rest of his woes to the back of his mind as well.
“Your father wishes a word with you.” Holly just winked at Kent as he poured her tea. “He is very upset with you. I think he’s just discovering your plan to be a better Snow than he is.”
“Dad knows he’s the best at being whatever he wants to be. Just ask him about it. I’m sure he’ll tell you that he invented money and that everyone should come to him when they want to print more.” Her dad kissed her head as he walked past her and sat at the table with her. “Don’t you, Dad?”
“Of course. I’m a Snow, am I not?” He nodded at Kent when he asked if he wanted coffee. “What is it I’ve heard about you taking the bank to task? Not that I don’t think you have a point, but the next time someone comes to me about your behavior, I’d like a heads up.”
“I’ve been looking into some property around town. And I’ve been…I’ve purchased a few of them before the bank had a chance to foreclose on them. Did you know that they usually get more for the land than what is owed in back taxes? And that the family sees none of it? Outrageous.”
“It’s called cost of living, love. And it’s the American way to make more than you owe on something.” He picked up his fork before looking at her with a frown. “What do you mean, you’ve purchased a few of them? How many?”
“I’ll have to consult with Mr. Clarke. He’s got it all straight.” Her dad just stared at her. “Oh all right, five of them. And if I can get this guy to talk to him today, one more. And it’s the one that I really want to save. I…it belongs to Georgina Douglas.”
Her dad put his fork down and looked at her. She could see the spark of interest in his eyes. He’d known Georgie Douglas longer than her. He looked to be thinking hard on something and she sipped her tea while he did it. Her dad, unlike her, wasn’t one to work out his problems aloud, but internally.
“How much do they owe? And I mean grand total.” She told him. “How did it…the bank did that to her, didn’t they? Waited until the amount was unobtainable and then hit them with it all at once?” She nodded.
“Not only that, but the feed mill—the one owned by the bank too, by the way—has done the same thing. Her amount there is…Dad, they’ve charged her more interest on what she owes than the amount she charged. The cattle will starve if they don’t get what they need.” Her dad stood up and asked her to follow him. They were in her office before she could tell him the rest. “Dad, there are men out there, her nephews. And they’re going to lose it all as well.”
“I remember Norman and Zelma Douglas. Nicest people I’ve ever met.” He picked up his phone and continued while he pressed buttons. “To leave their children behind like they did. I’d never…I wish you would have told me.”
“I found out only a couple of days ago.” She waited while he spoke to Mr. Clarke on the phone. Even from across his desk she could hear the man. He was terrified of her dad; most people were. But he said he’d go to find Jace Douglas today and if not, then he’d go to the farm. “Dad, what are you going to do?”
“What should have been done years ago…step in and help them.” He leaned back in his chair and stared out the window as he reminisced. “Georgie used to give you lessons, do you remember that? You were so set on being the next greatest horsewoman, and I didn’t have the heart to tell you no. I was terrified that you’d be hurt. But Georgie told me if I didn’t let you try, you’d go out and do it on your own, and then where would I be? So I let you take lessons.”
“I was afraid too. I mean…I knew that Mom was killed by a horse. But I needed to make myself…it was important to me that I wasn’t going to let her death beat me. I had to be better than the horses.” He nodded and smiled sadly at her. “Dad, I never hurt myself when I was with her. She treated me…she treated me like I was one of her own.”
“She would. Georgie has the kindest heart I know.” Holly watched her dad as he was lost in his memories. When her own phone rang, she moved out of his office because his had rung right as she was going to answer. Holly nearly didn’t answer the call from Jeff Hardgrave.
“Hello there, my love. What are you doing today? Lazing about, watching your soaps and eating those little cakes you like?” She wanted to hang up on him. He was the most annoying man she had ever dated. One date with the man and he had been…annoying was all she could think of. And why he still hung around after she told him repeatedly that she was not marrying him was beyond her.
“No. I don’t watch television, I am not lazy, and I haven’t had so much as a cupcake in ten years. And stop calling me love. I’m not your anything.” He laughed, which annoyed her even more. “What do you want anyway? I’m very busy.”
“I thought we’d have dinner together. I know of this very nice little place that serves the best cake in the world. Or so they’ve advertised. I could take your father’s plane there and we could make a night of it.” Holly strangled her phone. It was that or hunt the man down and tell him no again.
“I am not going to go out with you, Jeff. We are not dating, we never have. I know that you work for my dad, but we are not dating. Stop asking me.” His chuckle had her ending the call. “Fucking moron. I have no idea how else to get rid of him.”
“Try having him arrested.” Her dad came up behind her and laughed as he answered her question. “I’ll have another talk with him. Perhaps I could tell him you have a suitor, as he likes to call himself. Or I could fire him. But he is good at what he does.”
“No, don’t fire him. But I’m going to have to do something.” As if on cue, her phone rang again and it was him. She simply pressed the key to send it to voicemail. “I’m going to be in my office all day. I have a few errands to run later, and I’m thinking of making my way out to the Douglas farm. Would you like to go?”
“I wish that I could, but I have several meetings myself. Let me know if you need any help with the farm. I’m serious about helping you with it. Georgie is a good woman. And I’m going to look into the bank. Perhaps it’s past time to see what the hell is going on with them.” She nodded and picked up her bag with her things in it. Her dad kissed her on the cheek and left a few minutes before she did.
Her phone was ringing as she got into her car. It was Mr. Clarke this time.
“I’ve an address where you might meet Mr. Douglas. He’s not the oldest, but it’s the only number that I have for the household. And while I was at it, I took the liberty of paying a few of the outstanding bills that we talked about yesterday. Without a phone, it will be most difficult to get in touch with them.” She asked him what other bill she’d paid through his help. “Just caught up the other phones as well. And there is a little matter of the grocery store. I wasn’t aware that they still allowed people to charge their food.”
“Me either. Look into that for me. Perhaps there are a lot of nasty people in the world that are trying to take more advantage of the family.” He said that he would. “Give me the name of the store where he works and I’ll go by there. What was his name again?”
“This one is called Zachery. He goes by Zach, however.” She told him she was on the way. “Miss Snow, there is more you should know about. Miss Douglas has an appointment with the bank in an hour. If I were you, I’d head there instead of the store. You might be able to help her better there.”
She turned her car right instead of left at the end of her drive. “I’ll go there. Can you meet me there as well? I asked Dad, but he has meetings all day.”
“I can do that. However, I will be a little late. I have an appointment at eleven with another land owner. They have ten days to come up with the funds or they will be out. This one is the last on your list, if you don’t count the Douglas farm. And if you don’t mind me saying so, Miss Snow, you are close to becoming in no better shape than the people you’re trying to help.”
“I know. I have enough to pay off the taxes on the Douglas place and I’ll…I’m going to have to go to Dad for a loan.” Mr. Clarke snorted. “It’s not a business if he gives me the money every time I need to have more.”
“No. But you are one of the wealthiest families in the country. I’m very sure that your father can afford to give his only child a little extra to help her make a dream come true.” She was sure he would, but that wasn’t standing on her own two feet. “I have a call from your father. I’ll see you at the bank shortly.”

Holly was at the bank just as Georgie was pulling in. It hurt her to see how much the woman looked weighted down; more so knowing that Georgie was working harder to keep what was hers more than any of the others Holly had helped. But it was a good plan. A very sound plan, and she was going to make it work.
“Georgie? It’s Holly Snow, do you remember me?” The hug that the older woman gave her brought back so many memories that she had to fight the tears. When Georgie pulled back and looked at her, Holly no longer even tried. She was crying as well. “I’ve been trying to contact you for ages.”
“I’ve had some…I’ve been sort of busy. Oh my, how you have turned into a lovely young woman. Goodness, your father must be proud of you.” Holly told her that he was. “We have to catch up, child. Why don’t you come out to the ranch and let’s see if you’ve forgotten any of the lessons that I taught you?”
“I’m not even going to embarrass myself by showing you how little I’ve practiced. But I do want to talk to you. It’s about the bank.” They both looked up at the large imposing building. “I want to help you and your family. I’ve been looking into things for you and a lot of other ranches, and I think I can help you catch up.”
“Oh dear, that’s very sweet of you, but I can handle them.” Holly was shaking her head. Georgie looked at her, then at the bank again, before continuing without looking back. “How did you find out?”
“I’ve been…there are more farms going under than not. And when I had Mr. Clarke look into it, your name came across my desk. I can help. I want to help.” Georgie turned then, and she could see what it was costing her to tell her no. “Don’t do that. Don’t tell me no, Georgie. I want to help you. I told Dad about it this morning and he said that he wanted to help you as well. He said you were a good woman and had done so much for us that he wanted to help you as well.”
“We’re nearly under, child. It would take a great deal more than your pen money to save us.” Holly nodded and told her she knew how much. “I can’t do that. I can’t let you use your money to help us. I’m not even sure…I don’t know if I’ll ever have the money to pay you back. And there is so much more than what we owe the bank. So much more.”
“I know, Georgie. I know it all. I’ve been…let’s go and talk to the banker and get this part straightened out. Then we can go and have a nice lunch and talk about the rest of it.” Georgie looked like she wanted to say okay, but Holly just grabbed her arm and led her into the bank. “I have this great place in mind where they serve those little meatballs like my aunt used to make. You remember her? Aunt Caroline?”
“Worst cook in five counties.” Holly laughed and said that was her. “I heard that she passed away recently. I’m sorry to hear about that.”
“Me too. I miss her all the time.” Entering the bank together caused heads to turn. She knew it was because of her name, but thought very little else about what people thought of her. Usually it was good things, but there were a few, like the bank manager, that thought she should have been using his bank and not her father’s. It was one of many sore points that she and the banker exchanged harsh words over when they were together.
They had to wait for fifty minutes. In that time not only had Mr. Clarke shown up, but also a few people from her office. Two of them left, but one, Sharon Guest, her personal assistant, stayed. Holly was talking to her dad when they were finally called back. Nigel was close to getting her dander up, as her aunt used to say, and he still might.
“I’m not sure why you thought it necessary to bring someone with you, Miss Douglas, but I assure you that this is just about a done deal.” Holly gripped her hand when Georgie started to talk to the banker. “Here, Georgie; you just need to sign over the deed and we’ll take possession right away. Then all this fuss will be over with and you can find—”
“I’m not going to sign anything. I’m here…I’d like to know the balance of what I owe.” Holly had told her to ask, and when he seemed to sputter about her question, Georgie asked him again. “The amount. Surely you know how much you think you’re going to foreclose on me with. I’d think if you don’t know it right off the top of your head, with all the extra time you had while you made us wait, I’d be afraid to put my money in a bank like yours.”
“Well, it’s a good thing you don’t have any then, isn’t it? I have no idea what you think to gain by this show of temper, Miss Douglas, but if you’d just sign the papers, we can—”
“She’s not signing the papers. I’m going to pay her debt off.” Mr. Rogers looked at Holly, then at Georgie. His burst of laughter made her pissed, but she held her temper as best she could. “And when I do pay this off, I’d like the deed turned over to us, please. Today. I have a notary waiting to mark it as paid in full.”
“You think you can just come in here and pay off this debt like you own the place?” Holly nodded. That was exactly what she thought. “We want this property, and don’t think we don’t know about the others you’ve gone in to help as well. They’re going to be contacting you as soon as tomorrow that they’ve changed their minds. I will have all their deeds back by the end of the day.”
“Not this one, you won’t. Either tell me how much the outstanding amount is, or I’ll call someone who will help me.” She had meant her dad, but he assumed the police and laughed at her when she stood up.
“The police won’t do shit to help you. And sit your pretty ass down. Miss Douglas is going to do what she’s told or she’ll be out on her ass by tonight.” He shoved the file at Georgie. “It’s all marked. Sign it and get out of my bank. Riff raff like you should know better than to try and run your own farm. It’s a small wonder you were able to make it this long, but I want it over now.”
The next few minutes were a blur of anger. Holly remembered picking up the wooden name placard on his deck and swinging it, but not much more than that. As she was tackled to the floor, her purse flying, she saw Sharon knocked back as well. Fuck, her dad was going to be pissed.

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