Waking up to find Jacob nestled in his arms was nice. Maybe too nice. He could get used to having this man in his life. But, did Jacob feel the same way? Luke slowly untangled their limbs and slid quietly from the bed. He needed coffee, and to stop his brain from overthinking everything.
He saw Ida Ryder’s book laying on the table as he walked through the living room to the kitchen. There was no time last night to read the book or discuss it with Jacob. Luke grinned to himself. Not that he minded that kind of distraction in the least. He started the coffee and looked to see what he could whip up for breakfast. The phone rang as he reached for the eggs.
“Your phone’s ringing,” Jacob said. He was standing in the doorway to the kitchen. His jeans were riding low on his hips giving Luke a peek at the man’s treasure trail. His cock stiffened. Luke picked up his phone and answered.
“You need to get your ass up here to the house,” Kris said. His voice edgy and upset.
“What’s wrong,” Jacob asked.
“I can’t explain it. You have to see it, but I can tell you, you and Jacob are going to be really pissed off.” Kris cut off the call as Luke turned to Jacob.
“We need to get dressed. Breakfast will have to wait. There’s trouble at White Oak,” Luke said as he brushed past Jacob.
Stopping, he turned and took a step back. He pulled Jacob into his arms and softly kissed the man’s lips.
“Last night was… amazing.”
“I know,” Jacob answered and kissed him back.
They used Jacob’s SUV to drive the lane to White Oak from Luke’s carriage house. They could hear voices shouting as they walked up the wide stairs. Once they opened the front doors, they could see why.
Paint was splattered everywhere on the floor and walls. The new carpeting on the staircase was ripped and torn. Floorboards in the parlor and dining room had been ripped up and strewn about the rooms. Worst of all was the huge chandelier that had been meticulously cleaned and rehung. It lay in a million pieces on the floor in the entryway.
“What the hell happened here?” Luke shouted.
The room grew quiet, as all eyes turned to face him and Jacob.
“My God, was there an earthquake that we didn’t know about?” Jacob asked as he surveyed the damage. “I don’t understand what happened here.”
Kris pushed his way around a large pile of floorboards and walked toward Luke.
“When I got here this morning, the crew was waiting for me to let them in,” he answered then waved his arm around the room. “This is what we walked into. I suppose it could have been vandals. But, the damned doors were still locked!”
Luke and Jacob walked around the room and sorted through the damage.
“It’s going to take weeks to get us back to where we were yesterday,” Jacob said.
“I don’t understand what happened here,” Luke said. He knelt down on the floor beside the chandelier and picked up a piece of broken crystal. “This can’t be fixed. It’s been hanging here for decades. There’s not another one like it in the world. If I find out who did this, I will beat them into next week.”
“It was the ghost.”
“What?” Jacob asked.
“It was the ghost. A person or even several people couldn’t do this much damage in one night,” one of the older crew members said. “It’s been trying to get our attention all along.”
“A ghost?” Luke said as he stood. “You are saying a damned ghost did this? Are you crazy?”
“Hey, I’m just saying. That kid getting hurt when we first started. The cold winds blowing, and that damn screeching. We’ve all heard it. Not to mention, Miss Walker saying she saw her!”
The rest of the crew were grumbling under their breath. Jacob pulled Luke aside and mentioned for Kris to join them.
“I think we need to send them home for today,” Jacob said. “Tomorrow, we’ll start the cleanup. We’re clearly not going to get any work out of them today.”
Kris added, “I agree. They are spooked. Sorry, no pun intended. We need to go through everything and make some sort of plan.”
Luke turned to face the crew. “Why don’t you all go home today? We’re going to call the police and have them take a look at things. In the meantime, we’ll work on a list of things that need to be done to get this cleaned up before we move forward.”
“And, you’ll all be paid for today,” Jacob said.
“Pay isn’t the problem,” one of the crew members said. “That ghost is the problem!”
The unions promised better wages, health insurance, more paid time off, and a lot more. Boone didn’t know how they could make those kinds of promises. The company’s weren’t just going to cave. Surely the miners knew this. To the side of the bar, under a streetlamp, Boone saw several of the youngest miners, some just boys, huddled together talking and passing a cigarette around. Once in a while, an older man would bring a beer over and the boys would each take a sip until the bottle was empty. They shouldn’t be here, and they shouldn’t be going to the meeting either. Boone had a bad feeling about them being involved with this.
Inside, looking around the bar, Boone could see that a bunch of hot heads were creating arguments, rousing the men up so that by the time they got to the meeting tempers would be flying.
“Well, if it isn’t Mister Cool.”
Boone knew this man worked on a different crew and that he had been a troublemaker all long. He ignored the man and went to search for any men from his own crew. Most of them were crowded around a table in the far corner. He was glad to see that they seemed level headed at this point.
“Hey, Boone,” Jake Blanton called out. “We didn’t think you would be coming to this. Daniel said you told him not to come.”
“I told him to stay home with his family. I would think some of you should have done the same,” Boone answered.
Billy Blanton, Jake’s younger brother, said, “We’re doing this for them. They deserve better than what we’re able to make working for the company.”
He wasn’t drunk, but he was angry. Boone couldn’t deny what he was saying. Their families did deserve better and so did the men. Those boys outside, they deserved better than pennies a day to do a job that would more than likely kill them before they reached their twenties.
“You’re right, but is this the way to do it?” Boone pointed his hand in the direction of the men getting louder and drunker by the moment.
“I don’t know,” Jake said. “But I want to hear what them union men have to say.”
“Then let’s pray everyone keeps their head and don’t let the drink control what they say and do,” Boone said.
He suddenly wondered how these men were paying for all this beer and whiskey. Most of them could barely afford a beer or two on payday, but tonight the alcohol was flowing freely.
“I’ll be back,” he said to the Blanton brothers and the others at the table.
Boone went to the bar and leaned across to get Red’s attention.
“What’s up, Boone? Haven’t seen you in here for a while. Thought maybe you were on the wagon now.”
“No, just been too busy,” Boone answered and put a quarter on the bar. He waited for Red to bring him a beer before he spoke again. “So, who’s paying for all this tonight?”
Red eyed him suspiciously, then replied, “Culpepper was in here earlier today and said to keep a running tab and he’d cover it.”
Boone kept his face calm. No reason to alert Red to the alarm that sounded in his head at those words.
“Ah. Guess I can have my quarter back then,” he laughed and reached his hand out. Red snatched the coin off the bar.
“Let’s call it a tip.”
Someone shouted over the noise in the bar, “Let’s go!”
The crowd of men made their way out of Red’s and packed into cars and trucks. The boys who were huddled under the streetlamp came running and jumped into any open space they could find. Boone’s stomach churned and bile rose in his throat. He followed after the crowd slowly.