Home > Broken Loyalty (Jacky Leon #3)(16)

Broken Loyalty (Jacky Leon #3)(16)
Author: Kristen Banet, K.N. Banet

“Why not? He obviously needs to be taught a lesson.”

“He’s a rogue. The longer a werecat is a rogue, the better they get at fighting because it’s really all they do. He also has to be older than me, and he’s male, which sucks because he’s going to be a lot bigger than me.” I rubbed my eyes. “I’ll figure it out, but I can’t leave my territory to hunt him down. It would remove the one big advantage I have right now.”

“Knowing where he is when he steps into your territory,” Heath said, nodding. “I just don’t like this.”

“I don’t either, but I’m going to make some calls today. Oliver and Dirk are off buying Dirk a car. They’ve promised not to leave my territory and should be back before nightfall, which gives me some time to get ahold of people.”

“Do you think your family might have dealt with something like this before?”

“I don’t know, but it’s worth a shot.” I hated lying to him, but really it was more of an omission. I phrased everything as if I was talking about one of the four werecats toying with my borders and keeping me awake at night, which didn’t give him a hint of a lie in my scent. And I knew he was waiting for it. There was only so much more paranoid I could get until he knew without a doubt I was hiding something. We were beyond that point.

“It is. I know you could defeat anyone who comes in here. I trust in you for that. I just don’t like to see you be toyed with like this. It doesn’t seem right.”

“I don’t think it is,” I whispered. “You go. I’m going to get home and make these calls. I’ll let you know if there’s anything you need to do if you’re willing to help.”

“Always,” he said softly.

I walked to my car and drove home fast. When I parked in the back, I saw the new pickup truck and tried to smile. Of course, some car salesman convinced my two Europeans they needed a Ford F150. It fit Dirk, which was even more puzzling, but I couldn’t go up and give them shit about it. One, I promised them I would leave them be today, and two, I really needed to talk to my family. I had asked for a family meeting about my current situation, and they would be waiting for me in only a few minutes.

I barely had time to kick off my shoes and let my hair out of the annoying bun when I walked inside. Dropping in front of my computer, I looked at the new communication system—a top-of-the-line camera that should please Zuri and Davor and not annoy the others.

I was the last one to sign in to the group video conference.

“Jacqueline, you asked for a family meeting,” Hasan started. “Is there something going on?”

“Yes. I’ve had four werecats come into my territory and leave before I could get to them, at least twice each, over the last two weeks,” I said, laying it out quickly. “Three males, one female. I’m assuming they’re all rogues.”

“That’s unusual…” my werecat father said, frowning into his camera. It felt like his eyes were opening my soul and baring my secrets to him.

“You’ve never heard of this happening before?” I asked, wanting to shake my monitor like it was him, and it would rattle some knowledge out of his mouth.

“Sister, are you okay?” Jabari asked softly.

“No. I’m losing sleep,” I said, annoyed. “They…they keep stepping in just long enough for me to know what and where they are. I’ve even been able to process long enough to give a warning through my connection with the land only once, that very first time. I think the only reason I reacted so fast that time was because Carey was with me in my house at the center of my territory. That was the first time. The next time, I was headed home from work on Saturday. Then there’s been…” I took a deep breath. “There’s no pattern. It just keeps happening, and it’s keeping me awake at night. I never know the next time they’re coming.”

“Is it ever more than one at once?” Hisao asked.

“No, never more than one at a time, but it’s still four werecats, congregating around my territory. That’s so many.”

“It is,” Mischa agreed, growling. “You are a toy in a game to them, sister.”

“I figured that out.” I eyed Mischa on my screen, then looked back at Hasan’s face. He seemed to be concentrating, thinking as he drummed his fingers on his desk. “Hasan?”

“I’ve never heard of werecats doing something like this,” he said softly. “Be very careful, Jacqueline. Mischa, you know rogues better than all of us.”

“I am one, of course I do,” my Russian-born sister said with a mean look. “When I need to shake up a werecat who’s pissed me off, I’ll deploy a similar tactic. It reminds them I’m the real power. There are other werecats who do it just for a laugh. They’ll toy with you for a few days to a few months until they get bored. There’s not much you can do unless you catch one in the act and teach him or her a lesson.”

“Is that really what you think? She’s got a bunch of assholes?” Niko growled. “Dirk is in her territory right now. He’s at risk.”

“So is Oliver,” Zuri snapped. “While I didn’t raise him, the boy is a good human, and I don’t want him hurt either. That being said, Mischa knows rogues better than any one of us. The same as you know werewolves.” She turned on me. “Have you made a plan?”

“They have an escape plan now, and Dirk bought a truck today. They have a way out, and the meet up location is the airport. If anything turns serious, I’ll put them on planes.”

“If you make it there,” Niko said softly. “What if you can’t?”

“I can give them to Heath and his family, or I can have Heath meet them at the airport and make sure they fly out. It’s not the same level of protection, I know, but it would at least give them strength in numbers and get them out of the country.”

“You trust the wolf?” Davor asked, finally speaking up.

“I do,” I said, nodding. “That hasn’t changed and probably won’t. He’s just as at risk right now as your humans.”

“I don’t,” Davor snapped. “Oliver isn’t just Zuri’s. He’s also mine. If anything happens to him, we’re going to have words, little sister.”

“I was wondering when the asshole would come out to play,” I snarled at him. “I didn’t fucking ask for Oliver or Dirk. I’ll do my absolute best to protect them, but don’t shovel the blame on my shoulders.”

“Stop it,” Hasan ordered. “Let’s review. Jacqueline has four werecats breaching her borders, toying with her. What’s the worst-case scenario?”

“One of them attacks,” Mischa said.

“All of them attack,” Jabari countered. “It’s not natural for werecats to congregate like this, which means they know what they’re doing. If they came into her territory in full force…” I saw the flash of worry go through his eyes and over his face.

If they all attacked me at once, I would be a very dead werecat.

“Why would they do that?” Zuri asked. “Anything Jacky may have done, by now, has been proven to have no resounding effects on the werecats. Things settled down in the last six months, especially thanks to that incident last spring and our announcement about her position. On top of that, the repercussions from our family if werecats killed one of our own? Who gains anything?”

“I think I’m right,” Mischa said with a shrug. “I think they’re having a laugh. Rogues aren’t all enemies. There’s a chance some of them might not be rogues, but werecats in Jacky’s region who want to toy with her. I have a feeling they’ll call a meeting soon and talk it out with you or just disappear and not bother you anymore.”

“Do we send someone to back up Jacky?” Hisao asked. “I’m willing to go. They’ll back off a lot sooner when they learn I’ve landed in Texas.”

Those words made shivers run down my spine. Hisao was a terrifying male. He had a lethality to him that couldn’t be denied. I probably couldn’t win a fight against any of my siblings, but I could at least give them a couple of good reasons to stop fighting me. Hisao carried himself as if he could kill me, or anyone for that matter, without a thought.

“Want to make her look weak?” Mischa snapped. “That’s how you do it. Then, the moment you leave, they’ll be right back at it. Jacky will continue to foster a reputation that her family has to save her from problems of her own making. First, the Tribunal thing with the werewolves, and now this? Which are probably harmless games? They’ll be laughing at her for centuries, and she’ll never have any respect among the werecats.”

“Mischa is right,” Hasan said sadly. “Jacqueline, you’ll have to get through this on your own. If they attack you, we’ll send the full family to you, but we can’t overreact without reason.”

“I know,” I said. I was fine with that. “Should we discuss a possible battle plan?”

“If multiple werecats enter your territory looking for a fight, little sister, you better turn and walk away. Is that clear? None of us would ever take on a group of our kind. One of the reasons we have so much power is because we’re such a big family, willing to throw our lives on the line for each other. While we don’t ever use that tactic on other werecats, it doesn’t mean the threat of it isn’t real.” Zuri huffed. “I couldn’t win by myself against four others. Neither could Jabari, though he and Father would have the best chance. Father?”

“I’ve never had to, so I don’t know,” he answered honestly. “I’m certain if all of you decided to turn on me, I would be in for a difficult fight. I might take a few of you out, but I don’t see myself winning. The problem is, fighting as a group is inherently uncomfortable for werecats. We can’t communicate in our werecat forms, which is only one problem.”

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