Home > Broken Loyalty (Jacky Leon #3)(4)

Broken Loyalty (Jacky Leon #3)(4)
Author: Kristen Banet, K.N. Banet

“I understand. It’s always an uncomfortable line, a boundary. By even working at your establishment, their safety is dependent on you.”

“Yup. I’ve already got Carey, Landon, and you—”

“You don’t need to defend Landon and me. We’re not human, and we’ll fight as any good werewolves fight to defend ourselves. Don’t put my safety as a burden on your shoulders,” he reminded me. “While there’s only two of us, Landon and I have been fighting together for a long time. I’m certain we could defend ourselves well enough to get away from any fight we couldn’t win.”

It wasn’t the first time he had to say something along those lines. The instinctive thing to say to him was, ‘suck it.’ He lived in my territory, and I was always aware of where he was when he was within my boundaries. I was the best person to keep everyone safe.

But he was an Alpha wolf, and he would die before he let someone die for him. He was a man who would fight in a charge, but he would always lead it. He would ask no danger of others he wasn’t willing to take himself. I had a lot of respect for that.

“I know,” I said, lifting my hands in mock defeat. “I just…they know better than to pull stunts like this. The new guys are going to be staying up in the apartment until one or both of them can find their own place to live. That means I have to stay at your place or take Carey out when I want to see her.”

“Or you can take her back to that house I know you’re hiding.”

“That’s my private place,” I whispered. “No one goes back there except me.”

“Not even Carey? That’s surprising.”

“I haven’t let anyone into that house except Jabari since I had it built. And Jabari didn’t really give me a choice.”

“Give it a shot. I happen to know she would love going to your house and sitting on your couch, not just to the apartment over the bar.”

“Maybe. I’ll have to consider it. I’ve got two days to figure out if I’m comfortable with it.” It was frustrating. The longer I thought about my two new, forced-upon-me employees, the more I realized how much they would disrupt my life, and the more I wanted to put them in my car and drive them back to the airport. But I couldn’t because it would be insulting, and now, there was the added thing with Dirk. If Niko needed him to have some time out of Berlin, I needed to help my brother with that.

“You seem really upset about this,” he whispered, shifting his body to face me directly, his shoulder on the wall.

“Hasan asked my siblings to send two people to take over my job and force me to…I don’t really know, actually. I have nothing to do outside of this. He said it was to free up my time and keep my business open while I was doing any official duties for the thing, but…it’s been seven months. None of the werecats have contacted me with any problems they want to work out or even to introduce themselves. I was told it was normal, that I wouldn’t hear anything until it was absolutely necessary, but there’s still an information network among werecats. The family includes me in it now, but not the werecats of my region. I’m their go-to if they need anything from Hasan, our Tribunal member. You would think…”

“Hey…” He reached out and touched my shoulder. “You have a right to be pissed at your family for invading your space like this. Fuck offending them and send the humans back. I don’t really like this either. It makes it feel like the friendship we’ve fostered is dirty, and we need to be watched. You’re right, we don’t have any secrets, but…”

“But…” I agreed. It was already unheard of for a werewolf to live in a werecat’s territory, even more unheard of for us to be allies. It would be scandalous if anyone really knew we were close friends. While we hadn’t yet done or said anything to be considered betrayers by our own people, I knew we were toeing a line that couldn’t be crossed.

But when I looked into his grey-blue eyes, I wanted to cross the line and jump off a cliff. It was a problematic feeling. The steady wave of scent that came off him, increasing with each week, was challenging in its own way, evidence he was feeling the same. It had started as a joke when we came back from Washington, but like all crushes I’d had in my life, once I recognized it, it seemed to multiply. It looked like Heath was having a similar problem—close proximity was making the attraction grow.

I moved a couple feet away from him, and his hand fell off my shoulder.

“We have no secrets,” I repeated, wondering if I could ever believe it. “We’re just allies.”

“Of course,” he murmured, still staring at me. “We should probably go back inside before questions are asked.”

I looked at the back door, sighing as I nodded in agreement.

“Yeah. This sucks.”

“You can send them back,” he reminded me.

“No, I can’t. The entire family came together to send those two, and Niko needed Dirk out of Berlin for a little while. There was a fight that sounded rough. The guy obviously needs some time at a more…relaxed location. I can offer that. I haven’t heard back about this Oliver kid, but he doesn’t seem bad.”

“What’s your impression of him?”

“Young. Enthusiastic. Probably feels like this is his chance to establish the beginning of his reputation in the business, especially among my family. If he can chill out a little and his work is good, I bet he’ll be working for one of my siblings until he retires.” I opened the back door and tried to wave Heath in, but he reached over me, grabbed the door, and waited on me to go inside. It left his chest a little too close to my back, so I stepped forward before my mind spiraled out of control again. I tried to keep two feet between the werewolf and myself at all times, but I nearly always failed. He had this habit of taking up space, and while my personal bubble was pretty big most of the time, his was nonexistent.

I went upstairs to the office first, opening the door without knocking. Oliver jumped, papers flying, but not a single strand of his auburn hair was out of place. I watched as he tried to grab the papers and collect himself at the same time. His glasses were a little crooked, and his dark green eyes were bright, not showing a single sign of the exhaustion paperwork normally gave me.

“Is there anything you need…Jacky?” He practically choked, saying my first name.

“Want to meet Heath Everson?” I asked, trying not to seem intimidated or bothered by whatever was happening in my office. Or maybe it was his office now. Maybe I needed to start using the office in my house.

“Oh, I would love to!” The young man beamed and walked around the desk, leaning to look around me, his eyes going wide at the sight of the werewolf behind me. I stepped to the side to give them an open view of each other.

“Heath, this is Kick Shot’s new manager, Oliver Price. A few members of his family also work for my siblings. Oliver, this is Heath Everson, previous Alpha of the Dallas werewolf pack, and currently, the werewolf representative to the werecats.”

“It’s an honor to meet you,” Oliver said quickly, shoving out his hand. Heath took it with a bemused smile. Oliver, in all of his enthusiasm, shook fast and for a little too long, making Heath have to be the one to stop it. I tried not to laugh. Oliver had to deal with cranky me when he arrived, but he was obviously not thrown off his game by Heath. “When it was explained to me that you lived in the territory, I did a lot of research on you. You’ve owned several restaurants and clubs over the years all over Texas. I was wondering why you never opened a location in Houston.”

“It’s not proper for an Alpha to build financial establishments in another pack’s territory,” Heath explained. I stepped back a little further as Oliver led Heath into the office. “We allow other species to work within our borders, though.”

“Oh, I know that. The London locations where my parents work are both technically within the London Pack’s territory. We allowed the wolves to visit as long as our…” I watched Oliver search for the right word, having to cover my mouth. This was entirely too funny.

“As long as the location owners weren’t in the building?” Heath rephrased and finished for the flustered human.

“Yes. We also didn’t make it public knowledge who owned—”

“I promise you, the London Pack knows who owns what in their city. They just know better than to cause anyone any problems. Wolf territories are important to wolves, but we can’t and don’t impose them on others unless someone of another species is a known enemy of the pack—say, a vampire who is known to hunt werewolves or a fae who conned a werewolf business. But an Alpha always knows who lives in their city.”

“Oh…I wonder if my parents know that?” Oliver pondered, tapping his chin as he walked around the desk. “Do you help out here at Kick Shot?”

“I pay my tab once a month,” Heath answered, smiling. “But no, this is Jacky’s establishment. I’m just a customer.”

“Ah, okay, then. I was hoping to draw on some of your expertise about the area and the local Texans.” Oliver said Texans like they were aliens he didn’t understand.

“It’s a billiards bar or a dive bar, depending on how you look at it. It’s not here to make me lots of money, Oliver.” I wanted to put my foot down before I saw the wild ideas in the young man’s eyes begin to take hold.

“Well, I was looking over—”

“Oliver. Slow changes. Small changes,” I said, reminding him of our earlier conversation. “Now, with you two introduced, Heath and I are going downstairs to have a couple of drinks.” I grabbed the wolf’s shoulder and pulled him along. I heard the door click closed behind me and looked at Heath with an eyebrow raised.

“He’s something,” Heath said with a chuckle. “Well, at least things won’t be boring for anyone in your territory any time soon.”

   
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