Home > Broken Loyalty (Jacky Leon #3)(9)

Broken Loyalty (Jacky Leon #3)(9)
Author: Kristen Banet, K.N. Banet

“Of course. Does Carey know?” He didn’t seem scared or concerned, only serious. He knew I was trying to treat this as safely as possible, even if the chance it was a threat wasn’t high.

“She figured it out when I reacted. She’s seen it before and put it together on her own. She was a little shaken, though.”

His eyes narrowed, but he didn’t ask. He expected me to explain.

“The first day she was with me,” I told him but didn’t elaborate. He knew about the wolves who came to the bar. He knew how his daughter, eleven at the time, had to pull a silver bullet out of me, then we had to go on the run.

“Stay safe,” he said finally. “Please.” There was worry in the lines of his face, and he seemed a little older at that moment.

“I’ll try,” I promised.

As I drove, the anger came back.

How dare they? This is my home.

I was usually angry when rogues passed through, testing my borders. I’d had a number of territory fights already in my life, a regular occurrence for any werecat who held land. Rogues were always looking for a home or just loved to roam. Sometimes, their intrusion was purposeful, looking to claim something for themselves. Sometimes, it was more accidental. One of the rogues I had met had been in human form, driving. They were on the road, and their path accidentally took them through my territory.

It had been nearly two years since I’d dealt with rogues coming into my territory. Things had changed. With Carey, especially with her as close to me as she had been, all my instincts had screamed to kill anything and anyone who approached. Territory fights weren’t generally fatal, but I had people in my territory I would kill for.

I parked a mile from the edge of my territory and probably a ten-minute jog to the spot where the werecat had breached the line, which told everyone of my kind to stay back.

I debated on Changing into my werecat form before heading to the disturbance; with light fading fast, I knew it was the best choice. Keeping my eye out for passing cars, I quickly stripped, closed the car door, locked it up, and hid my keys in the dirt. Anyone with a nose could find them, which didn’t mean much. I would know they were there long before they could take my car anywhere.

I hated having to be paranoid in my own territory, but I was living by the ‘better safe than sorry’ mantra, going out to check where the werecat had come into my borders.

I snuck into the closest trees and Changed, letting it roll through me and ignoring the pain. Over time, it hurt less, or maybe my tolerance for the pain grew.

I took off at a slow walk, keeping my nose in the air, wondering if I could catch the scent of the other werecat. It was close to forty-five minutes since they breached my territory. They could be miles away, which was for the best.

When I reached the spot, I saw the footprints. They were big, definitely pointing to the werecat being a male. Sniffing around confirmed the assumption, but the scent was quickly fading. With no scent of the cat in the air, I could reasonably guess the werecat was gone, but I still followed the tracks to the very edge of my territory. He’d only come about ten feet in, and I could see how he wandered back on the same path he had used.

Something made me edgy, but I put the sensation down to this being the first rogue to come into my territory since I took the Oath to protect Carey and everything unfolded, leading to werewolves living within my borders.

It’s been over a year. If someone was looking to get back at me for showing a little kindness to the wolves, they would have struck by now.

At least, that was what I wanted to believe. I wasn’t generally paranoid, but the speed and unexpected nature of the werecat’s step into my territory were trying to convince me that something was wrong.

Satisfied- if still edgy- the werecat was well and truly gone, I walked back to my car, staying away from my border since I could feel nothing outside of it. Beyond my borders, I was blind, and that worried me. The male werecat could be downwind and just outside my border, and I wouldn’t know it.

And the fact that it’s a male is a problem. He would be big enough to give me a real challenge, and there are no werecats younger than me, not that I know of. I would be going up against someone bigger and with more experience.

I was thankful he’d decided to leave. If there was anything good about the entire event, it was that he had decided to leave without a fight.

I made it back to my car and was back in it fully dressed within a couple of minutes, not wanting to stay out in the cold in human form any longer than I had to. I didn’t go back to Heath’s, instead sending him a text that the werecat was gone, and I would let him know if it came back. Then I focused on getting home, parking at my bar, and running through the woods back to my house.

Once I was secure in the center of my territory, the edginess subsided, but a small fraction of it remained, and I knew it would bother me for a few days.

I felt like I was missing something to do…

That’s when it hit me. I had two new employees and had yet to tell them anything about what was happening.

“Fuck,” I mumbled. “If I get kicked out of my territory, they’ll be living and working in a building someone will probably burn to the ground.” It was typical procedure for a werecat to erase evidence of the previous occupants. They would destroy my home and rebuild. I would be legally expected to hand over titles and deeds to anything I owned, and if I didn’t, they would forge copies and signatures to take everything from me. If I was kicked from my territory and tried to fight legally, I would be expected to try for a rematch to take the land back.

Even considering it is a pain in the ass, I can’t let some fucking werecat take my territory. This is why my siblings have many of their businesses outside of their territory. It keeps them safe from losing their sources of income. Hell, this is why most werecats don’t keep most of their business in their damn territory.

I rubbed my temples as I sat down on my couch. With a sniff, I could still smell that Carey had been in my space. It was terrifying. A stark reminder that, under no circumstances, could I ever lose.

I checked my cell to see Heath had messaged me back, glad nothing was wrong. He even added that he let Carey know, something I was grateful for. I had given her such a fucking scare with my reaction to the intruder. It wasn’t common to see any scars from what Carey had gone through, and like the men in her family, she didn’t talk about it to me. But for just that moment, it had been there—the fear I would be shot at again, that she was going to be taken, and she wouldn’t see her family anymore.

I had to stop thinking about it. I had to put Carey aside for a moment to consider my other problems. She was safe with her family. Those two wolves would fight to the death for her, and she would get away. She was smart like that. I bet Heath even had a plan already set for her if anything was wrong, and none of the supernaturals around her could or would protect her.

I dialed my eldest sister, Zuri, preferring to talk to her over Davor about Oliver and what to do if I lost my territory. I didn’t see it happening any time soon, but the intruder had been a wakeup call.

“Jacqueline, what can I help you with?” By the tone of her voice, I could imagine her regally lying on a long couch. I didn’t know if she had an office and certainly couldn’t picture her in one as I could with Hasan. I could see her poolside, eating cool fruits and having someone fan her. While it was probably a fantasy, it was the image I got nearly every time I spoke to her.

“I wanted to ask you about Oliver. Why him? Also, I had a werecat drift into my territory for a moment today, and there are some other questions I need answered about what to do with my employees if I lose my territory.” Not wanting a lengthy conversation, I got to the point but realized my error and quickly corrected it. “Also, hi, Zuri. It’s nice to speak to you this evening. Well, it would be closer to morning for you, wouldn’t it?”

“It would, but I was awake, don’t worry,” she replied, a smile in her voice. “A late night, you see. I was about to retire.”

“Of course. Now—”

“Oliver,” she said with a sigh, cutting me off. “Yes. He’s been a small problem for both Davor and me in the last year. Not that any of it was his fault but a problem, nonetheless.”

“Care to elaborate?” I asked, leaning back and getting more comfortable.

“No. He wasn’t at fault, but we felt it was best to send him away for a little while, then Father gave us that chance.”

“So, you’re going to offer me even less information than Niko about the bartender he sent.”

“Oh, we all know about Dirk,” Zuri said with barely concealed annoyance.

“You don’t like him?”

“His mother was a maid at Niko’s home in Berlin, not that he ever used it, who had terrible taste in men. Niko didn’t let it bother him that she was pregnant with a drunk’s child, but after she had the boy, she fell ill. She passed away when he was about a year old, so the boy went to his father. Niko didn’t want to step in unless he couldn’t shape up and be a father.” Zuri sighed again. “Of course, the father and the boy moved out of the country, and Niko lost track of them. A couple of years later, he went hunting and found Dirk in the care of the local government, so he took Dirk in, feeling responsible.”

“Niko raised him?” I said softly, confused. “He’s Niko’s…” I almost said son. Typically, if a werecat raised a young human, they became parent and child.

“Yes. He’s Niko’s, in whatever context you want to think about it. Dirk isn’t the first and won’t be the last human one of the family has taken in. From my understanding, he’s always been a good human and loyal to Niko, loyal to the only father he’s ever known. A very good son, for the most part.”

“But you called him a pain in the ass.”

“To Niko, who had to deal with helping the boy grow up. All teenage boys are a pain.”

“How would you know?” I asked, smirking. “You’ve never raised one, and stereotypes are rude.”

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