Home > Family and Honor (Jacky Leon #2)

Family and Honor (Jacky Leon #2)
Author: Kristen Banet, K.N. Banet

Chapter One

March 9, 2019

It was another Saturday, another night at the bar, and I found myself staring at Joey, an eyebrow raised in question. My phone was going off, but it could wait. I had to address the foolish human in front of me.

“Are we going to do this every week?” I asked, making it clear what I was talking about. He knew. He knew very well what I meant, and still, he gave me a cheeky smile, daring me to make him stop.

“Jacky. Heath is driving here right now, just like he does every Saturday. Now, I’m pretty sure you’re a werewolf because he hangs around like you’re one of his wolves, but you just refuse to admit it.”

It was a game. Over the months since whatever Dallas was, this conversation had become a game.

“Not a werewolf. Never will be a werewolf. Can’t be a werewolf.” I grabbed a rag and a dirty glass and started wiping it down. I would still need to throw it in the dishwasher, but it gave me busy work to wipe them all down beforehand. Busy work was useful when uncomfortable questions and implications were being thrown my way.

I had given up months ago with Joey. Every werewolf in Jacksonville and Tyler had told him I wasn’t a werewolf. Some humans were more perceptive than others, and Joey was one of them, having a small sixth sense for the supernatural. Since he’d gotten some form of confirmation of his not-so-secret belief, thanks to the mess last August, he was going to hang onto it like a dog with a bone.

But still, I played the game.

“You can’t be a werewolf?” Joey snorted. “Why don’t I buy that?”

“I’ve never lied to you. I’m not a werewolf.” I grinned. That was true. I wasn’t a werewolf. Werecats weren’t werewolves. Couldn’t be werewolves. Had a long-standing bad history with werewolves, even. The fact that two lived in my territory was unheard of, never done. Sometimes, territories would accidentally overlap, but those incidences were quickly corrected. Werecats gave everything a wide berth, preferring their own company normally. I was no exception.

But I had let two werewolves move right in with no intention of ever making them leave. It was selfish, honestly. With them came a little human girl named Carey, and she deserved the world. Even after months, I still felt the ache in my chest, demanding me to pick up my phone and call to see how she was doing, to see if she was safe. I was never truly released from my Duty, instead offering my protection for the remainder of her life as long as she lived in my territory. A stupid thing to do, but I had done it.

“Do you deny that Heath is on his way here right now?” Joey countered. “Werewolves only stick around for their pack. They’re very adamant about that. They check in and make sure businesses being run by their people are doing well. He makes an obvious show of supporting your business.”

I gave him a weak glare. I had a natural connection to the earth I claimed as mine, a piece of magic every werecat had. Werecats watched and felt their territory all the time, making sure no supernatural intruders were on the way or had to be dealt with. Since I let the wolves move in, my magic was constantly in overdrive, always accounting for the location of the two wolves, instinctual warning bells playing in the back of my head that they were there, and I hadn’t yet forced them to leave.

So, there was no way I could deny Heath was in his car heading toward my bar for his standard Saturday night drink, forcing Landon to stay at home with Carey. Sometimes they got a babysitter, and both would show up but not tonight. Tonight, it was only Heath.

“He’s on his way,” I said softly, admitting some piece of defeat to Joey. “Heath coming to my bar doesn’t make me a werewolf, though. I helped him out last year. What if we’re just friends?”

“Sure.” Joey was grinning like a fool now. “Friends.”

I schooled my face. The way he was saying it made it sound like Heath and I were secret lovers, a thought I didn’t toy with for long. If it weren’t for the question of my humanity, that would be exactly the sort of thing people would assume by Joey’s choice of words and tone.

“Joey, leave her alone!” someone called out. “It’s your turn. Come get your damn stick, and let’s play!”

“Yeah, Joey. Go play with your friends. I have a business to run.” Waving him away with my rag, he relented. I dropped the rag, knowing it was finally time to deal with whatever was going on with my phone. Everyone knew not to call me during business hours, so it must have been important, something I needed to know immediately or the moment I had a break. I never got calls like that.

I grabbed it from my cubby behind the bar and frowned at the name on the screen. Two missed calls and three texts. Fantastic.

None were Hasan, something that surprised me. Instead, both calls and all the texts were from Jabari, his oldest son and right hand. Jabari was also one of two biological children Hasan had. The rest of the brood were all turned, just like me.

Why is dear older brother calling me?

I was almost scared to unlock my phone and check. It took a moment, but I mustered up the courage. I didn’t have time to listen to my voicemail, but the texts made up for whatever I was missing there.

Jabari: We’ve gotten reports of two dead werecats in the PNW. Hasan is having me tell everyone to keep their heads down.

Jabari: Stay safe, watch your back.

Jabari: Let me know when you’ve gotten this.

I started typing quickly and deleted it just as quickly. What did I say to that? Two dead werecats across the country from me didn’t really pose quite the threat that a werewolf war on my doorstep did.

I continued to think, a sinking realization about what Hasan and Jabari were thinking. They were old cats from before recorded history and had survived a devastating war with the werewolves.

I started typing again, frowning. The sinking feeling didn’t stop. I ignored it as best as I could, trying to carefully word my reply.

“Good evening, Jacky,” someone said from the other side of the bar. I jumped back, then cursed as I saw who it was, my heart pounding. Heath lowered his eyebrows in concern. If he were a human, he would have gotten a laugh because men liked to laugh at women when they got spooked, but we both knew what had just happened was concerning. “I spooked you,” he pointed out immediately in a soft voice like he was trying not to draw more attention to us.

“I was a little distracted.” I waved my phone at him, hoping he would dismiss the entire thing. “Let me finish what I was doing, then I’ll get you a beer.”

“What could have distracted—”

“Don’t worry about it.” I finished my text without care and hit send before shoving the phone into my pocket. “Nothing that concerns you.” The sinking feeling wouldn’t leave. It dampened a little, but it wouldn’t leave.

“Okay.” He seemingly dropped it just like that.

I busied myself pouring him the promised beer and slid it across the bar. It was faster than I normally slid glasses across the bar, and for a moment, I worried it would go over the edge. He grabbed it before that happened, too fast for the natural human eye to see—the very behavior supernaturals tried to avoid in front of humans. He didn’t make a comment about it.

“You look good tonight.”

I looked down at what I was wearing then leveled him with a flat stare. I had on an old black t-shirt, jeans torn at the knees, and dirty steel-toed boots. I didn’t wear makeup and was certain I had done nothing with my hair that would warrant any compliments. It was in a ponytail, with pieces falling out everywhere, especially over my face. It hadn’t been the best of days before the texts from Jabari. I barely got any sleep before opening, which had started the day off on the wrong foot.

He kept an innocent expression on his face as if his statement wasn’t completely out of left field.

“Don’t try flattery,” I finally said pointedly. “It won’t get you the information you want.”

“Who says I’m looking for information?” he countered, raising an eyebrow, matching the one I liked to give people.

“The look on your face.” Shaking my head, I grabbed an empty glass and served myself a drink—water. I didn’t drink while I worked. Leaning on the bar, I eyed him warily. “What do you need tonight, other than being in my business?”

“I came for my customary Saturday night drink,” he replied, his bland innocence refusing to abate and show me what he was thinking. I took a long sip of the water as I watched him, taking in every smell, hoping I could somehow discern what he was thinking.

“Then I’m getting back to work.” I stepped back, putting my drink down at the same time. While he was alone, sitting at the bar proper, there were humans by the pool tables and sitting in a couple of my new booths along the opposite wall who would be needing drinks soon. Most were regulars and those I could prepare for. I knew what they drank, what they didn’t like, and their habits.

“Well, I was hoping you would do something for me,” he added before I made it two steps away. “But really, I’m just here for my drink. We can talk about the other thing later tonight.”

I bit back the groan. “Just tell me, Heath. No reason to make me wait all night for one of us to forget, then you’ll leave and bother me tomorrow with it.” I grabbed my rag again, another dirty glass, and went back to the busy work that kept me occupied, waiting on him.

“You’re going to hate it. You’re really going to chafe with this request.”

“Heath, don’t play games with me right now.” I wiped down the glass with more pressure than I really should have. I worried it was going to crack soon.

“Carey wants all of us to go bowling tomorrow.”

I stopped what I was doing, giving him the most exasperated look I could muster. “Well, why didn’t you say that sooner?” It would get me out of the house on a boring Sunday. I’m always okay with that. “Heath.”

“I wanted to mess with you a little,” he admitted, a smirk forming. “It’s really a lot of fun.”

   
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