Home > Family and Honor (Jacky Leon #2)(5)

Family and Honor (Jacky Leon #2)(5)
Author: Kristen Banet, K.N. Banet

I wasn’t sure where the thought came from, but I let it pass, trying to not think any more about the fourth, very dead member of the Everson family. He was dead because I killed him, and for some unknown and illogical reason, they didn’t hold it against me. Carey acted like that day had never happened, like her brother never tried to kill her over petty jealousy, fighting for their father’s love.

It was odd, to say the least, but they never brought it up, so neither did I. It haunted me, though, seeing them over the holidays and remembering how I killed one of them.

On bad nights, I remembered the blood in my mouth every time I’d had to kill a wolf during that entire affair. I remembered the blazing pain of being shot with silver bullets. I remembered the wide, scared eyes of Carey and the clear snap of her wrist breaking.

I was never one for violence, and it had left its mark, even if I never told any of them.

“Jacky?” Carey’s voice was soft and concerned. “Are you going to eat?”

I blinked, nodding quickly. Shit, I can’t zone out like that around her.

“Yeah. Where’s a plate?”

One was dropped in front of me with three pieces of pizza. Heath stood near me, watching carefully, close enough I could guess who had dropped the plate. Landon was across the lane on a bench, already munching on his share. He watched me just as carefully, though, with a hint more wariness than his father, a hardness in his eyes that made me stiffen slightly. Instinct made me recognize I had killed the weaker son. Landon was much more dangerous than his brother and maybe even his father.

“Calm,” Heath murmured. “Both of you.”

“What’s wrong?” Carey demanded, picking up on her father’s words.

“Landon,” Heath snapped, turning away from me and toward his boy. “She zoned out. It happens.”

I quickly realized the werewolves must have caught a scent on me they didn’t like. I sighed, shaking my head to dismiss what was on my mind, trying to rattle the thoughts out.

“Nothing is wrong, promise. Just had an errant thought, and paired with that call, I was distracted.”

“Yup.” Landon took another bite of his pizza, breaking the eye contact. Heath visibly relaxed, and Carey smelled of confusion but didn’t ask for anything else.

“What was the call about?” Heath asked blandly. “You were busy on your phone last night when I showed up, too. Something going on?”

“Nothing you need to know about. It has nothing to do with us.” I distracted myself by grabbing the lemonade and taking a long sip before continuing. “ I don’t plan on telling you but even if I did, it can’t be said here.”

“Is it family stuff?” Carey asked, just as keen as her father was.

“If I can answer with yes or no, will that be enough?” I asked her in return. A child’s curiosity should be nourished, at least I thought so, but I couldn’t give her too much. I wasn’t going to tell her how I was thinking of her dead brother and how I killed him or how my family was mad at me for what I did to protect her.

“Sure!” She beamed, and I knew she was going to use my weak will against me soon. She would try to learn more tomorrow during our game night.

“Yes and no,” I answered, grinning as she fell into my trap.

“That doesn’t tell me anything!”

“I’m with Carey. That’s a shit answer,” Heath said almost petulantly. Landon chuckled next to his father.

“I could have told you she would do that. She doesn’t tell anyone anything,” he reminded his father. “I mean, how much do we really know about her? I certainly can’t find more than what you and I dug up on her years ago.”

I continued to grin at Carey as her eyes worked out the answer I gave and saw the wheels spinning as she formed her plan to find out more. I ignored the words of the wolves, not letting the slight touch of distrust in Landon’s tone bother me, pocketing away the fact that Landon was still trying to find information on me. That was something I needed to snap at Heath for. He needed to keep his wolf in line.

“Fine. So, it’s kind of about family.” Carey leaned back in her seat, smiling.

“Kind of,” I agreed. “Now, let’s forget it and get back to food and finish our game.”

It wasn’t forgotten, but it was ignored. I inhaled my pizza and went for two more pieces before the werewolves could go in for seconds. I’d learned at Thanksgiving I had to get enough early or there would be none left. When the game restarted, Carey and I once again were driven to beat the men on the other side of the lane. Every frame, Heath grew more defeated, exaggerating that Carey was whooping his ass, while Landon remained his quiet self, not getting any better or worse at bowling.

It was nearly six when they were done, and Carey yawned, making all three adults watch her.

“This was fun. Can we do it again soon, Dad?”

“Sure. Why don’t we try to make it once a month?” He smiled indulgently. I watched the interaction, my heart aching just a little. I had wanted to be a mom once and wanted my late fiancé to be the same doting father Heath was now.

It stung. For just a moment, seeing them, it stung.

“Jacky?” Carey turned her grey-blue eyes on me.


“Once a month?”

“Oh yeah, I can come. Just let me know what Sunday you want me.” I wasn’t going to turn her down, that was certain. I also wasn’t expecting a standing invitation to their family outings. By Heath’s face, he wasn’t either. He didn’t say anything, but I saw a flicker of annoyance and could guess where it was coming from. He probably didn’t want some werecat going on their family outings all the time, and I already had Carey every Monday after school until she had to go home.

“Well, it’s time for us to head out,” Heath announced. “I’ll pay for the lanes, Jacky. Don’t worry about it.”

“I can help,” I reminded him, knowing it wouldn’t help but wanting to try anyway.

“Our group is bigger and dragged you out to this. We’ve got it.” His tone was one I knew well, from men specifically. The ‘don’t argue with me’ tone. I’d heard it from fathers, boyfriends, guy friends, even male strangers.

Brothers, too, if I can really call any of Hasan’s older children my siblings.

I shrugged and hugged Carey, heading out before there was another lengthy conversation, or I got roped into anything else, like movies or dinner at their place. By the look in Carey’s eyes, she was thinking about it.

“Drive safe!” she called after me. I gave her a small salute, our new sign for listening to each other. “I’ll see you tomorrow!”

“Yes, you will! I’ll pick you up at four!” I slid into my car before anymore could be said. It was hard walking away from Carey. The girl was chatty, always wanting to have the last word, always wanting to know more, know what was going on, being involved with the adults, or trying to make friends.

I drove off quickly, trying not to think about how I was possibly betraying my kind just by hanging out with her and her werewolf family. Jabari’s words had hit home.

Chapter Four

I got home and didn’t stop at my bar, instead jumping on my small dirt bike to head back to my house deep in the woods. I should have stopped in the bar, knowing I had work to do, but that sinking feeling was back, and thoughts were running through my mind I had to put to rest.

Am I really doing something wrong by hanging around the wolves?

I didn’t think about it for a long time. They lived nearby, and I hung out with Carey, who was human. I kept my head down and didn’t engage in politics and whispers.

Now, I was beginning to regret that. From Heath to Jabari, things were being brought to my attention I should have thought about months before. I should have paid attention to Hasan when he said he didn’t think I made a sound decision about the wolves moving in.

There was only one person I could think to ask as I pulled in front of my house. I sighed as I kicked off my shoes at the front door, wandering into my living room. For a second, I stared into the woods around my home, through the massive glass windows I had along one side of my home. My home was beautiful and modern, but I wanted a connection to nature even when I was inside it. The windows did that for me.

I dropped onto my couch and pulled my phone out of my pocket, considering my decision to make the call. Ever since Jabari texted me the night before, it had floated at the back of my mind. Heath giving me an update on the wolves, especially those trying to talk to werecats and become allies, only made the sinking feeling worse. Then Jabari on the phone? I hadn’t expected that at all.

“I hope she has answers,” I mumbled to myself, pushing the call button on Lani’s contact information.

It only rang once.

“Jacky! Long time no talk. How’re you?”

Normally, I would have immediately launched into whatever was going on, but something sounded nervous as hell about the entire line—anxious.

“I’m good, how are you?” I answered, posing the question back on her.

“Good, good. Just busy. You know how it is.”

“I do. Life gets busy sometimes.”

Right after that, there was an awkward beat of silence. There used to be a time when Lani and I could talk easily. That had changed after the Dallas incident. Calls with Lani died off as I realized the new awkward strain between us. I wasn’t sure if it was my family in the werecat world or not, but something had strained the tentative bonds we had.

“What did you need?” Lani finally asked, her anxiety wearing off as she must have realized I was only calling because something was on my mind.

“Do you listen to werecat politics?” I asked, leaning back on my couch, trying to relax.

“Yes, I’m active in them, actually. Are you looking for some information in particular or…?”

“Information. I was recently told werewolves were trying to open more communication with werecats because of what happened last year. I then was told that a lot of werecats were mad about it, preferring to be left alone…” I trailed off, trying to ask the question on my mind. “There are two dead werecats in Washington. Is there a chance it’s my fault because of everything that happened with the Dallas pack and the Tribunal?”

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