Home > Echoed Defiance (Jacky Leon #4)

Echoed Defiance (Jacky Leon #4)
Author: Kristen Banet, K.N. Banet

Chapter One

June 8th, 2020

Someone who shouldn’t have been outside my house woke me up when I had no need to be up at seven in the morning, only four short hours after I got to sleep. It was a warm June morning in East Texas, humid to the point sweat formed at just the thought of going outside. It wasn’t unusual for the area. Muggy, hot days were common as spring gave way to the blistering summer to come. It didn’t make me excited to go outside, knowing it would leave me gross and needing another shower.

But my werecat magic was telling me I had a visitor, so I got dressed in shorts and a tank, the most comfortable things I could find. Anything more would have been sweltering if I was going to be outside, and that wouldn’t do.

Not that he’s going to mind my state of dress.

I walked out the front door and smiled as I leaned against a column on my patio.

“Good morning, Heath,” I said as he came into view. Walking in from the trail that connected my home to the rest of the world, he didn’t say anything as he drew closer. I watched his every step, taking in how he was dressed. He’d been out for a run—a human run. His shorts only made it halfway down his muscular thighs, and the luxury running shoes probably cost him two to three hundred dollars, if not more. His expensive tastes were matched with an old concert tee, though I didn’t know the band.

“Good morning, Jacky,” he greeted, coming up the three steps in one small jump. There was something hot in his eyes, and I knew what was coming. This little discussion was only perfunctory. “I was out for a run and decided to stop by.”

“Must have been a long run,” I commented as he snaked an arm around my waist and brought our bodies together. He lived all the way in Tyler, toward the edge of my territory. If he ran it human, he was a fool.

Or a showoff, but considering the heat this morning, fool is definitely the one I’m going to go with.

Heath Everson, a werewolf Alpha, living in the territory of a werecat was the most unusual setup we could have possibly come up with. Werewolves and werecats didn’t get along on the best of days, and they went to war with each other during the not-so-good times. There was an ancient and bitter rivalry between the two, which infested everything, creating deep-seated hatred between the two species. It came up in everything—how werewolves and werecats lived very different lives, how they Changed people using a different protocol. Werecats generally looked at werewolves as over-breeding, irresponsible nightmares who were dangerous to everyone around them and callous with human life. Werewolves thought werecats were pretentious hypocrites with no social skills and a power complex.

Heath and I had found something different from what our predecessors believed. We were brought together by his daughter. He’d never met me, but one day his daughter had shown up at the back door of my bar, calling on the old supernatural Law which called werecats to Duty. It was essentially bodyguard work, and its very existence was the solution to a particular problem from before my time when werecats and werewolves were at war.

Being called to Duty had driven me to lengths I hadn’t realized I would go, sent me to places I never thought I would see—such as the den of a strong pack of werewolves in the middle of a civil war.

And into the life of a werewolf who just wanted to retire from a position that made being a father hard.

At the time, I was certain neither of us ever expected a tenuous bond through a precocious human girl to bring us here. Carey was his only daughter, and I could never get between them. She was something I needed in my life, and I was something she needed, and he could never get between us.

So here we were, an Alpha werewolf without a pack, living in my werecat territory.

That wasn’t the only social convention we were tossing to the wayside, though. His arm held me in place, and I made no move to get away.

Maybe we’re both fools.

He only chuckled at my comment about the long run, as he leaned in to capture my mouth in a passionate good morning kiss that betrayed emotions we both tried desperately to pretend we didn’t have. The kiss felt like a reunion even though it had only been a few days since I last saw him. The full moon had passed over the weekend, and we never spent time together when it was near. It was too volatile, too dangerous for us and everyone within a twenty-mile radius. He stayed in his corner of my territory, and I stayed clear of him. It was the safest way.

I tried to step back, but he followed until my back was against my front door, and he was in every inch of my space. He propped an arm on the door over me, closing me in, while his other hand held me to him. I was strong enough to break free since I was the dominant predator here—one werecat could always handle one werewolf.

I just didn’t want to. Wrapping my arms around his neck, I encouraged him to continue.

The kiss grew more possessive. He ran that hand down my back, over the curve of my hip to my thigh, lifting it to wrap around his waist.

Feeling the urge to reach for the door and invite him in, I knew it was time to stop. I pulled my head back as much as I could, letting it knock my front door, an obvious sign to him we needed to break this up.

“You need to run home,” I whispered, trying to control my breathing and my pulse. “It’s a school day.”

“School ended like two weeks ago,” he said with a growl, leaning in further to kiss my jaw, then ducked down to kiss my neck. “I wanted to see you.”

Shit.

“You can come in and have coffee, but the paws need to come off and kept to yourself. We’ve never even been on a date.” I was looking for excuses, really. I wasn’t ready to jump into bed with Heath Everson, no matter how good his mouth felt on my neck.

His heavy sigh was humorously overdone. Slowly releasing me, he made it apparent he didn’t want to, but when his grey-blue eyes met mine, I knew he understood.

“I wish it wasn’t like this,” he murmured, leaning in. This time he just touched his forehead to mine and gave me a stare that threatened to send me to my knees. There was an intensity to Heath which had become stronger over the last few months—animal magnetism he had been holding back to appear to be a nice, normal human-like man. That pretense, though, was long gone between us.

“We’re taking enough risks. Why add one more?” I asked, swallowing my own want. “This just…It puts everyone at risk, Heath.”

“I know.”

That was my logical excuse and a good reason not to crawl under the covers with the Alpha wolf who threatened to send me up in flames with just the simplest of touches.

I had several illogical excuses I was never stupid enough to tell him. I hadn’t had sex in over a decade. Since before my fiancé died, a man who had loved me and wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. I wasn’t even sure I had moved on from Shane, and kissing another man made me think about it more. Beyond Shane, I wasn’t sure if I wanted Heath because I wanted him, if it was the taboo that drew me in, or he was just the first man to show me any interest since I lost my human life.

I didn’t know enough about myself to know how I felt about anything anymore. I knew I liked kissing Heath. I loved hanging out with him and his family. They filled a void in my life I didn’t know I had until they strolled into it.

He finally left my personal bubble, and I was able to fumble my way into my own house. He didn’t reach out to help, and the sexual tension was still thick on the air. Honestly, I was glad he didn’t help.

“How did you end up running here this early in the morning?” I asked, looking over my shoulder as I walked into the kitchen. I started a pot of coffee while he looked at my things. I kept everything relatively clean, so I wasn’t worried about anything embarrassing, and he’d already been this far into my house—no further, though. He never left the public spaces, and he had certainly never been in my house with me alone. We always had Carey around to keep us honest. I needed her to keep me honest. She had no idea I was kissing her father, and I didn’t want to give that dangerous secret to a thirteen-year-old girl who already had enough pressure in her life.

I turned to him after I was done setting up the coffee and realized he never answered while I was lost in thought.

“Heath?”

“Hm?”

“How did you end up running all the way out here?” I asked again, frowning at him.

“I caught your scent on one of my running trails and just followed it…Well, the wolf followed it,” he admitted softly. And it was a secret to admit. We were predators, werewolves and werecats. If we were wild and uncivilized, or if our animals took control for a minute—which happened more frequently than some would want to admit—there weren’t many reasons to hunt a particular scent. Either his wolf wanted to hunt me, or his wolf wanted to mate me.

Six months ago, I would have assumed hunt. Now, I didn’t. The only reason he had caught my scent on his human running trail was my cat had gone to sniff out his running trails over the last full moon—two sides of the same coin, Heath and I.

Normally, the divide between person and animal was clear for the moon-cursed species. Humans were always in control. Heath and I were human first. Personally, I only gave in to the instinctual urges of the cat on full moons. Most of the time, she and I were in complete agreement about everything happening around us, and it was a background idea we were two separate pieces of the same mind. It sounded like a second personality, but it was just a clear divide between the animalistic nature of the mind and the logical or rational human one. Sometimes, those two sides got into very real arguments. Hence why many spoke of the animal as ‘other.’

“Did the wolf get what he wanted?” I leaned on the counter, watching Heath. His eyes turned from soft grey-blue to hard ice-blue.

“Not particularly,” he answered. I kept my eyes locked on his, refusing to look down. Seeing what I knew was there would only make this more awkward.

“This is the first time your wolf has led you here,” I whispered, letting the idea sink in. Attachments could be good things, but they could quickly spiral out of control. I was a werecat and had to be very careful. We were possessive and dangerous animals. I worked hard to not get too attached to Heath and failed every time. All the werecats I knew and spoke to called him my werewolf. It was a joke, playing on the fact he lived in my territory, but it freaked me out because I knew just how right they were.

   
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