Home > Broken Loyalty (Jacky Leon #3)(11)

Broken Loyalty (Jacky Leon #3)(11)
Author: Kristen Banet, K.N. Banet

I sagged in relief and went to get ready. I ran down the trail, wondering where the hell my dirt bike was since I hadn’t used it in three days.

Did I take it to the shop and forget about it? Maybe I do need an assistant.

I jumped into my car and flew out of the parking lot, ignoring the two lonely cars parked out front. A normal starting Tuesday for Kick Shot.

When I arrived at their home, Carey was already outside, waiting for me with the biggest smile.

“Hey!” I said, grinning at her as I got out of my car. “Hope you don’t mind me dropping in.”

“We’re having pot roast, and you’re going to sit next to me!” Carey ran forward and grabbed my hand, pulling me along to follow her. I couldn’t get rid of the smile. Carey’s welcome brightened my mood more, something I hadn’t even considered I needed.

“That sounds amazing.”

“Were you really that bored not being able to work?” she asked as she opened the front door, being a good, if short, host. I let her, knowing this was a special occasion to her. I didn’t come to hang out unless I was already invited. I never asked.

“I was. I’m used to working. Like you got bored last summer without school.”

“Yeah, but school sucks,” she said, wrinkling her nose. “I don’t know why I missed it. It’s really boring too.”

“Sometimes, work is like that, but it’s still what we do every day,” I reminded her. “So, when we suddenly don’t have it...”

“We miss it, even though it’s stupid?” She looked up at me, her eyes bright with knowledge and new ideas.

“Yes—”

“Carey, what did I say about calling things stupid?” Heath called loudly from the kitchen.

“Sorry!” she yelled back, then gave me a look. I could already see the teenager she was going to grow into, and that was a terrifying thing. She was smart, quick-witted, and a little defiant, ready to take on the world at the age of twelve.

She’s going to kill us all when she turns sixteen and gets her first car. I already know it.

I didn’t question anymore if they were still going to be living in my territory in a few years. With Heath’s new position as a representative and mine, it was more likely than not, we would live near each other at least for another decade, and I was surprisingly okay with it.

She led me into the dining room, where I could see Heath in the kitchen, wearing the most ridiculous apron I had ever seen. It said Zookeeper and had a cartoon piece of meat on it. I could only imagine it was a teasing reference to the zoo his family might have been once, with two adult werewolf sons and a precocious human daughter.

Honestly, it reminded me of the boxers I had seen in Washington. My face heated as I remembered them and the rest of my view during that trip.

Terrible place for that memory to pop up. Cool down before he notices. Or worse, Landon notices.

Heath looked up and smiled, and I knew by the smile he could scent something from across the room.

“How’re you this evening?” he asked, his voice betraying nothing.

“Bored. Thank you for having me.”

“I understand. Go ahead and have a seat. Carey, go get your brother. He’ll be outside.”

“Okay!” Carey barreled through the back door into their massive backyard. The moment she was gone, Heath put down the very large knife he was holding and walked toward me. Once he was too close for comfort, I could hear him sniff the air around me, then he stepped back.

“Take a deep breath,” he ordered softly. “Landon is going to notice, but I’m certain he’s already gotten wind of it from me when I haven’t been paying attention. He’s not going to say anything, but you don’t like being embarrassed, and I know you will be. Take a deep breath and bring your pulse down. Think of something else and try to let go of the emotion.”

I followed his instructions, thinking of anything else, like what could possibly be going on in my bar at that moment.

“Thank you,” I whispered. “Landon’s not out back, is he?” I knew Heath could be a little devious when it came to his children and finding ways to get them to do what he wanted.

“No, he’s upstairs, but she wasn’t paying attention, and I wanted to distract her,” he said patiently. “What were you thinking about?”

“Wouldn’t that defeat the purpose of the breathing exercise?”

“Possibly, but I’m curious.”

“Then I’m not telling you,” I said with a bit of sass that wasn’t like me at all. “Feeding your curiosity isn’t why I’m here.”

“It kind of is since I was curious to see what you would be like at dinner with my family, in my house, away from your comfortable place in the bar,” he retorted. “But fine. I’ll find out eventually.”

“No, I don’t think you will.” I had no intention of telling him I was thinking about his boxers. I took several more deep breaths as those memories came back, and I had to divert my thoughts to anything else, like Carey. She was stomping back in, looking annoyed. The back door slammed as she glared at her father.

“He’s not outside! You did that on purpose!”

“I did. I wanted to talk to Jacky about adult things,” he answered without a shred of guilt. Instead, he grinned mischievously and walked back into the kitchen. “Landon is upstairs in his office. He got a call from an old friend. Tell him dinner is about to go on the table.”

I snickered as she threw her hands up and went to the stairs, a stomp accentuating every step, telling me when she was out of earshot again.

“I can help,” I said as he started lifting dishes.

“No, you are going to sit down and wait like a proper guest. This is my house, and no guest ever sets my table,” he said with a bit of that Alpha sharpness I hadn’t heard from him in a while.

“Excuse me?” I raised an eyebrow and dared to grab a bowl off the counter, sniffing to identify it as a potato dish. There was a lot of cheese too. I put it on the table while he watched, his grey-blue eyes narrowing in on the bowl, then flicking up to my face.

“Why can’t you just do things the way I want sometimes?”

“Because I don’t recognize Alphas, and I’m not a subordinate,” I answered, staring him down. “If you had asked nicely, I would have sat down.”

I watched him work through that. This wasn’t the first time we had the discussion, but asking him not to order me around was asking him to do something against his nature. As for me following orders? I could. I tried for Hasan and the family if they needed me to or I was out of my depth with something.

But this? He had tried to be an Alpha with me, and I certainly wasn’t going to ever let that happen.

“My apologies. You’d think I would have figured that out by now. It’s because you’re in my house. I’m used to being in charge of everything in my house. There aren’t many people who willingly talk back to me in my own home.” He gave me a small smile. “Kind of refreshing, actually.”

“Sure.” I snorted and found a seat, letting him finish setting the table, my job of reminding him that he wasn’t completely in charge done.

Chapter Seven

Carey and Landon came down a few minutes later and took their seats. Heath sat at the head of his rectangular dining table, Carey and Landon on either side of him, and I was next to Carey. That left a couple of empty places for food to sit out of the way once everyone filled their plates.

Carey launched into a description of her day and how her tutoring went after school. Heath listened as if it was the most interesting thing in the world, and I thought it was touching.

“So, this is your first time not working?” Landon asked. It startled me enough to nearly drop my fork.

“Oh, um, yeah. I’m not used to this idea of running a business but not working every night. Dirk, the new bartender? He told me I didn’t need to be there, that they could handle it. I didn’t want to hover, so I left and…” I shrugged. I needed to keep myself from rambling to the wolf, who barely ever said ten words to me.

“You get used to it,” he said. “Work comes and goes. Father and I have been on both sides, quietly controlling a business or being really hands on and helping out wherever we could. When you have to hide your immortality, it’s important to know when either is necessary.”

“Thank you. Kick Shot just feels like my home.”

“It’s the only business you own, and you’ve worked there alone for over seven years. Of course it does.” Landon watched me carefully. “But in ten years, you would have had to step aside anyway and let others work there because werecats aren’t out to the humans. They were already beginning to think you were a werewolf because of your interactions with our family.”

“I know.”

“You’ll be okay. You could spend the time opening a second business. Throw yourself into a new project. That’s what I do.”

“My son doesn’t know how to stop working,” Heath said, cutting in. “Of course, I also can’t convince him to move into his own place. He’s an overachiever who refuses to leave the nest.”

“I moved out for fifty years until Carey was born. Then you needed Richard and me home,” Landon retorted. “Once she’s old enough to need less help, I’ll find my own residence again.”

“You could find a mate and leave sooner, and we both know it,” Heath pointed out. “Carey and I would be fine, especially since she’s out of diapers now.”

“DAD!”

I covered my mouth to keep from laughing.

“I’m not interested in a mate,” Landon said evenly. “Or in being an Alpha of my own pack or anything else. We’ve had this discussion.”

Heath sighed heavily.

“Dad! Why would you say that in front of Jacky?” Carey demanded, grabbing her dad’s sleeve. Heath looked down at the hold and gave me a look.

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