Home > Broken Loyalty (Jacky Leon #3)(13)

Broken Loyalty (Jacky Leon #3)(13)
Author: Kristen Banet, K.N. Banet

“No, Jacky, they’re not. They’re my old pack, and I gave them away. Every time I go back, I become less of an old friend and more of the Alpha who left them. Tywin sees me more as a threat since time has passed. He wonders if I ever might want to take over again. If maybe I’ll get bored with my life of fatherhood and normal problems. They were all relieved to hear the North American Werewolf Council gave me a job, which requires me to stay here. Relieved. More and more often, I call into meetings. I haven’t driven into Dallas since before the holidays.”

“I’m sorry. I thought…”

“I hoped it wouldn’t be like this, but I knew better,” he admitted. “I think we all hoped I would still be a good friend to the Pack, but it’s too volatile. Tywin has the right to lead without feeling paranoid. The way I left was disastrous. The Pack suffered greatly for my mistakes with Richard, Emma, and Dean.” He gave me a small smile. “Jacky, you’re the only drinking buddy I have left.”

I sat back down, understanding now why Saturdays were so important, and he kept coming back.

“You’re the only drinking buddy I’ve had in over a decade,” I said with a small smile in return. “We’re a mess, Heath.”

“We are. But that’s why I said you could come over tonight. I wasn’t going to leave you hanging out to dry when you needed someone or something to help pass the time.”

“Thank you.”

“No, thank you,” he said, leaning back in his chair. “You know you’re welcome here any time, right?”

“Don’t try to make me part of your pack,” I ordered, knowing what would happen if I suddenly dropped by several times a week. He would start to see me as someone he had to take care of.

“I would never.” His tone was too innocent.

“Bullshit.”

“Okay, yes, but still, the offer stands.” His grin was wolfy, and if it wasn’t so fucking attractive, I would have hated it.

“I’ll think about it.”

“Good.”

An hour later, Carey ran out to give me a good night hug and one to her father. Once she was gone, I fiddled with my glass, staring at the liquid swirling around. Landon didn’t come out and join us, but I noticed lights turning off inside, indicating he was preparing to head to bed as well.

Soon, it was just Heath and me in the dark. Even the porch light was off. We could see well enough in the dark, so that wasn’t the problem. The problem would have been there even if the lights were on.

Heath watched my every move, and the moment both of his children were gone, there was no mistaking the heat in his gaze. Something had gotten him interested, and I knew it was time for me to leave if we wanted to keep up this act that we had no secrets, and the attraction between us wasn’t threatening to boil over.

“I’m going to go,” I said carefully.

“Have a good night,” he said, not arguing this time.

Chapter Eight

Saturday came fast. I was clawing at the walls, wanting to work. All week, I tried to figure out what sort of hobby to do in my newly-acquired free time and failed to find anything that sparked my interest. Every day, I went to Kick Shot before opening, only for Oliver and Dirk to say I wasn’t needed once I was done looking over the books from the night before.

Tonight, though, I was going to bartend, something normal. Dirk could take the night off, and he would fucking like it.

When I walked in, they were both there, ready for the pre-open talk we had every day.

“Okay,” I said loudly as I strolled to them. “Tonight, I’m going to be behind the bar,” I announced.

“What?” Dirk frowned at me, his expression as severe as normal.

“You heard me. I want my bar for a night. Tonight is the night Heath normally comes in for a drink, and I want my normal Saturday. You two dropped in on me a week ago today, and you’ve been amazing, but I want tonight.”

“But Saturday is the best night for tips at most bars,” Dirk said, sounding really annoyed. A quick sniff in the air and I realized he wasn’t annoyed. He was getting pissed off.

“No one tips at Kick Shot,” I said, confused. He pointed across the room, and I turned to see a new jar on my bar, ‘TIPS’ written on it, and I sighed. “How long has that been there?”

“Three days,” he answered. “When I realized no one here tips. They should always tip their bartender, or he waters down their drinks. I made two hundred in tips just last night,” he said with an evil smile. “You were too nice to them.”

“Funny, because I’m pretty sure they all think I’m a bitch for not hiring a waitress,” I mumbled, shaking my head. “Well…how important are tips?”

“Very.”

“I would think Niko would make sure you’re paid very well,” I pointed out with care, hoping he understood my meaning.

He did. Oh, he really did. His face turned red, and his annoyed expression turned into a full glare.

“Niko doesn’t treat me special because I don’t want him to,” he snapped. “Did he—”

“He didn’t. Someone else did. Big family, not many secrets,” I answered. “You should have.”

“Whatever.”

“Miss Jacky, you could always build that patio outside and have a bar placed out there to give a second bartender option,” Oliver pointed out, clearly oblivious to the conversation or pointedly ignoring it, which was the smartest thing he could do. He seemed to be a very smart young man, so I went with the latter option. “Did you talk to your contact about it yet?”

“I have, and he’ll send someone out soon to look over what he can and can’t do with the building,” I answered. “You can ask Heath about it when he gets in.”

Both of them gave me a stunned expression.

“What?” I demanded.

“You would use a werewolf’s company to do work on Kick Shot?” Dirk asked.

“Yes. Heath is an ally and a friend, and if you repeat those words to anyone, I’ll send you back to my siblings without any sort of recommendation,” I snapped. “He owns a construction company and has worked in a lot of real estate. He knows people, humans, not just werewolves. He also lives in the territory. Why would I go out and find someone else when I have someone I know right here?”

“It’s just…a bit unusual,” Oliver pointed out softly.

“If neither of you has noticed, everything about this is unusual.” I looked between them, wondering how they had missed it. “Believe me when I say you’re going to see things happening here no other werecat would put up with. Two werewolves live in my territory. If that didn’t clue you in, we need to have a long discussion.”

Neither of them said anything, looking at each other then getting up.

“We’ll get to work,” Oliver said. “And if Mister Everson is going to be doing the work, please send him up to the office. I’ve already sketched up a design he might want to see.”

“Am I ever going to see it?” I had no idea he was playing around with design ideas already.

“Certainly, I just wanted to see if it was plausible first before handing it over to you.”

“I’ll come up and see it when Heath arrives, then.” I was out of the loop about my own bar. Dirk had set up a tip jar, something I had never considered, and Oliver was probably making plans to knock down walls.

“You seem frazzled,” Oliver said gently. “I’m sorry this has disrupted your life. We’re just trying to do our jobs and make everything easier for you.”

“It’s fine. My family thinks they know best, and I’m not going to toss you out into the cold. Still adjusting, that’s all.” I took a deep breath. “I’m not mad. I’m just used to the world moving slowly. This has all been very fast.”

“I might be stepping out of bounds, but have you considered a hobby?”

I nearly laughed as I walked out of the bar to my house. I would come back when Heath was due to come in.

Once I got home, I played on my phone and made something to eat. I had been so excited to go to work when I had woken up, that I had forgotten to get in breakfast and just ran out the door. Of course, it didn’t help that I had woken up late.

I thought as I cooked and decided to call the sibling I was surprisingly closest to, thanks to nearly dying with him.

“Hello, Jacky,” Jabari answered, seeming a little distracted.

“Hey, Jabari. How are you?”

“I’ve been well. Busy with a new project,” he answered.

“What are you working on?”

“I’m helping with an investigation at a local wildlife park and training new patrolmen for the park. You know me.”

“I do.” It was the one thing I discovered he was passionate about while he was staying. He loved his local wildlife and had been helping them for hundreds of years as humanity expanded. It was a hard fight, but I knew he loved it. I also knew he wanted to help more, but it was hard being a secret species. “Are you still funding them?”

“I am. So, what do you need? You aren’t the sibling I expect to call out of nowhere.”

“Ah, well, funnily enough, I wanted to ask if you would help me find a new hobby.”

“This has something to do with Father’s meddling, doesn’t it?”

“They’ve taken over my bar, and now I have nothing to do. It’s terrible, Jabari. Yell at him for me. I’ve been avoiding it since I found out it was him. This is way over the line.”

“I told him you would think so. He decided it was time. You know how he gets.”

“Jabari.”

“I can’t help you with him, but I can help you brainstorm some ideas,” he said, chuckling.

“You can’t or you won’t?”

“Both, but then, you know how I felt about your little bar while I was there. I thought it took up too much of your time. You need more than two days and a night to work on other things. Plus, you own it, and it’s good to have employees. It helps the economy.”

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