Home > Broken Loyalty (Jacky Leon #3)(6)

Broken Loyalty (Jacky Leon #3)(6)
Author: Kristen Banet, K.N. Banet

While hating on his color choice, I listened as Landon went to get the werewolf Alpha. I could hear the muffled words they exchanged, Landon’s more tense than Heath’s, then footsteps coming back toward me.

“What can I do for you, Jacky?” Heath asked as he met me in his living room.

“I’m considering building an outdoor patio area for Kick Shot. Know anyone who can do that for me? Well, at least start the plans for it, take measurements, that kind of thing. That way, I have some idea about what I might be getting into.”

“Why?” He gave me a confused look as he walked past me and fell onto his leather couch. “Don’t tell me Saturday night brought this on.”

“It did. Oliver’s idea. I like it. I’m going to look into it.”

“Jacky…”

“I have the money, and it doesn’t hurt anyone,” I said, ignoring his concerned and exasperated tone. “He thinks it’s a good idea. I think it’s a good idea. It’s not a big step or anything crazy. I just want to see what the project might look like. And cost me. Think you know anyone who can do the job?”

“I own a construction company. I can do the job,” he said, looking down at his hands for a minute. I wondered if he ever did any construction. I could vividly remember what those warm, calloused hands, hands that had done work before, felt like. “If that’s okay. I live nearby, and we’re allies. I don’t see how it would be crossing any lines.”

“I don’t either. How do we start?”

“I can’t believe you right now,” he said, shaking his head in exasperation. “Jacky, really. Kick Shot is a little dive bar. I know you’ve loved what it is for as long as you’ve been running it. You wouldn’t even hire one or two servers to take drinks around. Now, you’re building a patio because some twenty-two-year-old human thinks it’s a good idea.”

“It is a good idea. Admit it.”

“It is,” he relented, still getting over the shock that I suddenly wanted to look into a construction project that would change Kick Shot so much. “If you’re sure, I’ll get it started tonight while you have Carey. There’s going to be inspections, measurements, paperwork to fill out. You have a lawyer, and I recommend letting him know this is about to happen, so I can get my company lawyer in contact with him sooner rather than later.”

“I know how this works. I’ve done major renovations on Kick Shot a few times now. Normally, I hire someone to oversee them,” I said, grinning. “Thank you, Heath.”

“Fine. One patio for a small dive bar in East Texas, coming right up.” His amusement ended after only a moment. “Really, though, why can’t you send them back? Three days ago, you weren’t thinking about building a patio, so I know this is about one of them. Big thing to look at, thanks to advice from a young man who’s barely old enough to drink at the bar where he works.”

“Do you really want them gone that bad?” I knew I did, but I felt a sense of obligation now that they were around.

I need to learn how to be less responsible.

“I don’t like the idea that your family put people here. Have you asked them yet if they’re going to report back to your siblings? Are you okay with being spied on?”

“No, but I’m not planning on asking them. I would expect them to keep in touch with anyone they know, like their family or friends, and if those people report to my siblings, I can’t stop it. Do I want them reporting on my life? No. But that’s a fight I need to have with my siblings, not two young humans.”

Heath shrugged. “I can agree with that. I’ll drop it.”

By the look on his face, he wasn’t happy. I knew Heath happy, and the man before me was smiling, but it wasn’t anywhere close to real or pleasant. It was chagrined, annoyed. He was absolutely perturbed by this recent life change.

I didn’t call him out. This was probably more about what we’d talked about the other night. Two new people around to potentially spy on us. It made me uncomfortable, but I couldn’t send them back. I could only imagine how uncomfortable it made Heath. I tried to change the subject, to show I was willing to make this work for everyone.

“You’ve worked with humans before as a supernatural. How do you keep it…?” I couldn’t find a way to phrase my question.

“Normal? Professional? Respectful? Pick something,” he teased lightly, smirking.

“Respectful is easy. They both come from backgrounds that took them near my family,” I said, shaking my head. “Normal is a good word, but…I need them to be loyal. They’re in my space, and I need to develop that level of trust with them. How do I do that?”

“Learn their secrets and keep them,” he answered softly, leaning onto the arm of the couch. He looked good, slouched on his couch, his legs outstretched. Even at rest, werewolves and werecats could seem intimidating. Wolves were just like cats that way.

“That…” I pointed at him, realizing what he just said versus how he met me. “Doesn’t always work.”

“You’re here, aren’t you?” he said with a sly smile that made me feel like I was being hunted.

“You’re not a wolf; you’re a fox,” I accused.

“Not fair. But that’s only one way. A very good way. You learn about them, learn what makes them tick, what they want, then you slowly reveal that you have the knowledge. You give them little pieces, build them up, and show they mean something to you. You, who seem very far above them, a thing they can’t relate to. It gets worse as you get older. When the generations pass you by. I was always better at adjusting than Landon, but having kids helps. Especially Carey. She makes me relatable.”

“Ah, yes, the good ‘I also have a young child’ shtick. Let me get right on that…Wait.” I rolled my eyes. “You don’t parade her around.”

“No, but sometimes I show a picture to other dads who have daughters. The ones who have sons who know mine. The understanding and relatability were always there.” He sighed, and I knew he was thinking about Richard. It didn’t happen often, especially not around me, the werecat who ended up having to kill his oldest son. It only lasted a second before Heath was back in the real world and the conversation. “Learn who they are and learn how to make them feel like they matter. That’s all you can do. Try to force loyalty with anything else, and they’ll notice. Just be a good boss, and they’ll give you the world.”

“Hmm, see, that’s where you went wrong with me. You tried to force my loyalty by protecting your kid, and I ended up loyal to her and not you,” I teased, leaning back in the stupidly uncomfortable chair.

“I’m okay with that,” he countered, the smile returning. “I’m sure they’re great young men. I look forward to getting to know them better on Saturdays.”

“We still lose our time to talk,” I reminded him.

“That might be for the best,” he reminded me. “We have no secrets, so we shouldn’t look like we do.”

“I’m going to wait on Carey,” Landon announced, looking down at us from the large opening to enter the living room.

“Drive safe,” Heath called as his son marched off. When the door slammed, the wolf sighed. “He’s warming up to you.”

“Don’t lie to me,” I said, laughing loudly. “Please don’t lie to me.”

“Okay. He still doesn’t know what to do about this situation. He hates change, which is funny since he was born a werewolf. He’s been raised thinking werewolves and werecats don’t get along, and part of that is my fault. He doesn’t roll well with the punches like I do. I will say he respects you. He’ll never say it, but he’s glad Carey has one more person she trusts.

“She’s such a precocious thing. Flings herself into the world like it’s always going to catch her. Too smart for her own good and brave enough to give me a heart attack. If you think I’m alone in suffering through that, Landon is worse. He would smother her if I let him. Having you eases the urge to keep his little sister safe and allows him to step back the way I learned to do with him and their brother.”

Wow. We’re not even going to say Richard’s name today. All right then.

“Well, that’s good to hear. I’m not offended by him, Heath. It’s just been over a year, and I thought maybe he would have warmed up just a little by now, but that’s okay.”

“Yeah. I wish he was as easy with the world as I try to be, but it’s never going to be like that. A lot of it stems from the time period he was born.”

“Half black, born during the Civil War, and growing up in the aftermath?” I asked softly.

“There were racist werewolves, too,” Heath whispered, checking his watch. “Don’t worry, I killed them as I came across them, but for Landon, life as a werewolf when he was a young boy wasn’t easy. I couldn’t always protect him, and neither could his older brother. One of my greatest regrets in life was not being able to protect him from it.”

I didn’t know what to say. Lost in thought, Heath played with his watch, checking the time, probably waiting for the minute Carey would be released from school.

“You’re a great father, Heath,” I whispered. “Don’t ever think otherwise.”

“It means a lot to hear that, thank you,” he said, looking up. “I’ll get back to you in a few days about sending people out to start the preliminary planning for a patio at Kick Shot. It’s going to take some time to arrange.”

The smile he gave me made me want to melt into my chair. His eyebrows went up slowly, and I bared my teeth as my face heated. After a moment of silence, the smile once again turned predatory.

“You don’t make this easy, Jacky,” he murmured.

Chapter Four

“Jacky!” Carey ran through the door, surprised and ecstatic about my presence on their uncomfortable chair. I grinned as she jumped on me, nearly thirteen now and getting bigger every day. The weight wasn’t a big deal, but she had boney knees, and those could cause some damage. Kid was tough. I quickly blocked the knees with one hand and threw my other around her in a hug.

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