Home > Broken Loyalty (Jacky Leon #3)(7)

Broken Loyalty (Jacky Leon #3)(7)
Author: Kristen Banet, K.N. Banet

“Hey, Carey. How’d school go today?”

“It was okay. You’re here early. Are you okay? You’re never early.” The questions continued before I could get a moment to answer any of them. “Is this about the new people? Are they good? Are they really bad? Are you going to send them back? Dad didn’t tell me their names. What are their names?”

“Carey—” I tried.

“I mean, I hope they’re cool. It would really suck if they aren’t even cool.”

“Carey—” Heath tried this time. I looked over her head at him, giving him a look of annoyance; he’d told her all about my new employees.

Before her rambling could continue, I gently put a hand over her mouth.

“Are you going to let me answer any of those questions or just keep rattling them off?” I asked gently, raising an eyebrow. I removed the hand once I knew I had her attention.

“You can answer,” she said with a little shit-eating grin, knowing she didn’t need to wear me down any more to get information. That grin was coming out in full force more often as Carey’s skills at running circles around us only became more honed.

“I was here to talk to your dad about a possible project at Kick Shot. I’m considering adding a patio for customers. The new employees are fine. They’re young. When you meet them, I’ll introduce you. You’ll probably be seeing them a lot over the next year. I don’t know if they’re cool or not. One is from London, and the other was working in Berlin before coming to help me at Kick Shot.”

Carey’s eyes went wide—people from foreign places. It wasn’t like she had never met anyone from outside the country—I wasn’t foolish enough to think she hadn’t. Her father was a werewolf Alpha who probably had business and political connections all over the world. She had to have met some of them at some point.

“So…England and Germany,” she said.

“Very good. How do you know the capitals of European countries?” I smiled, glad to see she was still a sponge for knowledge.

She shrugged innocently.

“She has an atlas and keeps searching for information about places and trying to plan vacations for us. She wants to travel the world,” Heath explained. “Popped up over the holidays when I told her we were going to take a vacation this summer but didn’t tell her where.” He stood up and came to grab his preteen off me. I snickered as she fought, but he tucked her under his arm and started walking away with her. “You can run off with Jacky after your homework is done. Homework first. It’s the same every Monday. Don’t fight me.”

“Put me down! I’ll go do my homework.” That second line was full of defeat, and I could see her upset pout from across the room. Heath obliged her, though, putting her on her feet and letting her run into the dining room where Landon waited with an annoyed expression.

“Homework first,” the big brother whispered to her. “Come on. We can do it together.”

I smiled as Heath came back. He caught a glimpse of my expression before he sat down and looked back at his children. Landon had an arm around the back of Carey’s chair, helping her pull out the right books from her bag. When she started her homework, he watched with keen eyes to see if she needed any help and instructed her.

“He’s a good brother,” I pointed out after watching this small scene unfold. It was precious.

“He loves school,” Heath said softly. “Loves higher education. He’s trying to get back in for his…fourth Ph.D. When werewolves went public, he went back to the previous colleges he had attended and had them redo his diplomas in his real name.”

“Ah, the old fake name to attend college trick,” I said, nodding. “I’ve considered it. Would still have to since I’m not a werewolf.”

“I bet everyone would just think you’re a werewolf and not care,” he pointed out.

“Like the humans do now? It’s getting more frequent. I’m certain if I expand Kick Shot, especially since you live here now, everyone is going to be finally convinced of it.”

“I don’t think that’s a bad thing.”

“I’m a werecat, not a werewolf.”

“I don’t need a reminder.”

We both laughed, and I stood up, gesturing to the walkway I knew led out the back.

“How’s the horse?”

“Hating the winter, but I’ve owned horses before, and she’ll be fine. We make sure not to spook her on full moons. Another six months and Carey will be able to ride her, with us in wolf form nearby, without a reaction.”

“That’s good.”

“Don’t think I miss your scent when you come near,” he said, giving me a curious look.

“She’s easy prey. Sometimes, I have to convince my cat that she’s off limits. Does my scent spook her?”

“More than ours does.”

I winced. “Sorry. I’ll try to steer clear a bit better and stick to deer.”

“A full moon hunt is important, but thank you for trying not to eat my daughter’s new pony.”

“You are very welcome.” I was pretty sure I wouldn’t even like horse if I did, but since I had never eaten one, I wasn’t completely sure. I did know if I killed little Moonlight Dancer, Carey would never speak to me again, so I had to keep doing my best not to.

“I’m done!” Carey yelled. “Let’s go, Jacky!”

I turned fast to see her standing up from her chair in the dining room. Landon coughed quietly, making Carey turn to him and wait. He flipped through the papers on the table, then nodded, giving her a thumbs up. I could see the big brother’s exhaustion as his sister ran toward me. Homework was done, and he seemed like he wanted a nap.

“Looks like it’s time for me and the preteen to go,” I said to her father.

He took a long, deep breath.

“Preteen,” he said softly. “Don’t use that word.”

“Why not?” Carey skidded to a stop next to me. “I am a preteen.”

“Because it makes you too close to being a teenager,” he mumbled, then waved a hand for us to leave. “Out of my hair, women. I have to get back to the work Jacky distracted me from.”

I laughed and grabbed Carey’s shoulder, leading her out of the house. As we got into my car, she was already asking questions again.

“So, the new people are nice?”

“They are. They were a surprise, no doubt, but I have a good feeling about them. We just need to get used to each other.”

“That’s good. You have good feelings about people.” She beamed at me, and my heart stuttered a little. In her world, I was a hero. I didn’t much feel like one most days, but when she talked to me about me, I could almost see it.

It was the best confidence boost the world could ever give me.

“Let’s hope so. My siblings have had people working for them for a long time. I hope they picked two who are going to work well with me.” I really hoped for that because these two humans were about to meet the little girl who launched me on my current path of werewolves and responsibility. If anything went wrong, they would be the ones packing up and leaving, not her.

“Did Jabari pick them?”

I shouldn’t have brought up my siblings. If there was one thing Carey was utterly fascinated by, it was them, and since she had met Jabari, she considered him the coolest and most interesting.

“I don’t think so. They worked for Davor, Zuri, and Niko.”

“Oh.” The disappointment was clear as Carey’s shoulders slumped, and her smile disappeared.

“What? The English genius, the African queen, and the German mystery aren’t as cool as the ancient warlord?” I nearly laughed as I rattled off their new nicknames. I had come up with them months before to help Carey understand who all of my siblings were. She had wanted to know about them, and I needed to come up with short and easy ways of explaining each of them.

“I mean, they’re cool, but…”

“But what?” I demanded, raising an eyebrow. I would have turned it on her, but I was keeping my eyes on the road.

“Jabari…wasn’t he so…cute?”

“Never, ever, let your father hear those words come out of your mouth,” I said quickly. “Carey, do you have a crush on my older brother?”

I could smell it. I could hear her pulse accelerate.

Heath’s in for it if Jabari is the type of guy that gets Carey interested in boys. God save us all.

“He’s super cool, and he started to teach me how to use a bow, and he loved Midnight Dancer, and…and…” She trailed off.

“He’s way too old for you.”

“He won’t always be too old for me.”

“Oh, yes, he will be.” I shook my head slowly as she continued her argument, finally deciding to turn on the radio, which she protested. She was still trying to make her argument when I parked behind Kick Shot and got out.

“Jacky, please! Just…”

“I’m fine with you having a crush on Jabari, but if you think I’m going to let you act on it before you’re forty, you’ve got another thing coming,” I said with a laugh. Hopefully, by then, she would be over it, and this would be a thing of the past.

She did the dignified thing and stuck her tongue out at me, then walked into the bar. I jogged to catch up, grabbing her before she could go up the stairs.

“They’re staying in the apartment until they find their own places. One of them might move in up there permanently, so we’re going to my house,” I explained fast.

The squeal of excitement made me wince.

“We’re going to your house?” she asked, her eyes wide with mischief and joy.

“Yes.”

“Who’s there?” Dirk called. I saw him move to the top of the stairs, looking down at us. “Oh, Jacky. That must be Carey? Heath Everson’s daughter?”

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