Book: Post-Family and Honor (Jacky Leon Book 2)
Copyrighted Kristen Banet/K.N. Banet 2019
All Rights Reserved
First draft state and full of errors. I make a whole bunch of typos in my first draft.
Jabari heads to Texas with Jacky to recover and connect with the sister he ignored for over a decade.
Jabari rode silently next to his younger sister as they headed for her territory. He watched her profile, considering how focused it was on the road. Intent. She made no mistakes with her driving, no errors, and she was a courteous driver, allowing others to cut her off or go around her as she followed the speed limit. He refrained from remarking on the lack of a Look Away charm on her vehicle, a fae spell that anyone could easily get ahold of. It would have allowed her to drive quicker and get them to her territory at a much more reasonable speed. Even he and Zuri kept contact with a fae for their own vehicles and yet Jacky, his little modern sister, had none.
Needless to say, he found it curious, even odd, but he knew to refrain from mentioning it. After the stress they had all just gone through, there was no reason to start on her for anything. He was on thin ice and he knew it. When he’d seen her in Washington at that cabin, he hadn’t quite realized the implications of her presence, nor did he truly understand her.
Now he knew all of those things, and though true understanding took time, he felt like he knew her well enough to make the correct decisions about the situation.
So, Jabari stayed silent as they drove, pointedly trying not to comment on anything she was doing. The fact that they were even in a vehicle, a modern metal death trap, was astounding, considering what they had just gone through. He figured it was a testament to her courage that she could get on the road without the smallest hint of fear in her scent, not after going through two of those accidents in her life time. He hated just the one and it had nearly killed him, all several thousand years of him. He talked to Father privately, who had impressed on him the keen reminder that long life and great power didn’t make him invincible, something his father also pointed out was not something he had to tell Jacky.
“You’ve been quiet for too long,” she said, and he caught the annoyance in it. “Can I turn on music or will that interrupt your thoughts?”
“Ah… we can talk about something if you would like,” he said, wondering how to approach this sister. Zuri was easy. As his twin, he knew her better than all others and she knew him better than anyone. Mischa had been in his life for so long that he considered himself adept at talking to her and how to handle her. Liza had been sweet and innocent, easy to approach. He’d never had to work hard with her because she just didn’t threaten him the way his more imposing sisters did.
Jacky was none of those sisters. She had been right. He didn’t know her, not nearly well enough, and that only did a disservice to them both. Something he hoped to rectify.
“Runes of power. Hasan’s… mate, your mother. She taught them to you and Zuri.” She seemed just as uncomfortable as him.
“Yes. We’ve been over this,” he confirmed, nodding. “They are ancient, considered the original and true text of magic itself, created by those who had magic long before human language was written. Some say the runes of power are built into the very foundation of this world and others. However, their true origins are unknown. Where our mother learned them, I don’t know.”
“Is there anything you want to talk about?” she asked, a little snappy.
Jabari eyed her. Why was she snappy with him now? Was it the way he said something? He sighed, giving up on trying to discern his sister’s moods. He need more time to understand her and he was about to get that. Trying to unlock the puzzle that was Jacky Leon didn’t need to happen on the drive to her home.
“Certainly. How is it living with wolves in your territory?”
“I notice them,” she answered, shrugging with one shoulder. “They keep my territory magic semi active, but I’m hoping that the longer they’re around, the easier it will be on me. Who knows, though. Aside from that, they’re good. I enjoy having Carey so close and they aren’t bad. Heath is a good man and Landon is a solid person, though I don’t know Landon so well.”
“It will get easier. Zuri and I have shared territories for many years. You begin to put the other in the back of your mind,” he explained, hoping he could help her with that information. Not that he wanted her to grow comfortable with werewolves in her territory. He wanted her to run them out. When Father had told him of the development, he’d been furious, but he’d also been banned from approaching her about it. Father had plans, ideas, that he wasn’t privy to. Whatever Jacky was doing was something their father was interested in and no intention of forcing to stop.
“That’s good,” she muttered. “Look, we don’t need to do this.”
“Try to be… close or whatever. You can stay in my house while you heal and teach me the runes of power to protect my territory better, but you don’t have to force yourself to get to know me.”
“I want to get to know you,” he countered. He understood what she was trying to say and could relate. It was uncomfortable opening up to new people. Jabari avoided it at all costs. But she was his sister and he had no intention of continuing to be a terrible brother to her. He had a responsibility as the eldest to welcome Jacky in and he had failed in that task for too long. The others would continue to fall into place if he and Zuri stepped up.
And he just wanted to. He wanted to know her because what had seen so far fascinated him. He saw what Father must have seen when he decided to Change Jacky. A will to live, a fire that refused to be put out. Sure, it was apparent his sister avoided this passion for life she had now, but it was still there, underneath the outward avoidance she presented to the world.
“No you don’t. You didn’t for several years. Why should now be—”
“I want to know you, little sister,” he growled. He didn’t understand why they were back to this point. “Don’t presume to tell me my own mind. I failed to recognize you for the decade you’ve been a member of our family that is my failing. I saw something in you that I respect, something powerful. You will be formidable with age and experience. And you’re interesting. You don’t hold the same views of the world as the rest of us. I want to know you, because you deserve to be known and I disrespected you for too long.”
He watched as her hands tightened on the wheels and he could smell the strange saltiness of tears.
“Thank you,” she whispered. “I want to know you too.”
“Then we shall get to know each other much better while I stay with you. You can tell me about… Shane, the man you lost. You can introduce me to Carey. I know she has made an impact on your life. I would like to see these things and know them. Maybe we can continue to grow our new understandings of each other.”
“I like that idea,” she agreed. “And maybe one day I could visit you and Zuri?”
“Yes, that would be nice,” he agreed, nodding.
They settled into silence again, but it felt different now. Jabari smiled to himself as they entered her territory. The feeling of it was peaceful in a sense. Jacky’s magic didn’t respond aggressively, but rather, content, with the under current of a warning. She would tolerate the presence of another werecat as long as he didn’t step out of line. It was a good settled feeling for a territory, that wasn’t too aggressive the way Gaia’s or Titan’s had been. It also wasn’t too peaceful and relaxed like Liza.
It wasn’t late, and he noticed how she drove even more carefully as they came up to her bar. He’d never seen it in person and he knew immediately to keep his thoughts and opinions to himself at the sight of it. Outside it, there were already people waiting. By the sizes and shapes, he guessed two adult males and a young child. This had to be the wolf pack.
“Were they expecting us? Or were we expecting them?” he asked as Jacky turned into her parking lot.
“Neither, but I have a feeling they want to get introductions with you out of the way,” she said with a deep sigh. “Politics, I bet.”
“Of course. Only prudent to handle this quickly,” he agreed, respecting the wolves for making the first move to introduce themselves instead of making him and Jacky run to them. It was their place, honestly. This wasn’t their territory. “Alpha Everson returned yesterday, did he not?”
“Yeah, they wouldn’t release you from the hospital fast enough for us to catch the same flight as him,” she explained, pulling around the bar and parking behind it. “He must have had Landon pick him up from the airport, because he drove to Dallas with me.”
Jacky was able to beat him out of the car and he felt somewhat chagrined at how she came around to his side and got the door before he could get moving. He wasn’t nearly at his best, his body aching at every move. He would heal fast but it was frustrating not to be in his top shape, especially since he was meeting these wolves.
He frowned as Jacky didn’t walk around the bar to see the werewolves. She unlocked the back door of the tiny, dirty bar and went inside, making him follow her. He stopped in the center of the bar as she opened the front door and let the wolves in.
He knew Heath Everson, the one who entered first, but he was more interested in the next. Landon Everson was of a unique heritage, a blend of different things that almost made it seem like he was from everywhere. Jabari recognized certain aspects of the male’s face as ones he knew well, grew up with and even had himself. Others he saw from Heath, more European in nature. And it wasn’t just that. There was a way this Landon Everson carried himself that made Jabari stiffen slightly. This wolf was deadly. His father was probably as well, but Landon carried it on himself like a mantle, much like Jabari did, or even his brother Hisao was known for.
“Jacky!” a young girl yelled happily, the last to enter the building. Jabari knew it was a sign of the two wolves wanting to see him before he saw their smallest family member. Posturing was important.
“Carey!” Jacky hollered back with a laugh. Jabari watched patiently as his sister hugged the young girl and ruffled the girl’s hair. “Now, you yelled at me on the phone, so please don’t yell at me now. I just got home.”
“Sure, but you have to tell me everything that happened,” Carey said boldly, putting her hands on her hips.
Jabari heard someone cough and watched as Heath covered his face, smothering what might have been a laugh. Jacky sighed deeply and grabbed Carey’s shoulders.
“How about I distract you with someone new?” she said patiently, turning Carey towards him. “Everyone, this is my… older brother, Jabari, son of Hasan. He’ll be staying for a few weeks.”
Jabari was charmed by Carey immediately. Her eyes went wide in shock at his appearance, and her jaw opened. He’d rendered the little thing speechless. He wasn’t like his father and didn’t have that special knack for children, but Carey’s reaction to him charmed him. There was no fear and no secrets on her face. She didn’t shy away. She was just awed by him and, while he’d awed many people in his life, the lack of fear was refreshing.
He went down to one knee, ignoring the wolves as it became clear his behavior around Carey would be what every adult in the room would judge him for. If he messed this up, he knew he would never find a peaceful relationship with the werewolf Alpha breathing down his neck now, who already disliked him for how he treated Jacky. And this Landon, the obvious enforcer of the small pack, would make his life hell.
How this little human convinced three predators to defend her was clear, though. She was too unafraid. She walked right up to him and smiled once she found her bearings again. Definitely too unafraid. He could easily hurt her and no one would be able to stop her. It was charming and also, he realized, probably terrifying for Heath and Landon. He looked over her head for just a second and knew it wasn’t just the wolves scared for her. Jacky was watching him intently, a clear warning that if he messed up, he would find himself thrown out of her territory.
“I’m Carey Everson!” She thrust a hand at him and he took it gently, shaking it like he would any adult.
“I’m Jabari, son of Hasan,” he repeated. “It’s a pleasure to finally meet you, Miss Everson.”
“Oh, you can call me Carey,” she answered with a blush forming. “Everyone calls me Carey.”
She didn’t let go of his hand, so he broke off the hand shake and stood back up. He was bemused by how her eyes watched him rise over her, going wider as he grew taller.
“So, you must be my sister’s charge,” he pointed out.
“I’m her friend,” she answered, grinning. “She’s cool, Jacky. I’m really glad she let us stay here. We hang out every Monday. Maybe you can hang out with us too.”
“I would very much like that,” he said in agreement. A soft growl filled the room, making everyone look to the imposing wolf standing by his Alpha and father. Landon was glaring at him.
“Landon,” Heath warned softly. “He’s Jacky’s guest and family.”
“If you aren’t comfortable with me near Carey, I’ll make myself scarce during her visits with Jacky—”
“Landon! Don’t be mean,” Carey snapped. It made him jump, looking back down at the human girl. She could talk to her werewolf family like that? He hadn’t heard any human girl use that tone with a supernatural since… Mischa was young, still human. Centuries ago. “He’s Jacky’s brother and he wouldn’t hurt me. Right?”
She looked up for confirmation.
“No, I wouldn’t hurt you but your brother just wants to protect you. It’s his right.”
She glared and Jacky started to snicker behind him. Jabari turned on her, frowning, hoping she would step in at any time. He wasn’t sure how to go about this anymore.
“Maybe we could leave this topic for a later day,” Jacky declared. “Heath, it was good to see you. Landon, Jabari wouldn’t dare do anything, but if it makes you comfortable, you can come over with Carey. Heath, you okay with that?”
“I’m totally fine with it. It’ll get both of them out of my hair,” the Alpha said with a smile. Jabari realized his sister was good at the werewolves. Appease the older brother, but always make sure to clear it with the Alpha. She could make a very good politician one day. Another small facet of Jacky he had missed over the years, since he never bothered to get to know her. “We can talk more on it later. I just wanted Jabari to meet them both and for them to meet him, so there weren’t any surprises later.”
“It was a pleasure. Thank you for taking the time,” Jabari said, nodding his head politely. Heath returned the gesture then began to walk out, Landon hanging back, staring at his sister. Carey gave a large sigh, tossed up her hands in defeat, then followed her father out, Landon trailing behind.
When they were gone, Jacky started chuckling again.
“She’s fearless,” he said casually.
“She is,” his sister agreed softly. “I love her for it. Now, let me show you my house. I think you’ll like it.” She walked for the back of her bar again, more at ease than she had been only moments prior and the entire trip to her territory.
Jabari knew he had passed some sort of test and he hoped it would continue to a better relationship with Jacky. That was the real reason he was there, after all.
Carey was bouncing when she got out of school that day, running fast to get inside and leaving her big brother at the car. She flew past her dad and ran up the stairs before he said anything.
“CAREY!” he roared.
Grinding to a stop, she sighed, slumping as she turned to see what he wanted.
“Yes, Dad?” she called from the top of the stairs.
“Homework,” he snapped with a sternness that she knew not to toy with. As she stomped back down the stairs, she saw him standing at the bottom, his arms crossed and Landon to him, holding her bookbag.
“Sorry,” she mumbled, taking the bag when she was down stairs. “I wanted to get ready to go to Jacky’s early.”
By the look on her dad’s face, she knew what he was thinking.
“I’m going to Jacky’s! I do every Monday and that’s our deal. I get to go hang out with her when my homework is done.”
“She has company—”
“So? He seems really cool. He promised he wouldn’t hurt me and Jacky can keep me safe. Please Dad. I really like seeing her and I don’t get any chances except Sunday and Monday because she works and I have school.” Carey’s heart began to race as she hoped her argument was good enough.
“I’ll text her and see what she thinks,” he relented with a sigh.
Carey grinned and started for the dining room table. Landon, the overbearing monster, followed her and sat beside her while she pulled her homework out of her bag.
“You know, I don’t need your help,” she said, looking at him.
“It’s not about helping you,” he reminded her. “You’re sneaky and don’t always finish all of it because you want to go play. Father doesn’t have the time to do this with you every day, so I will. Without Richard, it has to be me.”
Carey tried not to think about why those words hurt. Like she was stopping anyone from having a life. Isn’t that why Richard hated her? Because she took his place or something. She was too much to deal with. She ruined their lives. Landon didn’t have a life because he was too busy helping Dad with her.
“I stopped sneaking about my homework like a year ago,” she said softly, opening her math book, not looking at him. He sighed and she felt a big hand wrap around her head.
“Maybe I just like sitting here with you and pretending I can help,” he said gently, kissing the side of her head. “Can’t a big brother hover?”
“I mean… you can.” She shrugged halfheartedly. He didn’t let go of her and bumped his forehead to the place he had just kissed. She knew what that was. It was a wolf sign of affection. Sometimes Carey thought she knew wolves better than humans, but it was good. She liked when Landon did that to her because it always made her feel a little better.
“Carey…” he pulled her closer, yanking her off her chair into a hug on his lap. Her face heated.
“Landon, I’m too old for this.” Trying to push away, she realized her brother wasn’t going to budge.
“You don’t have to feel so sad about me sitting here with you. It’s my honor to be your big brother. You know that right?”
Richard didn’t think so. Why should I believe you?
She didn’t say that to him, though. She knew better. She didn’t even want to think about Richard. She should have known Landon would figure out she was feeling bad, because werewolves could smell everything. It was super nosy and annoying.
She was finally able to get away, sticking her tongue out at him and turning away, only to see her dad watching them with a smile.
“Well?” She wanted better news. She wanted to go see Jacky.
“She says you are more than welcome to visit her today or at any time while Jabari is in town. She trusts him with you and therefore, I should,” her dad explained, sighing at the end.
“When is she picking me up?”
“Well, we made a deal. Landon is going to drive you over and stay—”
“Dad!” Carey wanted to scream. “Why?”
“Because it would make me feel better. Jabari and I don’t get along, but I think Landon can keep an eye on you if it’s needed without too much of a problem.”
“No! He’s going to hover!” She waved a hand at her brother and accidentally hit something. Landon grabbed her hand and forced her to put it on the table. “And he’s like that!” Her point was proven.
“Maybe you shouldn’t have hit him in the face by not paying attention,” her dad remarked, giving her the dad look.
With a huff, she crossed her arms, glaring at him.
“I don’t want to go with Landon.”
“Too bad. Then you aren’t going.”
“If Jacky trusts him—”
“Carey, don’t,” Landon said quickly, reaching out and putting a hand over her mouth. “Father is an Alpha werewolf and his decisions are final. It won’t be so bad. I’ll stay out of the way.”
She didn’t bother trying to get out of Landon’s hold, keeping her glare on her dad.
“Landon, let her go,” her dad ordered. The hand left, but Carey didn’t speak up, still glaring, still hoping he would relent and let her go to Jacky’s like every other Monday. “It’s just while Jabari is visiting. I don’t know him and I don’t like what I’ve ever seen of him. I don’t care whether Jacky trusts him or not. He’s not a werecat I know and he can be dangerous. I trust Jacky to protect you, but I want Landon there as well. It’s not the end of the world.” He pointed to her books on the table. “Finish your homework. I’ll see you when you get home tonight.”
“Fine…” She slumped in her chair. She hated when he did the explaining thing. It made her feel like she couldn’t argue. Landon was right. Dad’s decisions were final. Normally, that was okay. He was a good dad and she had heard a lot of stories from her friends about not good dads.
But this sucked.
She breezed through her homework as fast as she could and pushed Landon away before he could do his silent check. Shoving it into her bag, she stormed out of the dining room and upstairs, hoping to change.
When she was ready, Landon was already waiting at the front door. She ignored him, stomping to his car, hoping he realized this was stupid and would tell Dad that it was stupid.
“Stop,” he ordered, as she tried to yank her door open. “I’m not unlocking the car until the attitude is dropped, Carey.”
“This is stupid,” she snapped. “Jacky would never let me get hurt.”
He was glaring now.
“Jacky. It’s always Jacky with you,” he muttered, shaking his head. “We’re only trying to do what’s best for you. This is not something that requires all of your military might to stop. Father’s not taking away your Mondays with the werecat—”
“Why don’t you like her?” She realized it before. He never liked her. He was always really quiet with her, always watching. Carey only saw him like that when there were werewolves he didn’t like around. He’d told her a long time ago that it was because he wanted to be ready to fight or hadn’t decided whether he trusted someone or not.
“Don’t make me answer that,” he said softly. The door unlocked and she got in, frowning at her brother’s avoidance.
“She’s my friend—”
“She killed Richard,” he growled softly. “And I know… I know what he did was terrible. It’s not her fault, but…”
“Yeah…” She crossed her arms and sank into her seat. Again with Richard. She should have known. Richard had been a mean bully. Well, not always. He always made her feel loved and was cool like Landon, but then it all changed and now she didn’t know what to think anymore. Was Landon going to be the same was as him?
She tried to blink back tears. She didn’t trust Landon anymore and that always made her feel bad to think about. She would get over it one day. She had Jacky and Dad. They both loved her, even if Richard never had and Landon was probably lying to her. One brother didn’t want her, so why should the other?
Just like my mom.
Carey tried to cover her face, hoping Landon didn’t say anything.
“What’s wrong?” he asked softly, ignoring her sign to ignore her.
“Nothing,” she mumbled.
“You can tell me anything. I’ll always listen, Carey. You used to tell me everything.”
“It’s nothing,” she snapped. She also told Richard everything and apparently she was too bratty, too stupid, for him to care about. “I’m fine.”
“Please don’t lie to me,” he said, the car finally turning on.
“You can’t force me to tell you anything,” she reminded him. Their dad made a deal about it. She wasn’t required to tell them how she felt, even if they could smell her lying. Her feelings were private, even if they could smell them. “Dad made you promise.”
“He did,” Landon said with a sigh.
Carey was silent for the rest of the drive and jumped out the moment Landon parked, running for the bar. Jacky opened the door with a smile.
They met in a big hug, Carey melting into her only real friend. Jacky was special. She protected and loved Carey and that meant everything. She answered questions and never tried to pry. If Carey didn’t want to talk, Jacky never forced her to.
Before Carey could say anything, Jacky pulled away and brushed Carey’s hair away.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” Carey said confidently.
“Okay. We’ll come back to it another time, then,” Jacky promised. “Whenever you’re ready.”
“Landon, welcome!” Jacky called over her head. “Jabari has been cooking all day, so there’s food ready for everyone already.”
“What did he make?” Carey asked as Jacky led them inside.
“Stuff he and Zuri eat. I don’t know the names. He just knew it was Monday and that you could be coming over, so he decided to cook up a feast just in case.”
“Cool.” Carey grinned, her worries momentarily forgotten. They went up to Jacky’s apartment and found Jabari inside, hovering over several big dishes. Food was every where in the kitchen and on the dining table. Sniffing, Carey decided she was going to eat all of it.
“Thank you, but I’ll feed myself later,” Landon said softly.
“Eat,” Jacky said in something that wasn’t an order, but was. Carey liked how Jacky could do that to even her werewolf family. “There’s too much food and I’m going to hurt Jabari’s feelings by sending some of it home with you for Heath.”
“Ah…” Landon was shutting down again. Carey hated it but she wasn’t going to let it bother her. There was a lot of good smelling food and a really cool, really old werecat she only met once.
Jabari. He even had a cool name. He was Jacky’s older brother and she was so interested in him. She had wanted to meet more werecats when she met Jacky. They were so much cooler than werewolves. She knew a lot of werewolves.
But werecats? She now knew two of those.
He caught her looking and smiled. Carey’s face heated. He had a really nice smile.
He’s already cooler than all of the boys at school.
“How are you today, Carey?” he asked.
“I’m good,” she said, trying to smile back.
“Jacky says you go to school? Care to tell me about it? I don’t know much about American education. I would think you go to similar schooling as my sister. I would like to hear more about it.”
“Jabari…” Jacky groaned.
“I would love to!”
“Amazing,” he said, nodding. “Come, we’ll make you a plate and you can tell me about it. And about Jacky. You probably know her better than I do. I’ll need your help if I’m going to survive this short stay.”
“Short? You’re leaving soon?” No, he couldn’t do that. Carey wanted to know everything.
“Ah, well, to you, maybe not too soon. A few weeks.”
“Well, okay, I’ll tell you about school, but then you have to tell me about being a werecat, and where you come from, and everything else, okay?”
Jabari laughed, looking over her to see the others. When he looked back down, the smile wasn’t gone.
“I can do that. What else would you like to know?”
“Everything.” She wanted all of it.
“I’ll do my best, then.” He finished dishing up a plate and held it out to her. Jacky put a fork on her plate and directed her to the couch.
Landon didn’t sit down, frowning at her as she started to eat. She stuck her tongue out at him. Just because he didn’t like the werecats, didn’t mean she had to be the same way.
And Jabari was super cool.
“Hey, Mister Jabari? Is there anything cool you can teach me?” she asked, looking over the back of the couch.
“I’m adept at the bow and several weapons, but Zuri, my twin, would be much better at things you may find more—”
“I own a bow! You can teach me to use it!”
“Do you?” He seemed surprised. “Why is that?”
She didn’t answer immediately. Richard had wanted to teach her to hunt with it, like he did Landon. That way, she could have gone on their trips with them. She got it for her tenth birthday and never got the chance to use it.
“Our family bow hunts,” Landon finally answered.
“Will you teach me?” she asked quickly.
“I will,” Jabari promised.
Later, after they all ate, Jacky and Carey took a chance to run outside, away from the boys.
“Is he a good big brother?” Carey asked.
“Jabari? Not always but he’s good to my siblings. He and I are still learning each other, which is a lot of the problems we have. Why?”
“Okay.” Jacky didn’t believe her, of course, but Carey was thankful that Jacky never ever called her out. “Siblings aren’t perfect. They never will be. My human sister, my twin, was always making me feel like the lesser child. My werecat siblings do the same thing more often than not. But they also helped Hasan get me out of trouble when I protected you and helped your dad.”
“Is this about—”
“No.” Carey didn’t let Jacky say his name. She didn’t want to hear his name.
They kept walking in silence. Finally, Carey sighed.
“Thank you,” she said in a small voice.
“Being my friend.”
“Always,” Jacky whispered.
“Do you think Jabari will be my friend?”
“I think you’ve already gotten him wrapped around your little finger,” Jacky said with a laugh.
Grinning, Carey was okay with that. Maybe another new friend would make how Richard treated her hurt less. She would make Jabari her newest best friend, but he couldn’t replace Jacky. No one could replace Jacky.
But he would help replace Richard.