This is set AFTER Shades of Hate and BEFORE Royal Pawn.
“Jacky!” someone yelled outside my door. “You hid all day yesterday! You don’t get to hide today!”
Mischa. I blinked several times and yawned as I sat up. Damn. I had been tired after the first day and pleaded that I get a day away from the madhouse just to sleep and lay in bed. Amir cried a lot, and no one was really getting very much sleep in the family wing, so no one really bothered me about it. I was certain at least half of my family had made the same decision. Apparently, none of us were going to get away with it for a second day. We’d been given twenty-four hours reprieve and now it was time to enjoy this… vacation.
“Mischa. There’s no reason to yell. Mother wants to see her,” Zuri said. “Jacky, she’s expecting you for breakfast.”
“Thanks,” I called out. “I’m getting up. Where is she having breakfast?”
“With Father in their room. Food hasn’t been served yet, so you have time to make it,” Zuri explained. Then I heard them walk away, their heels making that click with every step.
Well, I’ve been summoned. There’s no getting out of this.
I hurried to get dressed, cleaning up my hair and face before I even considered leaving the room. Hasan knew I wasn’t a morning person, so I knew the expectations from him would be low. When I had lived here before, breakfast was always casual if we shared it, normally in our pajamas. But Subira was around…
Pajamas weren’t going to fly.
I picked jeans and a t-shirt, pairing them with a set of sandals that would make Zuri and Mischa cringe if they saw me in them. They were black like the shirt, but there was some idea that sandals and jeans didn’t work together. I disagreed.
I rushed out of my suite and headed for the massive apartment that was Hasan’s. It was at the end of the family wing and took up two floors. If he had to, he could live in just his apartment. He had everything he needed there. I picked the bottom floor door, knowing it was his living room and kitchen, where he dabbled in cooking. He was decent, but he didn’t do it all that often.
I didn’t knock. I walked in without even thinking about what I might walk into.
I should have knocked.
Hasan had Subira on the counter and was more teenage boy than grown man with seven children. He stood between her legs, growling as he kissed her neck. He had his hands on her thighs.
“Good morning,” I announced, trying to pretend this was completely normal. Hasan turned to me and his eyes were gold.
“Ah,” he mumbled as he looked at the woman he had trapped on the counter. “We have a child in the room. I thought we had aged out of children barging in. I thought, with only adult children, they would all know how to knock.” His last words were a threat for me to leave the room and try again.
“I invited her,” Subira said, patting his chest. He moved out of her way and she slid off the counter with ease. “I told you I intended to spend a day with each of our children this first week. Yesterday, it was Davor, today it will be Jacky. They will come to breakfast with us and then I will go off with them. I will see you at dinner.”
“And when do I get to enjoy time with my mate?” Hasan asked, his eyes locked on her while I stood awkwardly in the small entry hall. “Other than the dark hours of the night?”
“After I get through with all of our children, Zuri included.”
“That’s seven children,” he said tightly.
“It’s a good thing there are seven days in the week and we shall be here for two of them. You get an entire seven days with me to yourself. Simple mathematics,” she countered with a smile as she walked away from him, heading directly for me. “Come, Jacky. Let’s sit down and let him prepare breakfast.”
“Oh, and I’m cooking this morning?” Hasan sighed. When Subira never answered him as she dragged me to the small breakfast table, he sighed again, this time with a bit more exasperation. “I guess I am.”
“Sorry,” I called out as I was forced into a chair.
Subira popped me on the top of my head. “There’s nothing to be sorry for.”
Hasan gave me a pleading look, asking me silently to run out of the room and not to come back, but he started cooking when I didn’t move. Subira was scarier than him.
“So, we’re going to spend the day together?” I asked, looking at Subira and swallowing the lump in my throat.
“Yes, we are. I just said that. We need a day together, just you and I. Of course, after we have breakfast with your father to appease him.”
Hasan snorted then came over with three glasses. Next, he came with a pitcher of orange juice.
“Coffee?” Subira asked innocently.
Hasan gave her a toothy smile that was not really a smile. I could smell his arousal and had been able to since I entered the room, but his mate had firmly blue balled him. Now, it was underscored with anger.
“I see,” Subira whispered, her look getting sleepy and her annoyance filling the air. “It’s going to be that way?”
Hasan shrugged and went back to his little kitchen to play over the stove
It was a battle of wills, I realized. I wonder if Davor had the same thing happen when he had come to breakfast or maybe he hadn’t caught Hasan in the mood for his mate. Maybe, my brother had knocked and avoided this entire exchange.
Subira stood up and went into the kitchen, preparing the coffee herself. I began to stand, wondering if I needed to help, but she made me freeze with a look.
“Sit. Down,” she ordered, pointing downwards, a clear indication she wanted my ass in the chair. I opened my mouth, to ask if she needed me.
“Listen to your mother,” Hasan said mildly.
I put my ass in the chair.
“It’s a good thing I make better coffee than you,” Subira said lightly as she started grinding coffee beans. Hasan’s answering growl told me he hadn’t appreciated that comment.
“You make terrible coffee,” he mumbled
“Well, you’ll take what you get since you are throwing a—”
“Move,” he snarled.
She released everything she was holding and walked back to the table. Hasan took over making the coffee in silence.
“Hasan knows how to make the finest coffee in the world,” she whispered to me, smiling. “And he can’t bring himself to suffer through mine in the morning.”
“Ah…” I leaned back in my seat. The entire interaction made me look at them differently. Feeling each other up before breakfast, arguing over the time they get to spend together, even being petty over who made the better coffee.
I looked at Hasan and he seemed a decade younger when he turned to us. His eyes were lit by the joy of having a little duel with his mate. He’d lost and yet, it made him happy.
“Coffee will be ready shortly,” he declared. “As will breakfast. Why don’t you two settle in and relax?”
“Such a good man,” Subira murmured with a smile. She leaned back and crossed her legs, looking about as relaxed as someone could in a dining chair. She turned to me and waved a hand. “Tell me everything,” she demanded.
“What?” I blinked once. She raised an eyebrow and Hasan looked over his shoulder at us. “I mean… What about everything do you want to hear?”
“All of it. How was it, being Changed as an adult when you didn’t know werecats were something that existed? How has the transition into the family been for you? How big if your territory? Does it have everything you need?”
“She lives like you,” Hasan said from the kitchen. “Little resources, almost no contact with other supernaturals, and none before those werewolves moved in. She doesn’t even have a pocket of fae she can call on if she needs anything. She lives like a beggar, trying to make ends meet with that tiny little bar of hers.”
“It’s a bar and grill now,” I retorted. “And it’s nearly three times the size it used to be.”
“Yes. It used to be a one room shack with a second floor,” Hasan growled.
I shook my head at Subira. “It wasn’t that small—”
“It was a dirty, old dive bar—”
“I mean, tell me how you really feel, Hasan. Kick Shot is—”
Hasan and I were talking over each other. I had no idea he had such strong feelings about my bar, my only source of income outside of the investments the family accountant managed. I had nothing to do with those and most of my money came from Hasan, who gave me a substantial portion of his own when I left.
“It’s pitiful and you should—”
“Don’t tell me what I should or shouldn’t—”
“Stop,” Subira ordered. We both fell silent. She looked between us and nodded. “I see. I’m beginning to understand. Zuri said you were unconventional among the family. I got a sense of it, but now…” Subira reached out and patted my hand. The smell of bacon rose in the room. “He is overprotective of you in as way he has never been with a child. I shall talk to him.”
“Subira, you haven’t seen it. You would be—”
“Do I own a business?” she asked her mate.
“No,” he answered, clipped and annoyed.
“Then I am proud of my daughter for taking on that sort of responsibility. I certainly never wanted it. Also, it helps fill her days and gives her a passion. I see no issue.”
Hasan growled but had no argument for her.
“Thank you,” I whispered.
“Don’t thank me. He’ll find another way to annoy you about this,” Subira said, eyeing her mate’s back. “Won’t you?”
Hasan gave us a malevolent smile over his shoulder. It sent chills down my spine.
“Thanks for the warning,” I said, sinking in my seat.
Subira only laughed. After several minutes, Hasan started putting plates of eggs and bacon on the table for us, and that was only the first trip. He brought fruit, yogurt, and more. There were a couple of items I didn’t recognize, but Subira gravitated to them, filling her plate with those. I went for the classics as Hasan sat down with us.
Subira didn’t interrogate me in front of Hasan anymore. In fact, she was sweetly silently as Hasan asked me a few questions.
“I never saw you yesterday. Did you sleep in?”
“Yeah. I just kicked my feet up and watched movies,” I answered, shrugging. “I wanted to relax at least one day I was here. Did I miss anything?”
“Not much. Zuri took Kushim out on the horses. I figured out where I recognize him from. We talked about it.”
“Oh?” I didn’t know this story yet.
“He’s the son of a witch that Hasan killed many years ago,” Subira said blandly. “I never met her.”
“Which is a good thing,” Hasan said softly. “A very good thing.”
“Of course. She tried to keep you against your will to keep as a pet and guardian while I was pregnant with our children.”
I blinked several times.
“Her son arrived shortly after I killed her for the attempt,” Hasan continued explaining. “He didn’t know what was happening. I had killed his mother, leaving her a pile of body parts for someone to find. He came after me. I tried my best to explain. He was a youth, and I didn’t… I was a bit rasher back then. I just killed him when my first attempt to explain failed because I wanted to get back to my mate and unborn children.” Hasan made a regretful expression. “Apparently, he didn’t die.”
“I know that he avoided werecats for much of his existence,” I said softly. “How were you to know?”
“It’s for the best. He’s not his mother. Subira would have already figured him out if he had improper intentions with Zuri.”
“Zuri would have figured it out,” Subira countered. “He’s a good man, with an unfortunate history with Hasan, but he’ll fit well in the family.”
“Yes,” Hasan agreed. “I’m glad to have a son-in-law. He’s strong and quick… and gave me a grandson. I have nothing to complain about.”
I didn’t believe him. It sounded like he had a lot to complain about but Subira smiled sweetly from her seat and I realized this was an argument he had already lost.
It was utterly fascinating to see Hasan no longer in charge. Subira clearly had him well in hand.
“Are you done?” Subira asked me suddenly.
“With breakfast.” She tapped the table next to my plate.
“Yes. Let me—”
“Your father will clean up. Come with me.” She stood up and smoothed out her tank top. It was odd to see her in. Hasan grabbed her wrist and she allowed him to pull her in for a kiss.
I stood up, averting my eyes.
“Come. Come.” She grabbed my wrist and pulled me away from the table.
“Have fun,” Hasan called as she dragged me out the door.