This is set during Family and Honor.
Heath followed Jacky in, trying not to leak his fear the imposing sight of the male werecat in front of him. In both werecat and human form, this Jabari, son of Hasan, was a dangerous man, who probably stood against the test of time. Clearly African in heritage, Heath recognized bits of his second wife and Landon in the man’s face, but that small familiarity didn’t lessen the imposing nature of the man. Maybe it made it worse. He came from the same people his wife had, even if they were probably thousands of years apart.
And my wife had been fierce. I have no doubt he is as well.
“Hold. I’ll make the building safe.” He stomped into the kitchen and grabbed a knife. Heath watched as the werecat carved something into the wood of the cabin. He distantly recognized it as a rune of power, but that was all he knew about it. Interesting that a werecat would know one of those. “Ah. This should work…Yes. Perfect.” He leaned back to examine his work. “They won’t be able to enter now.” His eyes fell on Jacky, dismissing Heath completely. For now. “You shouldn’t be out here, little sister. Explain.” After a pause, his dark eyes narrowed. “In human form.”
Heath took his chance to find an open space to Change as well, but he knew Jacky would be human long before him. A gift the werecats had that the werewolves didn’t, he tried not to be a touch jealous of it. He spent years practicing, pushing himself to Change faster and faster but he knew he would never attain their speed at it.
Heath could recognize Jacky’s tone, knowing she was trying to seem like nothing was wrong. It would have made him smile if his body was capable of it. Pain made his body convulse as he pushed to finish the Change faster than he ever had before, not wanting to be left out of the conversation.
“Start talking, Jacky,” the older werecat snapped. “You shouldn’t be here.”
“Um…you missed your reports for a week, so a family meeting was called. I was the closest and…because you had trouble talking to the local wolf pack, I asked Heath to introduce me to see if I could take them off the list of potential suspects. Hasan agreed. I’m not here without permission.”
Heath was able to see Jacky turn to him, checking on him, he hoped. But it was quickly forgotten as Jabari reached out and put his hands on her. Heath was unable to snarl in response, seeing Jacky wince in pain as her ‘brother’ grabbed her like that, too close to her injuries and started poking around.
“Stupid,” he said shortly. “They should have sent Hisao. I don’t need the local wolf pack or information from them. I need someone who can help me kill four juiced vampires.”
Heath felt his fury climbing as the behavior continued, the probing and prodding of Jacky’s deep puncture wounds. She winced again and he felt a violent rage surge through him, but he was still stuck as a wolf.
Almost done, damn it. He can’t fucking man handle her like that.
“Please, stop. It hurts.” Jacky tried to pull away but Jabari’s grip on her jaw was firm. “Jabari.”
Heath knew the moment he was done, panting for only a second as the bigger werecat continued to hold onto Jacky.
“I’m going to look over—”
“She said stop,” Heath growled as he stood up. Jacky shook her head at him, but Heath didn’t care. He wasn’t going to tolerate this kind of shit in front of him, even if they were family. Jabari snarled at him.
“You. You’re supposed to be a good male. That’s what I’ve been told at least.” Jabari spit on the wood floor between them. “And yet you let Jacky come out here, and she’s been hurt.”
“I don’t need your fucking protection,” Jacky growled, trying to shove the other werecat away again. Heath made two steps towards them, then realized he could find another way to fix this problem that didn’t lead to an all out fight. “You wouldn’t do this to Zuri or Mischa.”
“I would,” he snarled. “Don’t act like a fool. If they were hurt like this, I would kill whatever did it without considering the consequences. I also know they wouldn’t get hurt like this.”
Jacky yanked away from the older werecat and staggered back. Heath, knowing he was being watched as well, resisted the urge to reach out and catch her. She ended up next to him by the kitchen counter. He continued with what he was doing, wetting a cloth, trying to get the temperature right.
“I’m here to help,” she hissed. “I’m not here to be babied. And this isn’t Heath’s fault. I asked him to come with me to Washington, but he came out into these woods for his own reasons.”
“What could those be?” Jabari sneered in Heath’s direction. “It seems every time you’re with him, you get hurt. Obviously, I heard about Dallas. Forgive me if I don’t like his presence here. Or yours.”
“I might give you that one,” Heath agreed. For some reason, Jacky got hurt around him a lot, and he wasn’t comfortable with it. Maybe if he had never met her, it would have stay impersonal, just a were cat fighting in the violent world just like him. But then it all changed in Dallas. She was something he never expected. “But I’m out here looking into the disappearance of four wolves. I was pretty sure they were connected to the missing werecats. Those vampires had some choice things to say that confirmed it.”
“Ah.” He shook his head. “There are no wolves for you to find. They’re all dead, I believe.”
Heath stopped moving at that. Fuck. He’d been hoping… He’d wanted to find them, to bring some peace back to the Seattle pack.
“So, you…you figured it out, or did you find them?” Jacky was covering her neck, reminding Heath what he was doing.
“You will leave at dawn and report everything I tell you to Father.” He grabbed a chair from the side of the room and sat down. Heath wanted to roll his eyes at the overtly masculine way Jabari was showing off, whether the werecat realized he was posturing or not. Jacky got dressed and handed Heath his clothing, who threw them on, knowing it would make her more comfortable.
“I’m not leaving these mountains without you. Not with those vampires out there. You said they were juiced. What does that mean?”
“It means they’ve been feeding off supernatural blood,” he answered. “They started small, taking the wolves to boost their power. It made them strong enough and fast enough to handle Gaia and Titan as a group as long as they took them down one at a time. Now, as you can see, they’re strong enough to tumble with us.”
“How long have they been up here?” Heath asked, finding another chair. He gestured for Jacky to sit down, and was glad when she did, but he avoided her touch when she reached for his bite wound. He didn’t want the attention and he’d suffered vampire bites before. They never concerned him before and he wouldn’t make a fuss over them now. “It’s the bite, and the bleeding should stop in a few more minutes.” Heath got back up, finally tired of seeing Jacky’s neck, though.
He came back with the rag and several extras he found in the drawers of the kitchen. He even had a bowl of warm water.
“I’m going to make sure they’re clean,” he said gently. Jacky tilted her head to the side, giving him better access. He knew Jabari was watching them now, and he worked careful, gently going over each hole. He would show that fucking werecat how to treat injuries on someone they supposedly cared about. He also had to hold his other level of self control. Once again, he found himself with a vulnerable, golden eyed Jacky. She was giving him a level of trust she didn’t give this male werecat who was supposed to be her brother. He wanted to do something stupid and he couldn’t slip, not now, not ever.
“So, they’ve been feeding on supernaturals, but why out here? None of this makes much sense. The entire pack lives in Seattle. This seems like a bad place to hunt supernaturals,” he finally said, trying to take his mind off Jacky right there in front of him, too close for his good.
“My guess? They were thrown out of their nest or left to try out something on their own.” Jabari shrugged. Heath caught the stiff movement out of the corner of his eye and it was a small one. Anyone not paying enough attention would have missed it. “Who cares? They killed two werecats and have been drinking from supernaturals. They broke the Law in a way that gives me full right to kill them without needing to ask anyone’s permission. I’ve been trying to track them back to their nest for days. They don’t leave a trail, which has slowed my progress.”
“Ah. So…they came up here from wherever. They captured and killed the four wolves, draining them for a power boost, then took on the werecats. Did they drain Gaia and Titan?” Heath could hear the wheels turning in Jacky’s mind. She was smart and capable, and she liked putting the pieces together for herself. He really enjoyed that about her. It was a refreshing change from most werewolves, who let their superiors figure out everything and just followed orders.
“Yes, though that wasn’t reported to me by the humans,” Jabari answered, smiling viciously. “They’ll have to answer for that. It’s pretty apparent when a body has been drained. I didn’t get to see the bodies, but it’s the only way to account for the vampires’ power.”
“I can imagine,” she muttered. Heath hit a particularly sore spot and immediately felt bad as Jacky hissed and pulled away. He’d messed up and wanted to kick himself. Jabari growled a warning.
“Sorry. I saw some dirt, and I didn’t want to leave it,” Heath whispered, telling the truth. He hadn’t wanted anything to accidentally heal into the wound. “I’m listening. You two can continue.”
“So, this is Heath Everson.” Jabari snorted. “Hasan said he was probably harmless.” Heath tensed. Harmless. He was considered one of the strongest wolves in North American, and one of the best Alphas left among their kind. And this werecat and Hasan, thought he was harmless. Talk about a kick to the ego. “You know, sister, if you want him out of the way so you can keep the little human girl, we can arrange that.”
Jacky snarled now. “That’s not funny to joke about, brother.”
“My son won’t let you take his sister,” Heath said tensely. He held onto Jacky, not wanting to let go of her, not wanting to lose control and try to attack this werecat, who could probably kill him. He wouldn’t go down without a fight though.
“Then we’ll kill both of you. It wouldn’t be—”
“Jabari, stop!” Jacky snapped. “I like Carey, Heath, and Landon. They’re good. Threatening them to get a rise is not something I’m going to tolerate. I don’t want to take Carey away from anyone.”
Heath swallowed. He didn’t move, otherwise, just listening to Jacky. She liked him and his family. He knew Carey was special to her, for reasons only supernaturals like them would every understand, but he never really thought she liked having him or his son around. He let that be his touch stone for a moment.
“I tease, little sister.”
“Oh, I fucking figured, but other people probably don’t realize that.”
Heath didn’t let go, trying to let those words continue to sink in. Teasing. This werecat was teasing about killing two werewolves to give a human girl to his sister.
What the fuck is wrong with this man? Is the entire family so awful? No wonder Jacky wants nothing to do with them.
“Heath, are you almost done?” she asked softly, her voice a surprising balm, cooling his anger just long enough for him to realize he was holding her too tightly so that he could concentrate on her and not Jabari. With effort, he relaxed his hand and found himself again. Thanks to her.
“Yes. Let me see if they have bandages around here.”