The thing was, stepping up to pay his mom’s bills wasn’t about showing off. He’d saved just about every penny he’d made over the past nine years. In the beginning he’d been aggressive with investments and it had paid off. His money had made money, and now he had a nest egg. It gave him peace of mind to know that if something happened to him, his mom would be okay.
“You didn’t write,” Hud said. “You didn’t call. But you sent money for Mom and…Fuck.” He shoved his hands in his hair and turned in a restless circle. “How could you not even call?”
Jacob closed his eyes. “I don’t know.” But he did know. It’d been because of what Hud had said to him before he left, angry words that shouldn’t have sliced as deep as they had, but he’d been eighteen and he’d felt gutted. And hurt. And what eighteen-year-old punk kid dealt with that well? Not him.
“And now all of a sudden you want to put money in and be a part of this family?” Hud asked in disbelief. “You want to be the big hero and think that it fixes everything? Tough shit, man. You can’t buy your way back in.”
Is that what Hud thought? If so, hell if Jacob would explain about Brett and why he’d come back to Cedar Ridge. “Your problem with me being home has nothing to do with me helping out,” he said. “And I have the money, so why the fuck can’t I use it to help? Or do you plan to hold this over me for the rest of our lives?”
Both of their phones buzzed an incoming text at the same time. They pulled their phones from their pockets and froze at the group message from their mom.
I’ve fallen. I don’t want either of you to worry. I’ll be fine. But they insisted I let you know. XOXO, Mom.
In sync, they moved toward their vehicles. “Meet you there,” Jacob said.
Hud shook his head. “I’ll drive. Get in.”
Jacob did just that, taking some hope from the fact that at least in the case of an emergency they could come together and do what had to be done.
“She’s never fallen before,” Hud said with a frown, whipping out of Jacob’s driveway. “Physically, she’s been really good.”
Jacob was trying to reach the front desk by cell phone but was on hold. “What are you doing slowing down?”
“The light’s going to turn red before I get there,” Hud said.
“Since when do you drive like a grandma?”
Hud grinded his molars and hit the gas, making it through the intersection without the light turning red.
“Turn left,” Jacob told him. “It’s faster to go down Jeffrey Pine Road.”
“I’m a cop,” Hud said through his teeth. “I know the best route.”
“Great. Do you know which pedal is the accelerator?”
“Shit.” Hud hit the gas, and Jacob couldn’t help but note with some grim satisfaction that he turned left on Jeffrey Pine, possibly on two wheels.
Five minutes later they hit their mom’s room at a dead run and came to a skidding halt in her doorway.
Carrie sat in the center of her bed, her ankle propped up on an ice pack. She had a supersized loaded pizza in front of her.
“Just in time, boys!” she said cheerfully. “Come, sit, eat while it’s still hot!”
“Mom,” Hud said, still breathing hard from the run up the stairs. “You said you fell.”
“I did. I was leading a Jazzercise class downstairs and tripped over Yvonne. We toppled like dominos. You should’ve seen us. There’s a pic of it. Carl said he posted it on Instagram. He’s going to tell everyone that his girlfriends are more into each other than him.” She laughed and reached for her phone on the bedside table.
“Mom, we don’t need to see the pic,” Hud said. “How badly are you hurt?”
Jacob already knew the answer to that. She was beaming at the sight of them, happy and absolutely pain free. In fact, he’d bet his portion of that pizza that she was up to shenanigans and one hundred percent lucid at the moment.
“Baby, relax,” Carrie said to Hud, and patted the bed. “Come eat.”
Hud pinched the bridge of his nose and took a deep breath before looking at Jacob like WTF?
Jacob shrugged and moved to the bed. He removed the ice pack from her ankle and eyed it closely. Slightly swollen. Relieved, he replaced the ice pack and sat, pulling her in for a hug. Then he grabbed the biggest piece of pizza and took a bite. “Good stuff,” he said. “Stone’s?”
Carrie nodded with a smile.
“Missed that place,” he said. “I’m starving.”