“Maybe.” She laughed a little self-consciously. “It’s hard to get used to.”
“I know. But maybe as the woman helping us keep Jacob in Cedar Ridge, you’ll get used to it?”
She stared at him. “Oh, I’m not—we’re not—” She shook her head. “I think you’ve overestimated what Jacob and I are to each other.”
“Oh,” Carrie marveled, coming closer. “You’re the one my Jacob’s seeing, aren’t you?” She took Sophie’s hand, her smile bright. “Look at you. I just knew you’d be pretty. He always did like the pretty ones.”
Hud grimaced. “Mom—”
“Oh, I know, he’ll kill us, blah, blah. Might as well make it worthwhile, yes?” She smiled at Sophie. “Where did you two kids meet? School? A football game? Oh, I know! You’re his English tutor?” She shifted in close and spoke in a stage whisper. “Listen, honey, I read his essay and I know you must have written it for him. No way did he read enough Shakespeare to write that on his own. I realize he’s charming as all get-out, but you’ve got to encourage him to do his own work, okay?”
Sophie glanced over at Hud, who stood there at his mom’s side, tall and broad like Jacob, eyes still warm but also something else now. Challenging? Waiting for her to react to his mom’s jumbled ramblings?
Well, what he didn’t know was that Sophie had been judged before and found wanting, and she no longer did anything for approval. Turning her back on him, she smiled at Carrie and squeezed her fingers gently. “I’ll do better next time. I promise,” she said. “And are you done kicking your son’s butt in chess? Because I’d love a game.”
Carrie clapped in glee and gave Hud the brush-off with a wave of her hand.
He started to object. “Mom—”
“Baby, it’s okay. I know you only came by because you’re feeling guilty over how busy you are lately, but as you can see, I’m busy too. Run along now. Mama’s gotta kick your twin’s very pretty girlfriend’s tush in chess.”
Hud shook his head but pulled Carrie in for a hug. This time when he turned to Sophie, the warmth was back in his eyes, along with a grudging respect. “She cheats,” he warned her.
“What?” Carrie said, hand to her heart. “Well, my goodness, I do no such thing, Hudson.”
“Hand to heaven,” Hud said to Sophie, and to her shock he gave her a good-bye hug as well.
“What was that for?” she asked when he pulled free.
“For giving him a challenge close to home, for putting a smile on his face.”
“And how do you know that was me?” she asked, a little flustered with the praise she wasn’t sure she deserved.
“A twin knows.”
She wondered what else he knew and felt her face heat.
He chuckled, for a minute the sound so much like Jacob that she blinked. And then he was gone.
Jacob sat on his porch watching the sun set over the Rocky Mountain peaks and Cedar Lake. It was his first break in days. Kenna had been saying she’d been sinking, drowning in all the prep for their upcoming events.
He’d honestly believed it was her way of forcing him to interact at the resort, to be near everyone.
But he should’ve known better. Kenna was about as up-front and frank as a woman could be. If she had a problem, everyone knew it. There was no hidden agenda with her, no pretending to be something she wasn’t. She was truly overworked, and once Jacob realized that, it was easy to jump in and help her.
As it was, they’d been working night and day to pull off the Wounded Warriors weekend, which would provide a day of water and land sports for injured veterans and their nondisabled family and friends from all over the country. It was a hell of a lot of work, and he was good with that.
But for now he sat there watching the deep, dark night sky, his brain tired.
Sophie. He’d heard her coming. She had a fondness for high-heeled sandals that made her legs look like they were ten miles long. Smooth, sleek, toned—
Don’t go there, soldier.
He stood up as she came into view, standing before him with a soft smile. “Hey.”
He found he couldn’t talk, couldn’t breathe until he’d pulled her in and buried his face in her hair. The feel of her, warm and soft in his arms, felt so fucking right. Able to breathe again, he finally said “hey” back.
She’d burrowed in as well, setting her head on his shoulder and letting out a little sigh like maybe he was her happy place.