“You’re really coming back,” she breathed.
He stopped in the bathroom doorway and looked into her eyes. “Yeah,” he said. “I’m coming back.”
“And staying.” He lifted a shoulder when she only stared at him. “I walked away from my family and my life here once. I’m not going to do it again.”
There was something new in her eyes now. A light he couldn’t read. “You should tell them that,” she said very softly.
“After I earn my way back into their good graces.”
“Oh, Jacob.” She touched him then, the first time she’d instigated contact, lifting her hand and setting it on his jaw. “They’d be crazy not to want you.”
He let out a short laugh.
“I was a real prick back in the day, Soph. I told you.”
“You weren’t. You were a young kid who’d been hurt by his dad, who had to raise his mom instead of the other way around, and who didn’t know how to deal emotionally. And anyway, it doesn’t matter what you were then. I know who you are now. You come off all big and bad and tough, and those things are true, but you’d also give a perfect stranger the shirt off your back.” She spread her arms out to reveal herself wearing his shirt.
He managed another rough laugh, even though she was killing him. “Maybe I gave it to you because you look hot in it. Especially since you’re cold.”
She rolled her eyes.
“You’re also not a stranger,” he said. “Not even close.”
Her breath caught. “I’m not perfect either.”
From where he stood she was. He opened his mouth to say so, but her finger brushed over his mouth, keeping his words in. He closed his eyes a beat and soaked up her touch. When he felt the fine tremors going through her, he gently nudged her into the bathroom. Leaning past her, he turned the shower on hot and gestured to the towels. “There’s shampoo and soap there. Use whatever you want.”
“See,” she said so softly he could hardly hear her. “One of the good guys.”
To prove it, he left her there, gently shutting the door.
Alone in the hallway, he had to take a deep breath. He was hard, aching with it. He looked down at it. It’s not going where you think…
Shaking his head at himself, he strode into his bedroom, sat on the bed and pulled out his phone. He scrolled through his contacts and stared at Hud’s name for a long moment before pressing the button to contact him. He hit FaceTime for a video call instead of just a voice call because the two of them were having enough communication problems trying to be regular people.
And they weren’t regular people.
They were twins who’d once known what the other was going to think before they even thought it, and he wanted that back, dammit. To get there, he needed to see him, needed to look into his eyes.
“Is it Mom?” Hud asked in lieu of a hello. He was sitting at a desk and looking irritated as hell.
“No,” Jacob said. “She’s fine. I didn’t get a chance to tell you, she found the Twitter.”
“I know. She tweeted Bailey that I couldn’t come out to play today because I was grounded for lying about my grades.” Hud blew out a breath and turned to look at someone, shaking his head with a low laugh. “Bailey says she’ll wait for me.”
Jacob tried to smile but couldn’t.
Hud frowned. “What is it?”
“I’m not trying to buy my way back in. But I can’t deny that I do want back in.”
“I was wrong to say that,” Hud said. “I shouldn’t have.”
Relief washed through Jacob. He didn’t say anything, and for that matter, neither did Hud, but for the first time since he’d come back, the silence between them didn’t seem filled with animosity but rather the kind of quiet they used to have.
“So,” Hud finally said. “Wounded Warriors tomorrow. Kenna told me you’ve both been working your asses off on it.”
“Yeah.” And he’d loved it. “Going to be fun.”
“I’ll be there,” Hud said. “We all will.”
The implied support tightened his throat.
“And I’ve been meaning to tell you,” Hud went on, voice gruff. “Bailey’s been bugging me to have you over—” He broke off and again looked over at someone. He listened a minute and then rolled his eyes. “Okay, bugging is apparently the wrong word here.”