“Are you shitting me?” Hud asked, and took a step into Jacob’s air space.
“Hud,” Kenna said softly, warningly.
“No,” he said. “I’m going to get this out.” He poked a finger hard into Jacob’s chest. “I never wanted you to shut the hell up and keep your feelings to yourself. I never wanted you to go. What I wanted was for you to be a part of this family, and I still want that. And if you don’t get that, then fuck you.”
And with that, he stalked off, shoulder-checking Jacob hard as he did.
Kenna sighed and looked at Jacob. “Do you always have to be so stoic? Can’t you just once let it all out, what you feel, what you want, what you need?”
He felt himself shut down a little bit. Didn’t she get it? What right did he have to impose his needs or wants here?
She stared at him, made a rough sound, and poked him in the exact same spot Hud just had, which hurt like hell. “Don’t you do that,” she grated out, sounding furious. “Don’t you act like you don’t deserve to be one of us.” She poked him again, and he caught her hand.
“Stop,” he said.
But she just stared up into his face, her own going from angry to crushed in zero point two. “Oh, Jacob. Is that it? Do you really think you don’t deserve to be one of us?”
Dropping her hand, he pushed it away from him.
“Oh, my God,” she whispered, and her eyes went suspiciously shiny. “You do think that,” she breathed, her voice a little broken and doing its best to do the same to him. “Damn you, you really do.” She came at him hard, and he braced himself, but she threw her arms around him and clung.
He could handle a hell of a lot of things, but a crying woman wasn’t one of them. He was out of his comfort zone and way beyond his area of expertise. “Kenna, I can’t—” Emotion settled into his chest like a bag of stones. “Don’t cry. Anything but that, okay? You can even go back to drilling a hole in my chest if you just stop.”
Kenna lifted her head and pointed at him, and he manfully held in his wince. “I want you to listen to me, you big oaf,” she said. “You aren’t alone. You have family who loves you, though God knows why. You deserve this family, Jacob. You deserve our love, every bit as much as Gray or Aidan or Hud or me. Say it.”
“Say it or I swear to God—”
“I love you, too, Kenna.”
This instantly swallowed up her frustration, and she sagged a little bit. “Wow,” she breathed. “You really said it.”
“I meant it.”
“Good,” she said fiercely, and hugged him tight. “There just might be hope for you yet. Now let’s go find your stubborn-ass twin.”
“There’s something I have to do first,” he said, looking around for Sophie. Kenna was right. He had some things to tell her, and he hoped she’d hear him out before—as Hud had put it—she killed him dead.
As Sophie had worked the breakfast, she’d known she wore a perma-smile. She simply couldn’t help it. It hadn’t been just the sex—though that got more spectacular each time, which was saying something.
It was that Jacob loved her. He loved her. He loved her.
And here was the thing. She knew that nothing good ever came from such a deep, potentially gut-wrenching emotion, but hope sprang eternal. And she couldn’t help but think that this, with him, was different.
“Looks good on you,” Chris said when she refilled his orange juice.
“What does?” she asked.
“The morning after.”
She jerked and poured orange juice down the front of herself. “Crap.”
“You,” she said. “Zip it.”
He mimed zipping his lips and throwing away the key.
Sophie rolled her eyes and headed toward the next table but was stopped by a voice that put her back up before she even turned.
“What the hell are you doing here?”
Lucas. Grinding her teeth, she looked down at herself. Orange-juice-splattered apron over jeans shorts, flip-flops, and a tank top. No makeup, which meant she was without her armor. She blamed all the great sex she’d been having because she’d mistakenly considered the after-sex-glow makeup enough—
“You going to turn around?” Lucas asked.
She grimaced, swallowed it, and then faced him.
He took in her appearance. “At least you spilled on yourself this time,” he said.
“Why are you here?” she asked.