Chapter 14: Uncovering Pieces of Truth
The time of presents and family gatherings had arrived. Tonight would be Christmas Eve. Jasmine tried to be as cheerful as she possibly could, but Lucas clearly saw straight through her well-built façade. The other Wood family members seemed to be oblivious to Jasmine's struggle, which was no surprise if she was being honest. "You suck at pretending," Lucas told her as she buttoned her onyx coat. She was surprised he actually made a comment about it. The tension was still palpable between them after their fight. Neither of them had the guts to bring the subject up and resolve their issues.
"At least I try to pretend I'm enjoying myself," she retorted with an eye roll, slightly annoyed. Lucas had been brooding all morning – ever since Gabriella told him he was obligated to join the family trip. He'd been nagging and quarreling until Gabriella finally told him Grandma Diana was looking forward to seeing all her grandchildren. Somehow that shut Lucas up. Jasmine guessed he kind of liked Diana, opposite to his feelings for the rest of the family. She couldn't wait to meet the one person Lucas didn't despise.
"At least I don't pretend I'm okay when obviously I'm not," Lucas shot back, clearly not done speaking. "Instead of putting energy into pretending, you should be dealing with your loss." His words hit home, hard. Jasmine's eyes widened, tears welling up, as she halted her movements. That was a low blow, true, but low.
"I'm not going to sugarcoat it because everyone acts like you're a porcelain doll that can break at any moment. Man up. Your grandma died. I get it. It sucks, but you have to move on. Not dealing with that shit only makes it worse," Lucas told her, trying to give her advice in a seriously messed up way. No one ever straight out told Jasmine she needed to move on.
"You don't fucking understand," Jasmine hissed through clenched teeth, forcefully pushing Lucas aside and moving past him.
"Maybe I don't, but I do know this isn't fucking healthy," he retorted as he let her pass. Jasmine didn't look back as she walked to the garage, not in the mood to discuss the subject any further. She desperately tried to hold back her tears. Deep down she knew Lucas had a solid point, yet she couldn't bring herself to accept it.
As she stepped into the garage, she noticed Nathan putting their bags in the trunk of his sleek silver Lamborghini. "You're driving?" Jasmine asked a little surprised, halting in front of Nathan.
"Yeah. Mom and dad took the Mercedes, we're taking my car. Dad doesn't want Lucas driving. He knows Lucas never follows the speed limit and tends to drive like a complete lunatic," Nathan explained with a grin before closing the trunk with a loud thud.
"Does Lucas already know?" Jasmine asked with a raised eyebrow. She honestly couldn't believe that Lucas would listen to his father. Frank was the last person Lucas would follow orders from.
"Uh, that's kind of the issue…" Nathan said nervously, trailing off. "Dad kind of took the keys of all the cars and motorcycles when he left, leaving only my key and spare key behind." Jasmine's eyes widened.
"They already left?" she questioned, surprised. Nathan nodded. She had no idea Gabriella and Frank were already on their way to Phoenix. They didn't even take the time to tell them goodbye.
"We should leave as well. I still have to pick up Lucy," Nathan explained before the door suddenly burst open. His eyes nervously shot to the door as Lucas walked in the garage at a fast pace, his body tense with rage.
"Where the fuck are my keys?" Lucas cried out, his face beet red with anger. Someone didn't look too happy.
Jasmine took a step forward, ignoring Nathan's grunt of protest at her sudden movement. "Calm down," she demanded, her eyes piercing Lucas' blue ones. He seemed to struggle with his anger for a moment before his eyes softened.
"Where are my keys?" he repeated steadily, his voice on the verge of impatience. Jasmine looked over her shoulder to Nathan. The guy didn't seem to have the guts to tell his brother. Pussy.
"Frank took them. We're taking Nate's car," she informed Lucas, waiting for him to blow up. It took a second for her message to process before Lucas cursed loudly.
"That fucking scumbag!" Jasmine shook her head and took another step closer until she was standing right in front of Lucas. She could feel Nathan's eyes burning holes in her back.
"Just calm down and accept that you'll have to ride with us," Jasmine advised quietly as she rested her palm on top of Lucas' shoulder. His entire posture was tense, his hands shaking. He was having difficulties containing his anger. Jasmine desperately wanted to help him, but she had no idea how other than trying to use touch to keep him grounded.
"Like you accepted your grandmother's death?" Lucas fired back, his eyes on hers as he spit out the words. That was a kick below the belt, but Jasmine tried her best not to show how much his words affected her.
"Now you're just acting out like a toddler. I understand you're angry, but your anger is not caused by something I did," Jasmine replied calmly, swallowing thickly and ignoring his insult. Lucas was trying to rile her up, logically she knew that, but her mind was having a hard time processing that fact.
"We should probably get going," Nathan interrupted their heated conversation.
Lucas rolled his eyes. "Of course you little backstabber, you knew exactly what was happening," he spit out, his voice filled with malice. "I shouldn't be surprised," he mumbled as an afterthought.
"Watch out who you call a backstabber, Luke. Don't think for even a second I forgot what you did with my girlfriend," Nathan retorted, his eyes turning cold.
"Ex-girlfriend," Lucas corrected with a smirk, clearly starting to enjoy harassing his younger brother. No way. Jasmine wasn't going to stand at the sideline and watch them go at each other for a second longer.
"Guys? Shut up, will you? We have to leave," Jasmine interfered as she walked to the car and stepped inside. Lucas chuckled, but followed right behind her. They took the backseat, leaving the front open for Lucy.
Nathan looked a little dubious as he watched the two of them in the back seat. Jasmine understood he was worried about her. "It's okay," she mouthed. After another wary glance to the back of the car, Nathan finally sat down in the driver's seat and started the engine.
It was a six hour drive to Frank's parents, Diana and Thomas. Jasmine already feared the road trip. Lucas and Nathan in one car could never end well. They constantly bickered and fought simply to test and annoy the other. Jasmine felt like she was going on a trip with two infants instead of adults.
After four hours of sitting in a car with two nagging children, they finally halted at a small steakhouse to make a short pit stop and get some needed food in their stomachs. It had been the longest four hours of her life. Jasmine smiled as she noticed Nathan helping Lucy out of the car and holding her hand firmly in his. She gave her friend a wink before jumping out of the car herself.
No one was there to hold her hand. Lucas had already disappeared in the building. She guessed that even if he did have a girlfriend, Lucas wouldn't be acting all lovey dovey with her. He just wasn't the kind of guy that held hands and opened doors. He was a guy that protected his girl, was possessive beyond measure and would sacrifice his life for the ones he loved. He was an alpha male so it was romance on a totally different level.
"I'm going to the bathroom," Jasmine informed them as her eyes caught sight of Nathan and Lucy kissing passionately. She'd rather not see the exchange of salvia between them. Lately all the two of them did was stick their tongues down each other's throat.
As she returned from the bathroom a few minutes later, she noticed they'd gotten a table in the back of the restaurant. "We already ordered for you," Lucas told her as she sat down next to him. Again, it was no surprise Lucas would order without asking her opinion. She still needed to decide whether she hated his dominance and need to be in control or loved it.
Nathan and Lucy were still too absorbed in their own little world to even notice she had returned. "I don't understand how you can be friends with that," Lucas commented, clearly disgusted as he pointed at the happy couple.
Jasmine smiled. "They're not always like that," she replied. Nathan nor Lucy seemed to sense they were talking about them, both oblivious to the real world.
"Only 99 percent of the time," Lucas guessed. He smirked when Jasmine shrugged, admitting defeat. Honestly, she was indeed annoyed that her friends completely ignored her existence when they were around each other. At first it had been cute, but soon it became frustrating. Sometimes she just wanted to get some attention from either of them instead of staying in the background. It sucked being the third wheel.
"I'm sorry about last week. I kind of overreacted," Jasmine suddenly said, feeling the need to solve their former issues and end their fight altogether. She hated feeling guilty and did regret some of the things she said.
The amusement in Lucas' eyes disappeared as they turned serious. "We both did," he admitted. "I just hate it when people lecture me about my behavior. It sets me off."
"I hate it when people drive drunk or recklessly. It's what made me lose my parents," Jasmine retorted, shutting up when she realized what she admitted. Her eyes darted around the restaurant to look at anything but Lucas. Damn it. Why did she always reveal pieces of herself when Lucas was around? Ugh.
"Fuck," she heard Lucas curse under his breath before a hand suddenly clutched hers. At the touch her eyes shot to him. Lucas was watching her intently, his eyes filled with remorse. "I didn't know," he told her quietly. Jasmine nodded.
"I know you didn't," she smiled sadly as she intertwined their fingers and squeezed. "Don't feel guilty. I'm over it," she added.
"Fuck," Lucas cursed again, shaking his head. "You should have told me." They both stayed silent for a few minutes before Lucas loosened his grip on her hand and stood up. "I need a smoke," he uttered as he left. Jasmine contemplated staying in her seat, but when her eyes caught sight of Nathan and Lucy still kissing, she decided to get up.
When she pushed the heavy metal door open and stepped outside the steakhouse she noticed Lucas resting against the wall, his eyes closed as he took a drag off of his cigarette. "Luke," she whispered softly, her voice barely audible. He was stuck in his own world, trying to deal with the situation the only way he knew – by running away and taking a smoke.
At the sound of her voice Lucas blinked his eyes open. If he was surprised she followed him, he surely didn't show it. He sighed deeply before pulling her closer with his free hand and tucking her against his side. Jasmine nestled herself against him as Lucas rested his head on top of hers. "If I had known…" Lucas trailed off, clearly not knowing what to say. It didn't happen very often that he was left speechless.
"You didn't," Jasmine replied as she wrapped both her arms around his waist and rested her head against his solid chest. She could feel his heart beat rapidly underneath her ear, the thumping sound soothing her worries.
"I keep messing up," Lucas mumbled softly, so quietly Jasmine had no idea whether he meant to say it to her or to himself.
"Just don't get mad at me. I hate it when you're mad at me," Jasmine sighed as she tightened her grip on his middle. She could feel Lucas take another long drag before he threw his cigarette on the ground and wrapped both his arms around her. She closed her eyes in contentment, back in her safe little cocoon.
"Believe me, I never stay mad long, not at you," Lucas muttered as he pressed a feather light kiss against her temple. "We should go back inside before they serve our food." Jasmine nodded as she slowly let go and took a step back. Lucas gave her a lopsided smile before opening the door and entering the steakhouse. Sighing, Jasmine followed him. They could fight like lions, but cuddle like sweet little kittens afterward. Jasmine still needed to decide which part she liked best.
Jasmine barely made it out of the car when she was suddenly engulfed in a warm hug. A gasp of surprise left her lips as she uncomfortably patted the back of the body that embraced her. When the firm grip was finally released she looked up to see an elderly woman grinning happily at her. "I'm so happy to finally meet you, Jazzy," the woman smiled as she pinched Jasmine's cheek. Ouch. That actually hurt a little.
"Ma, give the poor girl a break," Frank interrupted as he walked closer. "Jasmine, this is Grandma Diana. Ma, you obviously already figured out who Jasmine is."
"Honey, you look so pretty! Even prettier than in the pictures Gabby always shows me!" the woman exclaimed. "Thomas, look, Jasmine has arrived," she told the man that walked out of the house. Jasmine smiled politely, a little uncomfortable. Please let someone else be the center of attention.
"Lucas," Diana suddenly gasped, covering her mouth with a hand. "I had no idea you were actually coming," she mumbled, the tears evident in her eyes. Jasmine watched the emotions crisscrossing Lucas' face before it turned impassive. He was clearly happy to see his grandmother, but didn't want other people knowing it.
"Grams," Lucas grinned, ignoring the loud sigh of his father as he pulled his grandmother into his arms. Jasmine smiled. He obviously loved his grandmother unconditionally. It was nice to see Lucas showing his soft side. When she turned around she noticed everyone had already disappeared inside the house. Typical. When Lucas did show good behavior everyone ignored him.
As Jasmine entered the house Lucy turned up beside her. "I'm so freaking nervous. I've never spent a single holiday without my mom," she uttered. I never spent a single one with mine, Jasmine thought somberly as she followed the rest of the group.
"Girls," Thomas said, trying to get Lucy's and Jasmine's attention. "You'll get the first bedroom on the right. After you're settled in we'll be gathering around the Christmas tree to open presents. Usually I like to wait until after dinner, but Diana convinced me everyone would be too impatient to wait – or well, she would be too impatient," the elder man smiled, earning a few chuckles. It was obvious he cherished his wife by the warmth in his eyes when he watched Diana. Jasmine wasn't used to seeing that kind of love and devotion. It was a nice change.
"Chris and her family will join us later tonight," Thomas added, eyeing Frank. Apparently Frank also had a sister. It was something Jasmine had figured out earlier that day when Gabriella was talking about the Christmas dinner.
"Should we go get our stuff?" Lucy whispered in Jasmine's ear as Thomas started a conversation with his son. Jasmine nodded and followed her friend outside. As they exited the house Jasmine's eyes widened when she noticed Lucas was unloading the trunk.
"Looks like you do have manners," Jasmine teased as he handed her the small pink suitcase she brought with her.
"Only for you, princess," Lucas flirted with a charming smile. Their silly banter clearly was back. After their talk everything seemed to have gone back to normal, much to Jasmine's relief. Nothing was worse than walking on egg shells around Lucas when she was used to bickering with him.
"Should I feel special?" she questioned with a raised eyebrow. Lucy gave them a funny look before retreating to the house.
"Hmm," Lucas feigned to think as he took a step closer and brushed his thumb across Jasmine's cheek. The innocent touch left a tingling feeling in its wake. "You should," he eventually decided with a smirk.
Jasmine sighed and rolled her eyes, trying to ignore the somersaults her stomach made every time Lucas touched her. "I think I like it better when we're fighting," she told him, lying without a single blink of the eye.
Lucas grinned. "You always look incredibly hot when you're angry, princess. It turns me on way more than it should," he admitted as his thumb brushed against her bottom lip. His confession surprised her.
"You're saying you enjoy making me angry?" Jasmine accused, looking affronted as she poked Lucas in the ribs.
Lucas tried to stay serious before bursting into a fit of laughter. "Love it," he uttered between rumbles of laughter. Jasmine rolled her eyes. She should have expected this answer.
"I'm going to my room," she let him know with a loud sigh, before turning around and heading back inside. A smile played at her lips as she heard Lucas' chuckle.
After everyone opened their presents, the family gathered around the kitchen table. Diana had made one big table out of two smaller ones to get everyone together. It looked kind of funny. Chris and her husband, John, joined the festivities earlier, their daughter Abby and her boyfriend Derek would visit the next day, spending Christmas Eve at Derek's home.
Much to Jasmine's surprise, Diana had bought presents for both Lucy and her. Since they were part of the family now they needed to be pampered according to the elderly lady. Jasmine couldn't say she minded. Diana truly was one of a kind. She was incredibly sweet and kindhearted.
At the table Jasmine was seated between Lucy and Gabriella. Lucas was given a spot at the end of the table next to his grandfather. He clearly felt uncomfortable and no one seemed to talk to him. They constantly left him out of the conversations and ignored his comments. It made Jasmine sad. It was clear no one gave him the chance to improve his behavior. They were so oblivious to what they were doing it wasn't even funny anymore.
All through dinner, Jasmine tried to get Lucas' attention to cheer him up, but his eyes stayed glued to his plate. Once Diana served dessert, Lucas excused himself and went outside – probably to smoke a cigarette and get away from the torture they were putting him through.
Done with watching everyone act coldly toward Lucas, Jasmine pushed her chair back and stood up. As she headed in the direction where Lucas wandered off, she noticed Diana smile warmly at her. Fortunately, there was still a single person left that did believe in Lucas. Jasmine honestly didn't understand how everyone could ignore him like he didn't even exist.
Rubbing her arms, Jasmine stepped outside, the cool wind enveloping her frame. She should have opted to wear a warmer sweater. The night was way colder in Phoenix than it had been in Los Angeles. As she took a few steps forward she noticed movement in the back yard. Once her eyes adjusted to the dark she could see Lucas leaning against a tree, his lips wrapped around the end of his cigarette as he took a drag.
"Hi," she whispered softly as she halted in front of him. Lucas smiled softly before his lips turned back into a thin line. He was clearly annoyed – with reason. Jasmine had barely been able to contain her anger during dinner. She didn't understand how people could be so callous.
"Now you understand why I hate them so much?" Lucas asked with a snort as he took another drag and inhaled deeply. Jasmine blinked, surprised that Lucas didn't hide bitterness in his voice.
"Your grandmother likes you," Jasmine protested. She didn't want Lucas to only see the negative aspects of tonight – even though she knew she would do the same thing if the situation were reversed.
"That's because no matter what my father tells her, grams will always keep seeing the little kid that loved to play football. She knows I've changed, but she doesn't accept that I'm no longer that little kid. No matter what people say, she will always defend me, even when I don't deserve it," Lucas smiled sadly as he crushed the burned cigarette with his boot and lit a new one.
"You might not be that kid anymore, but he's still hidden deep inside of you," Jasmine pointed out as she rested the palm of her hand against Lucas' heart. For a moment Lucas eyes were glued to her hand before he exhaled deeply.
"Don't, princess, please don't," he whispered brokenly as he closed his eyes. She knew he was hurting inside, knew he didn't want to be confronted with his pain.
"I know," she whispered back, wrapping her arms around his middle. "Don't shut me out," she pleaded. Jasmine was a tough person, but she hated seeing someone hurting, certainly when that someone was Lucas.
"I don't deserve your kindness. You've got to stop trying to bring the old me back. It won't work, princess. I'll only end up hurting you," Lucas mumbled sadly, throwing his untouched cigarette on the ground and returning her hug.
"It's a risk I'm willing to take," Jasmine told him as she nestled her face in the crook of his neck.
Lucas sighed and chuckled softly. "You're too stubborn for your own good," he accused.
"I know," she replied with a smile. Almost positive he wouldn't let go of her, Jasmine pulled back slightly, wrapped her arms around Lucas' neck and looked up. He was looking down at her, the coldness in his blue orbs far gone. She gazed at him with a soft smile playing at her lips. He always seemed to look so peaceful when he was holding her in his arms.
"I can't be that person, princess. I don't remember how," Lucas sighed, resting his head against hers, their faces so close together she could feel his breathe against her lips. It felt incredibly intimate.
"Will you ever tell me what made you change so drastically?" Jasmine asked cautiously, knowing it was a touchy subject. If he wouldn't answer her now, he never would. She'd never seen him more peaceful and at ease.
"It was a conglomeration of things that happened. Things I'm not ready to talk about," Lucas answered honestly. It surprised Jasmine that he didn't just dodge her question, but took his time to answer truthfully. It gave her hope, hope that someday he would be okay.
"I'm here to listen whenever you're ready," she told him, curling her hand around the back of his head and playing with his hair.
"You know, before you showed up, I had absolutely zero trouble being a complete jerk to everyone around me," Lucas suddenly remarked, chuckling softly.
"I have that kind of effect on people," Jasmine smiled coyly as she let her fingers glide down to the crook of his neck.
"Sassy," Lucas muttered before pressing a quick peck against her closed lips and stepping back, making her hands drop back to her sides. Shocked he kissed her again, Jasmine stared up at Lucas in wonder. "Merry Christmas, princess," he whispered before walking back to the house. Jasmine watched him go in silence, her fingers pressed against her lips as a small smile broke free.