Facade

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Brother from another mother

THEA’S POV

“Xavier, what did he do?”

He looks away. I get up from the floor and walk up to him till we’re facing each other.

Xavier breathes in before sighing. “He left the house when he was fifteen which didn’t sit well with our parents. But Lucas couldn’t take it anymore. I guess he wasn’t as perfect as our parents made him out to be and he wanted out.

“So he came here to live with Elijah. A few months after that he came to visit us and I remember my parents begging him to come back.”

I suck in a sharp inhale.

“He didn’t care. When he was leaving again, I held onto his sleeves and asked him to take me away as well. I was a scrawny kid back then and he looked so big. I remember wanting to hide behind him thinking he could protect me.

“Even before that, he never really helped me with our parents and we didn’t have a good relationship either. But I still had hope. After all, he had never outright rejected me.” Xavier’s voice fades away and his focus is no longer here. And then I watch him hide behind his stoic mask again. “I was wrong. When I begged him to take me with him by holding onto his hand, he snatched it away and looked down on me as if I was filth under his shoe. I can never forget the cold look in his eyes.”

His gaze shifts to mine, still guarded. “He never was a good brother and he still isn’t. And I don’t know the kind of person he is so I was...” worried. He doesn’t finish his sentence but I have learned to read between the lines when it comes to him.

Our gazes stay interlocked, searching for answers to questions we’re afraid to ask. This time, I break the stare...

...and place my hands on his chest. I feel his heart beating underneath my palm as I slide them up to his shoulders and around his neck, going on my tiptoes to wrap him in an embrace.

My chin rests on his shoulder and I hold onto him tightly, my fingers playing with the hair at the base of his neck.

“You’re enough,” I whisper beside his ear, my hand still stroking the back of his neck. His strong, defined arms come around my waist. “You’re more than enough.”

His grip tightens around me, crushing me to him but I don’t mind one bit. I let my body relax in his hold and feel his muscles do the same as I continue to stroke his hair. His musky scent makes me sigh against his neck.

Xavier’s face nuzzles in the crook of my neck and I feel his hot breath hitting my skin causing goosebumps to rise. With our bodies pressed together, I can feel every curve and dip of his body through the thin material of his t-shirt.

I hug him tighter as if squeezing the grief out of him. We stay like that for a while, holding onto each other as I lose track of time.

*****

“Were you at a friend’s house?”

“Yeah,” I close the door behind me as I walk inside, jumping in my tracks at the unusual sight of my aunt being home this early.

She grins at me flashing me her pearly whites.

“Why are you grinning like a creep?”

“There’s a surprise for you. Upstairs. Go. Quick.” If the one lettered commands aren’t proof enough that she’s too happy to speak coherently, I don’t know what is.

The only time she’s this happy is usually when...

My eyes snap to her and I mirror her expression with a bright grin of my own and dash past her to run upstairs. Throwing my bedroom door open, I catch sight of him sitting at the edge of my bed.

“And here I thought you don’t have any friends.” The shit-eating grin on his face lights up his baby blue eyes and I can’t help but let out a laugh.

Caleb stands up and motions for me to come closer. I crash into his chest and he wraps me in a bear hug. The familiar scent of sandalwood engulfs me as a comforting warmth settles around my body.

“Missed you, birdie.”

“Then why the fuck haven’t you visited in the past month? You literally live twenty minutes away.”

“You could’ve come over too, you know.”

“I did. You were off to somewhere so I came back, remember?”

We let go and he holds me at an arm’s length with his hands on my shoulders. Ruffling my shoulder, he lets out a chuckle when he sees me pouting slightly.

“You sure are spoiled, aren’t you?”

“Hey!” I smack his arm. “Not my fault that Beth loves me more than you.”

“I’m her son.”

“Exactly.” Caleb’s eyes narrow playfully and he flicks my forehead.

“I come bearing gifts.”

My eyes light up and my eyes shift around frantically, hoping to locate anything resembling a present.

“Where is it?”

He holds his arms out beside him, dipping into a gentleman’s bow. “Right here, milady.”

“I don’t see any gifts.” My narrowed eyes bore into his and he cracks another smile.

“It’s me.”

My face falls flat. “Is there a return policy?”

He rolls his eyes. “I’m moving back here.”

Silence. I blink at him, dumbfounded. “Huh?”

“Some of the dorm rooms are being remodeled so the residents of said dorms were asked to either share or move somewhere else temporarily. Since it’s the last year of college, I wanted to spend some time with you guys before I move to Cambridge.”

Caleb has always wanted to earn his Ph.D. in medicine from Cambridge. His childhood dream of becoming a neurosurgeon has manifested itself into the sole purpose of his life. Being ambitious has resulted in him remaining single after he entered college life, however, it never bothered him.

If he’s fine with it, who’s anyone to say otherwise?

“Wait, so you’re saying that—”

“I’m moving back here for a year? Yes.”

I fight hard to keep the grin away from my face and wear a nonchalant expression.

“Cool. Now, where’s the gift.”

“The what?”

“Gift. You said you come bringing gifts.”

“I—Wow you’re such a bitch.”

“You’re a bigger bitch.”

He grins. “Aww admit it. You love me,” he sings the words out.

“Nope!” I flip him the finger.

Despite being my cousin, Caleb has been nothing short of a brother for me and I know he sees me as his own sister.

“Alright then, I guess these brownies will have to be eaten by me.”

“What brownies?” I perk up at the mention of food and the look of triumph on his face indicates he just got his way.

Caleb turns around and picks up the box from my bed that I hadn’t even noticed was there.

“These chocolate fudge brownies. I even brought ice cream.”

At this point, I’m pretty sure he can sense the longing in me as he waves the brownies before my face, mocking me.

I snatch them out of his and run downstairs before he can even comprehend what just happened. What can I say? He always manages to make me behave like an irrational kid.

“What—” Beth stops in her tracks as I hide behind her. “I swear, you both behave like two-year-old kids.” Her eyes fall on Caleb who just reached here.

“But Mom—”

“Hush!” He snaps his mouth shut. “And you, young lady, stop running around and sit down. I have news for you both.”

Caleb and I share a look as she fidgets—whether, from excitement or nervousness, I don’t know.

We do as told and take a seat on the couch.

“So, you both remember the fashion show I have in two weeks where I’ll be launching my latest collection?”

“You’ve only talked about it a million times.” Beth rolls her eyes at her son.

“And remember about how it’s taking place at one of the Darkwood hotels?”

“What about it?”

“Well...”

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