Brighter Than the Sun

Page 46

He glanced over at Zoe as he opened his passenger door for her. Who knew such a short time ago that his future would right now be standing beside him and that for the first time he’d truly understand and be able to relate to everything his brothers talked about, shared and related.

“Stand on the other side of the door and I’ll turn my back and shield the opening in the doorway so that no one can see you change,” he said. “Not that anyone’s around that I can see, but just in case, I promise you they won’t see a thing. Just hurry before I’m tempted to peek,” he teased.

To his surprise and delight she responded by laughing. “You’re incorrigible, Joe. But then Marlene said as much. She said you were the evil twin, always into mischief, and that Nathan was the quieter one. I see now what she means.”

He gasped in mock outrage and indignation. “I’ll have you know that I’m considered the sensitive twin. Nathan’s just a caveman with no manners. Did you see how he is with my poor sister-in-law Shea?”

“Yeah,” she said in a wistful voice. “It’s obvious he loves her a lot. I loved watching them together.”

Joe’s eyebrow went up. He hadn’t realized that she had been watching any one person or couple in particular at the cookout or that she’d even been able to sort through the haphazard introductions to make the connections between names and faces, but it was obvious that Nathan and Shea had at least caught her attention and that she’d spent a lot of time studying them.

“They have a pretty amazing story,” he said softly.

“Oh? What do you mean?” she asked eagerly.

He smiled to himself. His Zoe was a romantic. Good to know. At least now he knew a way of winning points in his favor down the road.

“It’s a long story, and it’s not always pretty. But it’s definitely always beautiful.”

“Wow,” she breathed. “That was beautiful, Joe.”

His brow furrowed in confusion. “What do you mean?”

“The way you put it. The way you described it. It was very poetic.” There was quiet yearning in her voice, as if she’d always wanted someone to speak to her in such a way.

It took him a moment to realize what she meant and then he smiled. “As much as I’d like to take credit for my philosophical side, I have to confess that I gave no forethought to the wording of that statement.”

“That’s what makes it all the more beautiful,” she said pointedly. “But what did you mean exactly, when you said it wasn’t always pretty. Did they argue a lot or something?”

As she said the last, she tapped him on the shoulder to let him know she was finished, and he turned around, smiling down at her. “No, baby. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen them actually argue. Well, unless Nathan is worried that something she’s doing is going to be too hard on her.”

“Do you know your entire face lights up when you talk about them?” Zoe asked quietly.

He smiled again. “Yeah, I guess it does. You have to understand. Nathan is my twin. We share something most people don’t understand. But Shea gets it because she’s a part of it. I’ll tell you all about it sometime. I promise. But as I said, it’s a long story and parts of it are definitely not for the faint of heart. But it was always going to be a happily-ever-after ending. Nathan wouldn’t have had it any other way. It just took them a little longer to get there than others. But if I had to guess, it’s all the more sweet for just that reason.”

“Do you ever listen to yourself?” she asked as they both closed their doors after climbing into the truck. “You have the most eloquent way of phrasing things. I could spend hours just listening to you talk.”

He reared his head back in surprise. He stared at her a long moment before he realized she was absolutely serious. Then he laughed. He laughed so hard that he put his arms over the steering wheel and then laid his forehead down on top of them and wheezed until his sides hurt.

Zoe made a sound of exasperation. “What?” she demanded. “What’s wrong with you? I take it back. You talk like a jerk.”

She made a huffing sound and crossed her arms over her chest, glaring at him from her periphery.

“I’m sorry, sweetheart,” he said, still trying to contain his laughter. “You have to understand that according to the rest of my brothers I’m impatient, short tempered and foultempered to boot. Not to mention foulmouthed. Hmm, they like the word foul a lot when it comes to describing me,” he said with a grin in her direction. “If they heard you describe anything having to do with me as being eloquent or, God forbid, beautiful, they’d laugh themselves silly. Hell, they’d probably piss themselves from laughing so hard.”

“Well, they sound like jerks,” Zoe said darkly.

Warmth spread through his chest and slid up his neck until it gripped him fiercely right around the throat. No one had ever defended him to his brothers. Everyone was usually too busy agreeing with his brothers’ assessment of him to ever offer any disagreement. And yet Zoe looked like she wanted to wade in and kick their asses for insulting him.

“Don’t hurt anyone, honey.” He chuckled. “In their defense, I am all of that. Well, most of the time. I seem to make exceptions for really beautiful women named Zoe.”

She ducked her head and loosened her arms until her hands fell into her lap. She stared down at them for a long moment before she cocked her head to study him once more.

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