Just his name.
It shouldn’t have had such an impact on him, but even without the scent of Jacob’s arousal, without the clear want in his eyes, the way Jacob said his name threatened to demolish Cali’s restraint.
But as much as he yearned to reach for Jacob, to pull him into his arms and feel Jacob’s warmth against him, Cali grasped his self-control firmly. It was only yesterday that he’d had to help Jacob walk to the bathroom. It was only yesterday that Jacob had been so weak he’d barely been able to get up.
Cali settled for cupping Jacob’s cheek and gently brushing his thumb over Jacob’s healing bottom lip. It was hard to tell for certain with the swelling, but Cali bet it’d be full and plump once the split had healed.
Jacob whimpered, his eyes closing as he rubbed his cheek against Cali’s hand.
Then he turned his head and licked. The wet, hot glide of Jacob’s tongue over his skin rattled Cali, shook his control as need flared through him like a wildfire fueled by the wind.
“Jacob, you—” Cali bit back a moan when Jacob licked him again. “You’re not—” Jacob nipped at his palm.
Cali very nearly forgot his good intentions as he growled. He wanted to push Jacob over onto his belly and take what Jacob was trying to give him.
Except he remembered the way Jacob’s legs trembled as he stood, the strain in his features after he’d taken care of himself in the bathroom. It hadn’t been all that long since Cali’d had to feed him because Jacob’s arms were too weak for even that.
There was no way he’d fuck Jacob right now.
And for all he knew, after the nightmares and terrors Jacob had, Jacob might not truly want him. Security? Yes. Comfort? That too. Or maybe he felt like he owed Cali sex. Even though Jacob was emitting a strong scent of arousal, that didn’t mean he couldn’t feel obligated.
Until Cali knew without a doubt that Jacob was in a good place, a secure enough place in his mind to make a decision about sex, he wouldn’t risk taking advantage.
Jacob opened his eyes and nipped him again.
Cali smiled at him. “Jacob.”
“Mm?” Jacob licked him again.
Strangely enough, while Cali was still aroused, he also felt something else—something new he couldn’t define, along with a protective urge and affection that he had no desire to suppress.
He wouldn’t take advantage of Jacob. Whether Jacob realized it or not, there was an inequality in power between them, or Cali feared there was. He couldn’t—wouldn’t—be the alpha Jacob had lost.
Cali needed to work things out in his own head before he acted on his desire for Jacob, and he absolutely needed to know Jacob wanted him, not a replacement for what or who he’d lost. And that Jacob wanted him for the right reasons.
Jacob swirled his tongue around Cali’s pinky.
Cali’s cock grew hard in seconds, but he was more than his libido. Much more. “Jacob.”
Jacob stopped sucking and eased is head back. A wary expression darkened his features. “I-I’m sor—”
“No.” Cali touched Jacob’s lips. “Don’t. Please don’t.” I want you, little wolf. Gods, do I want you. “Don’t apologize.”
Jacob averted his gaze. “You don’t want me. I feel like such an idiot. I thought—but why would you?”
Cali slipped his hand down so he could cup Jacob’s chin. “You’re not an idiot. You’re amazing, and stronger than anyone I’ve known.”
“But you don’t want me.” It wasn’t a question.
“Jacob.” Cali’s heart ached for him. “You need to heal. You’ve been through a lot—”
“Ha!” Jacob glared at him then. “Too much for you, huh?”
Cali shook his head. “No. Too much for you. You need to heal, physically, emotionally.”
“Mentally. You think I’m broken.” Jacob’s eyes teared up. “Too weak.”
“I do not,” Cali countered. “I meant what I said. You’re stronger than anyone I’ve known. Whatever is haunting you, you’ll conquer it.”
Those tears slipped free, and Cali’s heart broke for Jacob.
“You will,” he murmured as he stretched out beside Jacob, unable to leave him hurting, alone. “I promise, you will.”
Jacob shook his head and swiped at the tears. “I-I c-can’t—”
“Come here. Let me hold you.” Cali opened his arms. His own eyes stung with unshed tears, and he hated that he couldn’t help Jacob any more than he was doing.
Jacob moved into his arms and rested his head against Cali’s chest. He clutched at Cali’s waist. “You really think I’ll get better? That I’m not…I’m not c-crazy?”
Cali couldn’t resist kissing the top of Jacob’s head, feeling the soft, silky strands of his hair against his lips. “I know you’ll get better, and no, you aren’t crazy. I don’t care for that word at all. It’s used as an insult or a joke instead of compassion and understanding taking its place. Our brains have to heal just as surely as our bodies do. Sometimes that’s not possible. It’s not a weakness of character if it doesn’t or can’t happen.”
He felt the hot slide of Jacob’s tears on his chest, then Jacob shuddered, and ragged sobs escaped him.
Cali held him, murmuring over and over how strong and amazing he was even as his own tears slid down his cheeks.