Home > The Road to Rose Bend(5)

The Road to Rose Bend(5)
Author: Naima Simone

   A bottle of water smacked Cole in the chest, and Cole reflexively closed his fingers around the room-temperature drink. Shaking his head, he concentrated on shrugging off the sense of suffocation and drew in a breath, twisting the cap off the bottle and downing a gulp. The liquid slid over his dry tongue and down his tight throat. Like a man crawling out of a desert, he guzzled the water, not stopping until only a drop remained.

   “Thanks,” he said, tossing the bottle toward the recycling bin claiming the far corner of the garage. The plastic hit the rim before tumbling inside. He flexed his fingers, opening and closing them repeatedly before nabbing the end of the wrap. Unbinding his hands, he glanced at his brother, who watched him through narrowed eyes. “What’re you doing here?”

   “Apparently saving you from ass-planting it.” Wolfgang Dennison stalked over to the one window and jerked it open. A refreshing, fragrant summer breeze immediately filtered in. “It’s like a damn sauna in here. What’re you trying to do? Pass out from the heat? You sure as hell don’t have any weight you can afford to lose.”

   His brother’s critical gaze scanned Cole, and he clenched his jaw, imprisoning the clapback that scaled his tongue. The worry threaded through Wolf’s voice aided Cole’s restraint. His older brother by two weeks loved him, as Cole did him. So instead of saying something sharp, he focused on finishing the removal of the black wrap from his hands.

   “I hate to break it to you, but all of us can’t be lumbersexual-Aquaman-wannabes,” Cole drawled.

   Wolf’s mouth, surrounded by a thick beard, quirked at the verbal jab. “Oh, but your scrawny ass wishes you could be.”

   They grinned at each other, and the love and brotherhood that connected them as tightly as if they’d been born from the same mother weaved through Cole like a cooling balm.

   Cole’s biological mother, Abril Burgos, and his adoptive mother, Billie Dennison, had been best friends since they’d been children growing up in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood. They’d done everything together, including getting married to men they loved, moving to Rose Bend and becoming pregnant. The two women had even planned their children’s names; as music fanatics, they’d decided to name their babies after the greats. Hence, Wolfgang after the famous composer and Coltrane after the jazz saxophonist. When Cole’s parents’ car had been T-boned on the way to pick him up from Billie’s house after a date night, Billie and Ian, her husband, had adopted Cole since Abril and Mateo had named them his guardians.

   Though he owned pictures of his biological parents, he’d always considered the Dennisons his parents. And Wolf, as well as the children that came after him, his sibling. Maybe not by blood, but by love, loyalty, sacrifice and devotion. And choice.

   Still... Damn good thing both Cole and Wolf had been popular when they were younger. Or else, with names like theirs, they would’ve been fighting every day.

   “Not that I don’t enjoy staring at that thing on your face that you call a beard, but what brings you by?” Cole asked again, tossing his wraps on the weight bench against the wall.

   He glanced over his shoulder, and once more noted the concern that flashed in Wolf’s eyes. Cole stifled his tired sigh. His family had been his rock after losing Tonia and their son, but sometimes his family’s worry could be smothering. Well, that wasn’t exactly accurate. Cole’s guilt over causing them anxiety because he couldn’t seem to move forward—that was smothering. At times, it was easier to just retreat than glimpse the pain and fear he inflicted on them.

   “Let me guess,” Cole continued, snatching up a towel and rubbing it over his head and face. “Moe sent you over to check on me.”

   For as long as Cole could remember, Billie Thomasina Dennison had been “Moe” to their large clan and most of the town. Family lore maintained that Cole had thoroughly jacked up the word “mother” when he’d been a toddler, and he’d shortened it to Moe. It’d stuck, so now nearly everyone called her by the nickname.

   “Maybe,” Wolf as much as admitted with a shrug. Cole and his brother might both stand at six foot four, but with their father’s muscled weight in his shoulders and chest, Wolf was huge. Didn’t help that he spent his days hauling and working with wood as a carpenter. The lumberjack crack wasn’t far off. “But if you answered your damn phone, I wouldn’t have had to drag my ass over here.”

   Cole arched an eyebrow, slapping the damp towel over a shoulder. “It’s literally a five-minute drive down the road, not a journey to the middle of the Earth.”

   “It’s a pain in the ass is what it is,” Wolf grumbled, shoving a hand through his long, dark brown hair, pushing the strands out of his face. “Besides, I’m not coming from the inn,” he said, referring to Kinsale Inn, the bed-and-breakfast his family owned and ran. “I was over at The Glen, finishing up the stage. I was calling to see if you wanted to come down and make any last-minute changes.”

   Since Rose Bend had hosted its first motorcycle rally fifteen years earlier, The Glen, a wide, open field on the edge of town, had become the epicenter of the activities. For two weeks, both world-renowned and local musicians would grace the stage, playing everything from rock to country to R&B. Vendors from all over the country would also travel to town to set up booths and sell merchandise to the many riders that flocked to Rose Bend. The annual rally and ride had become huge, and unlike its cousins in Sturgis and Daytona, it’d retained a festival atmosphere where families could—and did—attend.

   Proceeds from the event benefited the This Is Home Foundation, an organization that ran the youth home for foster children in town. The charity held a special place in Cole’s heart. Not only because if he hadn’t been blessed with Dad and Moe in his life, he could’ve easily ended up in the foster care system. But three of his siblings had been adopted from that home. One of his goals as mayor was to ensure the rally and ride continued to thrive and grow. It’d been one of his promises when he’d run for the office. Because more revenue meant more funding for the youth home.

   “I went over there yesterday, and everything looked great. Better than great. Did you still need me to check it out?”

   Wolf shook his head. “No. Jasper Landon happened to drop by. And when he complained about it being too large and vulgar, and how it wasn’t how they’d always done it, I figured it was perfect.” Cole smothered a groan but must not have been too successful in schooling his expression because his brother grinned. “Yeah. Good luck. I’m sure he’s going to drop by your office tomorrow to complain.”

   Shit. Jasper Landon, former mayor of Rose Bend, hadn’t taken well to losing to a younger, less experienced and—hell, might as well admit it—Puerto Rican candidate. And he hadn’t been quiet about his criticism of Cole since he’d taken office seven months earlier.

   Bottom line, the man was a sore loser—and an asshole.

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