Home > The Road to Rose Bend(9)

The Road to Rose Bend(9)
Author: Naima Simone

   Cole shook his head as he strode across the room. That should’ve been a time when his parents put their collective feet down. He smiled as he unlocked the cottage door and pulled it open.

   The fraternal twins grinned up at him. Though they shared the same, tall-for-their-age height and dark eyes, all similarities ended there. Sonny’s light brown skin shone with a summer tan even though it was just the middle of June, in contrast to Cher’s gleaming, beautiful, mahogany skin. Sonny wore his dark brown hair cut close like Cole’s, while his sister’s thick, almost sandy-colored corkscrew curls haloed around her head. Both were beautiful kids, but Sonny’s features were already losing their boyish curves and maturing into stronger, bolder masculine lines.

   Both of them still remained boisterous, a bit wild and totally fun and loving.

   Yeah, he adored his baby brother and sister.

   Even though they really tried him on Saturday mornings when he’d planned on nothing more strenuous than a good book and reruns of Gunsmoke. With the motorcycle rally nearing, this would probably be his last free weekend, but staring down at the twins, he abandoned plans for a lazy day. Especially since he’d lay odds they were on a mission from Moe. Maybe because she’d run a B&B for the last thirty-plus years or she’d raised seven children, but his mother didn’t believe in idle hands—or his ass planted on his couch when she could find things for him to do.

   “What’s up, monsters?”

   “What took you so long to answer the door?” Cher demanded, throwing herself against him and wrapping her arms around his waist. She continued smiling up at him, but her hug was tight. His heart clutched as he squeezed her back. Tonia had been the twins’ first real experience with death as they’d both been so young when their parents died. But since then, Cher had been just a bit clingier, and he suspected fear of losing someone else she loved lay behind her behavior.

   Sonny snickered. “It’s because he’s smart. He knows why we’re here.” He shook his head. “Dude, just give in and come quietly. And no one has to get hurt.”

   “Moe or Leo?” Cole questioned, walking back inside, his arm wrapped around his little sister’s shoulders.

   “Both,” the twins answered in stereo.

   “Shit,” Cole muttered.

   Sonny snickered, and it sounded disturbingly close to an evil cackle. “Exactly.”

   Several minutes later, he loaded his brother and sister’s bikes up in the back of his pickup truck and they headed back toward Kinsale Inn. Out of habit, Cole slowed as he rounded the last turn in the road. Like it always did, his breath caught at the beauty of the place.

   His parents had bought it a year before he and Wolf were born. To the townspeople and tourists that flocked to Rose Bend, the three-story building with its slanted roof, many windows, wraparound porch, red door and green shutters was a charming, beautiful landmark and five-star place to stay. For him, it’d always been a haven. The place where he’d been cared for, chastised, learned an invaluable work ethic and grown into the man he was today. It was a place of overflowing love where even those not born to Moe and his father had found security, stability and family.

   It was and always would be home.

   He’d barely braked at the end of the circular drive when the twins clambered from the back of his truck where they’d opted to ride with their bikes. Before he could yell “be careful,” the front door of the inn opened, and Moe appeared in the doorway. All five feet of her. Born a decade too late to really enjoy the sixties, the woman still had never met a pair of bell-bottoms she didn’t love or fringe anything she didn’t wear. Like today, she’d adorned her small frame in a white-and-blue peasant blouse and a worn pair of denim jeans that seemed to swing around her ankles even though she stood still.

   Hands planted on her slim hips and green eyes narrowed, she shouted, “If you fall from there and bust your head, don’t expect me to clean it up.”

   Cole choked back a laugh. That made exactly zero sense. But damn if he would be the one to point that out to her. He loved Moe and had over a foot on her, but all she had to do was toss one of “those” looks in his direction, and he knew to shut up. He had no desire to take his life in his hands. Cue another one of her favorite nonsensical Moe Proverbs: I brought you into this world, I’ll take you out.

   Technically, she hadn’t birthed him. And she’d never raised a hand to any of her kids. But she also hadn’t raised a fool, and he wasn’t trying her on the “take you out” part.

   “Cole told us we could ride back there,” Sonny tattled in his best “I’m totally innocent here” voice.

   “Snitches get stitches, kid.” Cole scowled at him as he lifted his sister’s bike out of the truck’s bed first.

   Not at all intimidated, his brother grinned up at him before turning an impressively contrite hangdog expression to Moe. Who wasn’t buying it in the least. The woman had a built-in bullshit radar that never went on the fritz.

   “Save it,” she said, but the smile twitching the corners of her mouth and the gleam in her gaze belied the brusque order. “Put those bikes away, you two. I’m cleaning up from breakfast while our guests are still on their trip into town. Cher, take over the front desk for Leo until she gets back. And Sonny, you’re going to head out to the cottage to help with unpacking for Sydney.”

   Cole froze, his brother’s bike hovering several inches off the ground. His body locked even as his mind raced around that one word.

   Sydney.

   Moe couldn’t mean... No, that didn’t make sense... Surely, she meant someone else...

   And dammit, could he finish even one thought?

   Sonny grabbed his bike from Cole’s still numb hands and took off around the house with a mumbled, “Yes, ma’am,” his sister on his heels.

   “Thanks for coming over, sweetie,” Moe greeted Cole, shooing him forward with a finger wiggle. “Come give me a hug so I can put you to work.”

   His paralysis melted, and he climbed the wide steps to the porch on pure muscle memory because his mind still whirled. He schooled his features but couldn’t do a thing about the unease pumping through his veins.

   Moe pulled him into a tight embrace that lasted just a couple of seconds too long, her familiar baby powder and lavender scent enveloping him. “What’s wrong with you?” She pulled back, squinting up at him, her long, elegant fingers wrapped around his biceps. “Is everything okay?”

   God, that note of worry in her voice killed him. He’d put it there.

   “I’m fine, Moe,” he said, kissing her cheek. “Yes, I’m sure,” he added before she could ask.

   She smiled. “Smart-ass. I’ve raised a bunch of smart-asses.”

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