Full Potential (A Heart of Seeton Novel)
Jena & Tyler’s Story
The chick was flat out crazy. Seriously, who decides to have their wedding in six months? And in Bumfuck, Egypt, no less?
Riley Kastner, did, that’s who. And because Jena and Riley had been as close as two women could get without being related or swapping spit for the last ten years, Jena was going to be the one to help little miss off her rocker make it happen.
She was on her third hour of grumbling in the car, heading toward Seeton, Wisconsin, when she decided to turn up the radio and let the music drown out her ceaseless complaining. Of course, that’s when the ringing of her phone cut through, and looking at the display screen, she saw it was the devil herself calling.
“Good morning, Bridezilla. Before you say anything, have you taken your meds today? You know, the ones that stop you from killing forever friends?”
There was a pause, and then, “Funny. But since you asked, I’m holding off. You better be on the road, Jena, or your hair won’t be the only thing that’s red when I see you.”
“Ooo, Riles, you’ve gotten kinky since you shacked up with that man of yours. What’s he gotten you into?”
“Maybe I’ll tell you if you ever get here.”
“Well, rest that naughty little head of yours, I’m an hour out. I told you I was coming.”
“I’d probably have more faith in that statement, if it wasn’t the tenth time I’d heard it, and then didn’t see your face.”
“Now you’re just exaggerating. I’m sure it was only like four times.”
“Five. Now get your ass here, but don’t speed. I know the sheriff, and he’s a hardass.”
“Does he like to use his handcuffs?”
She heard Riley groan, and Jena chuckled to herself.
“You’re hopeless,” Riley said. “See you soon.”
“See you in a bit.”
After they hung up, the radio sounded through the speakers, but Jena was distracted by her thoughts again. As much as she joked with her best friend, she felt bad about all the times she’d reneged on her promises to drive up. At first, they were all legitimate reasons—her cousin was due to have her baby, then she needed help with her other kids. She probably could have gotten away for a weekend here and there, but she’d copped out for her own personal reasons.
It wasn’t like her to have the fears she had of going back to Seeton. Of course, it had nothing to do with being back in the small town Riley had since made her permanent home. It had everything to do with being afraid to run into a tall, sexy fireman, with whom she had intimate knowledge of. With a town the size of Seeton, there was no question they’d cross paths. She simply wasn’t ready to be confronted with the conflicting emotions he brought out in her. Now, there’d be no way around it. With Tyler Cole being the groom-to-be’s best friend, he was the likely candidate of best man in the wedding. As maid of honor, she’d not only be running into him, but walking down an aisle arm and arm…touching…him.
Her mind wandered to another time there was touching between her and Tyler. Lots of touching…and kissing…and licking…and…
A siren blared behind her, blasting her back to reality, which now seemed to be flashing in shades of red and blue. She peered up into her rearview mirror.
Turning down the music in the car, she pulled her car over to the side of the road and came to a stop. Jena silently cursed Riley for conjuring up the scenario playing out. After grabbing her license from her wallet, she fished around in the console for the car registration.
“Ma’am, please put your hands on the steering wheel where I can see them,” Jena heard the deep voice next to her.
Jesus, he was fast.
“I was just…” she began, while heeding his command, but the rest of the explanation escaped her when her eyes settled on the hunk of uniform outside the window.
His body filled her vision, and she could tell from the way his buttoned shirt hugged his broad torso, he was built. Hand at his hip near the gun holster attached to his belt, Jena couldn’t help but stare at the masculine fingers poised over the snap at the top. It wasn’t until a spark of shiny metal caught her gaze that she was able to tear her eyes away from those fingers, and then she became transfixed by the handcuffs dangling near his groin, the conversation with Riley moments earlier playing in her head.
“License and registration, please.”
The words barely filtered through, but they were enough to snap her out of the trance she’d been in. Slowly, she raised her eyes to his face, and she was thrown into a whole other daze. Was this guy for real? Taking in the whole package, he reminded her of a uniformed male stripper. One who got lots and lots of tips. Short, dark hair, mussed just enough at the top to seem perfectly mussed, a strong, angular face, facial scruff that made you want to find out if it was soft or abrasive against your skin. It was too bad his reflective aviator glasses hid his eyes. She’d wager he had soul-consuming eyes behind those lenses.
The movement of his lips was…familiar? No, that couldn’t be. She’d only been out this way once before, with Riley, and they certainly hadn’t been pulled over. Maybe she’d frequented too many strip clubs in her day, or watched one too many Village People videos.
“Ma’am, do you have your license and registration?”
Finally, Jena gave her head a slight shake, coming to her senses.
“No…no, sorry, I do have them.” She grabbed her license from between her legs, where she’d placed it while looking for her registration, and held it out to him. He took it from her fingers. “My registration is in my console, which is what I was looking for when you walked up. Can I…can I get it now? I promise, I don’t have any weapons. I’m not registered to own a gun, and my pepper spray expired months ago, which I haven’t gotten around to replacing, and…” Christ, she sounded like a rambling moron.
“You can get it. Just do it slowly.”
She did as she was told, and finally found the scrap of paper at the bottom of her console. After giving the registration over to him, she sat back in her seat and tried to read the name tag pinned above the left breast pocket of his uniform, but the cord from his walkie-talkie (that’s what they called them, right?) was coiled just right to prevent her from making out the letters.
He leaned against the top of the car and peered at her through the window, or at least his face was directed her way. The damn sunglasses were still blocking her view of his eyes. The rest of his features were taut, in an intimidating, bad cop kind of way. “Do you know why I pulled you over, Ms. Morgan?”
Attempting to lighten his mood, as well as her nerves, she said, “To show me your handcuffs?”
His head tilted, and he pulled the glasses down his nose to make sure she got the full blown experience of his glower.
The message was clear, but what wasn’t so evident was the second dose of recognition that had come from seeing his eyes. They were the color of the sea, not exactly blue, not quite green, but so crystalline their depths seemed to go on forever. Jena had only seen one set of eyes that hue in her life. Her gaze shot to his name tag again. The cord from his walkie-talkie had fallen away enough with his current position to allow her to see it fully.
With a gasp she blinked back up to his face, her eyes wide.
He shoved his sunglasses up to rest on the top of his head without taking his gaze off her. “I pulled you over because you were doing eighty in a fifty-five mile per hour zone, Ms. Morgan. That’s twenty-five miles an hour over the speed limit and way too fast.”
Holy crap, with the aviators off his face, it was obvious he was related to Tyler in some way…some way close. Of course, she had no idea Tyler had a cop in his family. In fact, she didn’t have a clue about anyone in his family. All she knew about Tyler was that he could make her cry out in a way no man had ever come close to provoking from of her.
“I’m so sorry, Officer…Cole? I wasn’t paying attention to my speed. I was just in a hurry to get to Seeton. I know it’s no excuse. I promise it’ll never happen again. And that whole handcuff thing…” Shit, she was rambling again. She waved her hand as if trying to make what she’d said earlier disappear.
To her relief, he let out a small chuckle.
“Why are you in such a hurry to get to Seeton, Ms. Morgan?” he asked.
“My friend is getting married.”
He stiffened. “Today?”
“Oh, no. Not today. In a few months. I just…I just haven’t seen her in awhile, and I’m her maid of honor, and she was yelling at me, and…” She stopped and shook her head, mentally reprimanding herself. “Shit…I mean, crap…you don’t need to know all that, do you?”
He laughed and sure enough, it held the same tone, gave the same lift of his mouth, as Tyler’s. “Are you talking about Dax and Riley’s wedding?”
“Yes,” she blurted, happy to be able to answer a question with one simple word.
“So, obviously, you’re a friend of Riley’s?”
“Yes.” Oh, this was much, much better. She could do this all day.
“Yeah, my brother and I are in the wedding, too. I’m Wade Cole. My brother is Tyler.”
“I know Tyler.” Christ, now she sounded like a fan. Well, she kind of was, but in her own mind. No one else needed to know.
His face showed surprise.
“I came with Riley when she found out she inherited Beckett’s. I met him then. He was…ah, working next door…at the firehouse…” And the rambler was back.
Officer Cole, or Wade… she had no idea what to call him…nodded in understanding. “Well, I hope that unpleasant experience didn’t taint your opinion of our town, or us Coles.” He winked at her, and she laughed. Little did he know her experience with Tyler was far from unpleasant. On the contrary, it was extremely pleasurable. “How about I cut you a break today, Jena?”
“You’d do that?”
His grin was heart-stopping. “How else would I sway you to know I’m the better Cole brother?”
Her mind instantly fell in the gutter, but she masked her dirty thoughts with an innocent and grateful smile. “Thank you so much, Officer Cole. I really appreciate that.”
“No problem.” He handed her license and registration back. “Just slow it down. And you can call me Wade, since we’ll probably be seeing more of each other in the next few months.”
“Of course…Wade. Thank you again.”
He gave her one last smile as he tapped the top of her car, and then turned and walked back to the squad car behind her. Jena stared through her side and rearview mirrors, watching him, noting the differences in the Cole brothers. If she remembered right, Tyler had an inch or two on Wade, but they both appeared equally solid, as if they’d inherited the same muscle gene in their DNA. One thing was for sure, they both had great asses…among other extremely favorable attributes.
Sure enough, that thought led Jena into the memory of her hands on Tyler’s favorable attributes, which in turn, resulted in dwelling over the very reasons she had avoided going back to Seeton for months. Wade’s words of seeing each other more resonated in her head as well. Of course, it wasn’t seeing him more that worried her. It was knowing she’d be in the company of the other Cole brother and how she would handle the encounters. Would it be awkward? Would seeing Tyler again trigger her heart to make the leap into unchartered emotional territory it had since they’d been together? Maybe he’d act as if nothing ever happened, and she’d wake up to the fact she had imagined the insane connection she’d felt between them. Hopefully, she’d get one look at him and realize how irrational and completely unlike herself she’d been over one measly encounter with a man.
Unfortunately, as she replayed that night over and over in her mind a gazillion times in the last few months, measly was far from the word she would use to describe it. There was nothing measly about Tyler Cole and what she’d felt when they were together. The truth was, he’d rocked her world in such a way there was no going back from. In more ways than one. While she was sure there was no future for them, Jena’s heart had been opened to something she hadn’t been prepared for. It seemed silly to think one night with a man she barely knew could change the whole perspective on her life, but it did. For so long, she’d rode the waves of life, waiting for the day when she’d know exactly what she wanted and who she wanted it with. Well, the day had come and hit her with a sledgehammer, but the who factor felt like a freaking bulldozer to the gut. She was prepared to accept that it was time to take control of those waves she’d been riding. And she would…as soon as she stopped picturing Tyler Cole as the one at the helm of her boat.
Coming Summer of 2018!
Copyright 2018 L.J. Kentowski