Authors: Cher Carson
Book Three in the Brant County Heroes Series
Copyright © by Cher Carson
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, including photocopying, graphic, electronic, mechanical, taping, recording, sharing, or by any information retrieval system without the express written permission of the author and / or publisher. Exceptions include brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
Persons, places and other entities represented in this book are deemed to be fictitious. They are not intended to represent actual places or entities currently or previously in existence or any person living or dead. This work is the product of the author’s imagination.
Any and all inquiries to the author of this book should be directed to
Lockdown © 2012 Cher Carson
Jessica Carlton stepped through the door of her friend Ava’s bookstore and heaved a sigh of relief. “Thank God for air conditioning.”
Ava looked up from her computer and smiled. “What’s wrong? Is the unit at your mama’s travel agency on the fritz again?”
“No, I’ve been standing in line over at Mavis’s.” She rolled her eyes. “I swear that woman still has the first dollar she ever made. She refuses to spend one dime improving that place, and Earl is after her about it all the time. Honestly, the way that linoleum is peeling up, somebody’s gonna trip and break a leg.” She set a brown paper bag down on the glass counter. “Then she’ll be sorry.”
Ava laughed. “Knowing Mavis, she’d find a way to blame the customer for being so damn clumsy.”
“You’re probably right.” Jessica set her hands on her hips as she surveyed the newly renovated store. “I still can’t get over how great this place looks, Ava. I swear that fire was the best thing that could have happened to you.” She winked. “Not only did you get the insurance money to gut this old place, but you also managed to snag one of the sexiest bachelors in town.”
Ava closed her laptop. “He won’t be a bachelor for much longer. I can’t believe we’ll be getting married in just a few short weeks.”
Jessica unpacked the tuna and chicken sandwiches. “You need anything, just let me know.”
“That’s sweet, thanks.”
“Hey, what are maids of honor for, right?”
Ava grinned. “Be careful. I just might take you up on that offer.”
Jessica rolled her eyes. “Please, put me to work. Any distraction would be welcome.” She took two bottles of water out of the bag and passed one to Ava.
Since the two women worked next door to each other, they took turns bringing lunch but usually ate at the bookstore since Ava worked alone and Jessica had her mother to take over while she took a lunch break.
Ava frowned as she accepted Jessica’s offering. “What’s wrong, hon? You haven’t been yourself for a while now. I’m getting worried about you.”
Jessica felt guilty for burdening her friend with her problems. She had enough on her plate as it was, planning the wedding, running a business, and finishing the house Ava’s fiancée, Craig, hadn’t bothered to decorate when he renovated.
She pulled a stool up to the tall counter. “Nothing’s wrong. I’m just bored, ya know?”
Ava chuckled. “I wish I could say I knew how you felt. Hell, I’d give anything to be bored right about now. It seems there aren’t enough hours in the day for me to get everything done.”
Jessica added dressing to her tossed salad as she asked, “Isn’t Craig helping with the wedding plans?”
“He just tells me that he wants whatever I want. According to him, it’s my day. He’ll just show up at the appointed time.”
Jessica giggled. “Yup, that sounds like Craig.”
Jessica had known Craig most all her life and Ava since they were teenagers, but she had never seen either of them happier than they had been since they became a couple. She’d give anything for what they had.
Ava pointed her plastic fork at Jessica. “Don’t think I’m gonna let you off the hook that easily. We’re not talking about me right now. We’re talking about you. I want to know what’s wrong. You’ve been out of sorts for months.”
It was true; Jessica was in a funk, and no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t seem to shake it. “I just feel like I need to shake things up, ya know?” She bit into her sandwich, taking a moment to formulate her thoughts before she continued. “I’ve lived in this same small town my whole life. Went to the little local college with most of the same people from high school. I’ve worked for my mama ever since I graduated college.” She rolled her eyes. “I still have the same bedroom I did when I was four. How pathetic is that?”
Ava smiled as she patted her hand. “Hey, you’ll have a down payment for that condo before you know it. That’s something to look forward to, right?”
Jessica wiped her mouth with a paper napkin. It was a wonder Mavis had included them without being asked. They must cost at least a penny a piece. “Yeah, and I’m looking forward to that, but…”
“But what, honey?”
“But I always thought when I bought my first place, it would be with my husband… or at least my boyfriend.”
Ava laughed. “Like your conservative parents would ever let you live in sin with a man.”
Her friend was right. Her father was the mayor of their small town, and he was diligent about maintaining a wholesome image that included church followed by family dinners on Sunday nights. Not even her brother, the local police chief, was exempt from their requisite get-togethers.
“I could always move to a big city and get lost in the rat-race.” She smiled. “That would really get my daddy fired up now, wouldn’t it?” She loved her parents, but sometimes living in their house and under their collective thumb was suffocating.
“You’ve mentioned that before, moving away. Are you really considering that?”
Jessica couldn’t deny that she’d thought about it, but she’d never made it past surfing the Internet and packing her virtual bags with designer clothes she’d never be able to afford in real life. “I don’t know. It’s nice to think about, but…”
“Hey, does this have something to do with Jake?”
… the damn man was the bane of her existence. He was also her brother’s best friend and deputy chief. And the only man she’d ever loved. “What makes you think this has anything to do with him?”
“He and his wife split right around the time I thought about moving to Brant, remember?”
How could Jessica forget? She spent years silently praying he would come to his senses and leave that airhead. Then she repented for her errant thoughts every Sunday in church because Jake had a child with that woman and she didn’t think the Lord would look too favorably upon her mean-spirited musings.
But finally the day came when Jake’s little missus decided she was ready for a change in the form of a burly construction worker who worked in a neighboring county. Jessica was happy to see her go, but she took Jake’s son with her, and that left a huge hole in his heart. The last eighteen months, his sole focus had been negotiating the divorce and custody agreement so he could spend more time with his boy. Not that Jessica could blame him. Jake was a good father, but he was also a man and men had needs, didn’t they? Needs she would be only too happy to satisfy if only he would stop treating her like the flat-chested tomboy who used to follow them around after baseball practice.
“Jake has nothing to do with my sour mood,” Jessica said before taking a bite of her sandwich.
“Liar.” Ava laughed. “It’s written all over your face every time you look at him. Just like when you were in high school; no one could ever measure up to Jake in your eyes.”
Jessica couldn’t deny her friend was right. That’s why all of her relationships had fizzled and died after a short time, because none of those men were fit to tie Jake’s boots. He was everything she wanted, sweet and kind, always the first one to help a neighbor in need, but he also had a tough side, which she’d seen a time or two when he was called on to break up bar fights or apprehend a suspect. And every time she saw him with his son, she fell in love with him all over again.
“I don’t get it. Why don’t you just tell him how you feel about him?”
If he didn’t know how she felt about him by now, he was more clueless than she thought. “Please, I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction. He doesn’t deserve me,” Jessica said, knowing it was a lie. Any woman would be damn lucky to call Jake McCoy her husband, and if Bimbo Barbie couldn’t see that, it was her loss. But Jake seemed to have lost something in that divorce too
a piece of himself.
“I ran into Jake at the post office yesterday,” Ava said. She brought a forkful of salad to her lips. “He didn’t look too happy, either. Could he feel the same way you do, kind of lonely and out of sorts?”
Jessica squared her shoulders. “Did I say I was lonely? It so happens I had two dates last week.”
Ava giggled. “Yeah, you told me about them: Kelvin the driving instructor and Daniel from the feed store.” She rolled her eyes. “Like either one of them could make you forget about Jake.”