Beauty and the Mustache(6)

By: Penny Reid



Jethro was the one to break the awkward soundless comprehension. “Uh,” He cleared his throat. “Tuesday mornings are Beau’s time slot.”

“I know that now,” I peeked at them from between my fingers. “I’ll just knock from now on.”

“Do you want the schedule? We have a schedule.” Billy’s offer was paired with his thumb thrown over his shoulder, presumably pointing in the direction of where the schedule was kept.

“Nope, I’m good. I’ll just knock.”

The sound of barely suppressed laughter pulled my eyes to where entitled Drew stood in the hallway. His lips were compressed, rolled between his teeth, his big shoulders were shaking, and he stared at the floor like his life hung in the balance.

My mortification abruptly turned to irritation, then to fury.

Drew Runous and my brothers probably looked at me and saw the gullible little sister I used to be, not to mention the starry-eyed beauty queen I was in high school.

But I was now more than the accident of my genetics, more than the face and body I’d inherited from my parents, more than my backwoods Tennessee accent.

I wasn’t that person anymore. I’d worked eight years to change and improve myself. I’d become someone new, someone stronger, armed with knowledge, fierce. I was someone who could hold her own in any situation, be it a discussion on post-modernism or Japanese art as an influence on Van Gogh; debating with an MD Harvard graduate when I disagreed on a course of treatment for one of my patients; or standing up to four bearded masturbators (obsessed with schedules, no less) in the upstairs bathroom of my momma’s house.

In fact, I was completely different. I was a new person entirely.

“On second thought,” I said, my hands dropping from my face, my spine straightening, “I will take that schedule.”

Billy glanced over my shoulder to Beau then shot a look at Jethro. “Oh, okay. I’ll get it for you.”

“In fact,” I crossed my arms over my chest and scowled at Drew the Amused Viking’s persistent smile, “what days are free?”

Another stunned silence descended, and I noted with satisfaction that the marauder’s grin fell as his eyes lifted to mine. They searched and burned. I knew, beyond a doubt, that he was imagining me in the bathroom naked, by myself, getting my rub on, as Beau put it. It was written all over his ruggedly handsome face.

Strangely enough, given our earlier encounter, he didn’t look repulsed by the thought. Maybe he was just an equal-opportunity perv.

I refused to blush. I refused to appear even an ounce embarrassed.

Because he was staring at me—his gaze moving to my chest, then hips, then thighs—as though compelled to take mental notes. His eyes were hot and a little unfocused and, irritatingly enough, were making me feel hot and a little unfocused.

I couldn’t conquer the thundering of my heart or the sudden twisting in my abdomen or the tingling awareness on the back of my neck. It was everything I could do to hide all the outward effects that his evocative, penetrating gaze elicited.

Instead, as Drew looked directly at me again, I slid my eyes over to Billy, who was staring at me like I was a three–headed possum.

“Uh, what?” Billy asked.

“Which days are free, on the schedule?”

Billy blinked at me and his voice cracked a little when he responded, “I think Sundays and Wednesdays, since Roscoe moved out. But you probably don’t want Wednesdays.”

“Why not?”

“Because that’s usually when the new magazines show up in the mail.”

I fought the urge to grimace. Instead, I nodded once and gave him a tightlipped smile. “Good. Put me down for Sundays. There’s no postal service on Sundays.”

Beau groaned, which he turned into an overly dramatic gagging sound. “Things I never needed to know about my sister.”

With that, I strolled down the hallway to my room, pointedly not looking at the physical manifestation of every bodice-ripper hero I’d ever read. Like before, I felt the weight and heat of his gaze on my backside.

Once inside, door shut (and locked), I crossed to my bed and flopped down on my stomach. I willed the tingling and twisting heat that had taken up residence there to stop post haste.

I made three mental notes:

One: Always knock on every door, every room, every time. Drag my feet and bang pots and pans down the halls. This is not a house to be a ninja in.

Two: Never be alone with Drew Runous.

Three: Do everything in my power to leave before Sunday.





CHAPTER 2


“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”

— Socrates

The drive from my momma’s house to Knoxville took just under an hour. Lucidity was made possible by the triple-shot grande Americano I procured from Starbucks on my way out of town.

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