Beauty and the Mustache(5)

By: Penny Reid

I continued, “Your professional relationship with my brother notwithstanding, I’m certain even someone like you can recognize that this a personal family matter and is, quite frankly, none of your business.”

Not waiting for his reaction, I turned back to Jethro. “Rev your engine all you like. I’m getting dressed and going to the hospital to see what I can find out.”

I strolled out of the garage with my head held high and did my best to ignore the fact that I felt Drew’s eyes—sure and hot as a brand—on my backside. This was accompanied by the unavoidable and spreading warmth in my chest associated with the awareness that a super-hot mountain of a man was watching me walk away.

I decided to overlook the knowledge that my hasty, arrogant dismissal of him was likely undermined by the fact that I was leaving in a snit while wearing nothing but my sleep shorts and pajama top. Also undermining my superiority was the fact that I’d just attacked his chest then fondled it. I’d even ogled him, and he’d responded with repulsion.

So…yeah, I didn’t have much air in my sad little kite.

Once I was back in the house, the door behind me, I leaned against it and released a slow breath. My hands were fisted at my sides so I shook them out, flexing my fingers, and sent a silent prayer upward that whatever was going on with my momma was resolved sooner rather than later.

I climbed the stairs two at a time, holding the banister for balance, and crossed to the upstairs bathroom. I had no desire for any further interactions with Viking marauders, especially when the marauder was so good looking that it nearly eclipsed his entitled arrogance.

These were the thoughts in my head when I opened the bathroom door and, to my life-long horror, saw Beauford Winston—at least I think it was Beauford, though it could have been Duane, the other twin—standing at the edge of the tub. He was naked except for his ginger beard, a dirty magazine propped on the counter, and his hand wrapped around Beau Jr.

I screamed.

He screamed.

My hands flew to my face.

He cursed.

I heard a thud and I turned my back to him. I was now fully and mortifyingly awake.

“Shit, Ash. What the hell are you doing here?”

“Sorry, sorry, sorry—I should have knocked.”

“Nah…” he huffed, “I should have locked the door. It’s just that everyone knows Tuesday mornings are my time slot.”

“Your slot? What do you mean your time slot?”

“It’s my private time in the tub, you know, to get my rub on.”

“Gah!” I shook my head and pressed my palms into my eyes.

“I can give you a copy of the schedule.”

I heard the front door open and footsteps thundering through the house then up the stairs.

“Don’t! Do not give me a schedule. I don’t want to know. Just, can’t you put a sock on the door or something?”

“That’s what we used to do but then we kept losing socks. It’s good to see you, Ash.”

“Uh, you too…?” My hands fell away from my face and I moved to the doorway. “I’ll just give you some privacy.”

My escape was blocked by the worried visages of three shirtless, sweaty men—Jethro, Billy, and Drew Runous.

I closed my eyes and covered my face again; I seriously considered crawling into the cabinet under the bathroom sink, one of my favorite places to hide from my brothers’ torture when I was a kid. I wondered if I would still fit.

“What the hell?” Jethro’s winded exclamation met my ears, and I stifled a groan.

“Are you okay?” Billy asked. I felt a small, hesitant touch on my shoulder. “We heard screams.”

I nodded. “Yes. Fine. I just need to learn to knock.”

“Who screamed?” Drew demanded.

“I did,” I said, inwardly grimacing.

“We heard two screams,” Jethro contradicted. “Did you scream twice?”

“I didn’t scream. I…I hollered.” Beauford said.

“That wasn’t a holler. That was a scream. You screamed like a woman.” Billy said this like he was addressing a jury.

“Whatever, screamed, hollered, who cares. I should have locked the door.” Beauford’s easy-going tone made me feel a bit better. I didn’t remember him being so nice. Then he said, “Oh, hey, Drew. Didn’t see you there.”

“Hey, Beau.”

“What happened to your chest?” Beau asked.

I wished for the ability to disappear, especially when Drew responded, “Some woman couldn’t keep her hands off me. What’s going on in here?”

Beau didn’t answer. The room was blanketed in a brief silence as, I was sure, understanding began to dawn.

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