Home>>read Beard Science free online

Beard Science(13)

By:Penny Reid


“Okay. Monday. We’ll meet every other Monday, in the afternoon at Cooper’s field.” He turned to leave again.

I caught his arm again. “No. That’s not going to work. I can’t go to Cooper’s field. Someone will recognize my car and word will get back to my parents. I can’t deviate from my normal schedule or else it’ll raise suspicion.”

Once more, he pried my hand from his arm, still looking and sounding cranky. “Where and when do you suggest we meet?”

“At the bakery, Monday or Tuesday nights. Sometimes I stay late and try out new recipes. No one else will be there.”

“Fine.” He gave me a curt nod and turned toward the door, the darkness swallowing him. “I’ll see you on Monday.”

“Does this mean you’re going to help me?” I asked hopefully, addressing my question to the inky blackness.

He didn’t answer. Several feet away, the door to the backstage opened and his tall form was outlined in light as he passed through it. And then it closed.

He was gone.


“Her heart was a secret garden and the walls were very high.”

 William Goldman, The Princess Bride


“It looks real nice, Jethro.” Beau inspected the crown molding Jethro had installed yesterday. “I can’t believe you routed this yourself.”

“Yeah. And it was Cletus’s idea to run the wiring through the molding, so we have surround sound. See the speakers here and here?” Jethro pointed to the inset speakers along the living room wall. My brothers squinted at the spots where Jethro pointed.

“I don’t see anything.” Drew stepped closer to the wall and inspected it. “Cletus, you sure are good at hiding things in plain sight.”

Jethro clapped a hand on my shoulder and grinned; he gave me an affectionate shake. “It’s his gift.”

“Among other things,” I conceded, checking my watch.

The truth was, I’d spent more time on hiding the speakers than was prudent. But I was determined they be invisible. I called it superior work ethic. Jethro said I was fixating again.

Jethro, Beau, Duane, Drew, and I had just finished the final touches on the carriage house. We were standing in the new kitchen, the wood glue wasn’t yet dry, and the entire house smelled of paint and sawdust, but we’d done it. The space was finished and ready for Jethro, Sienna, and to be determined Winston Progeny #1.

Sienna was due back home in two days and I was still the only one who knew they were pregnant. Meanwhile, Duane and his woman Jessica would be leaving for Italy soon. Their tickets were of the one-way variety.

It was a time of change. I avoided change or did my utmost to discourage it, mostly. This was the good kind of change. I knew that. Still, even good change made me antsy.

“Billy helped,” Jethro said, his voice held hesitation.

“Billy?” Duane didn’t try to mask his surprise; he and Beau stared at each other, communicating for several seconds without talking. The twins’ ability to impart thoughts through a look had always been frustrating. I didn’t like being left out of a conversation.

“Yes. Billy. Billy helped,” I confirmed irritably. “And will you two cease discussing with your eyeballs. There are several other people in the room who can’t brain-link.”

Duane lifted an eyebrow, his eyes darting from me to Beau and then quickly to the floor. “Fine, Cletus. Cool your engine.”

I grunted, but said nothing. I didn’t want to pick a fight with Duane. I only had a few more weeks of him hanging around and the thought depressed me. He was a grumpy, brooding little bastard who had the habit of only speaking when spoken to—and sometimes not even then. I was going to miss him.

“Where is Billy now?” Drew asked, still squinting at the wall and looking for the inset speakers.

“He’s at work,” Beau answered, then to me asked, “you still going fishing with us tomorrow, Cletus?”

“Are Drill and Catfish still going?” I asked.

Beau shrugged. “As far as I know.”

“Then I’ll be there.”

“Why do you want to go fishing with those Iron Wraiths?” Duane’s tone told me he didn’t approve, but he didn’t give me a chance to respond before turning to Beau. “I can’t believe you’re still friendly with them, after what happened with Jess.”

Jess was Jessica James, Duane’s lady love. Last fall she’d been caught in the middle of some nasty business with the Iron Wraiths motorcycle club. Long story short, higher ups in the club tried to blackmail Duane and Beau into running their chop-shop. Since the unpleasantness, Duane had joined my brother Billy in his unconditional loathing of each and every member. Drill and Catfish were members; they weren’t responsible for the situation with Jess or the attempted blackmail, but they didn’t do anything to stop it either.

“Drill isn’t bad people,” Beau said, attempting to defend the man.

Duane’s glare intensified. “They’re all evil assholes and should burn in hell.”

Drew’s eyebrows jumped, but he said nothing. Meanwhile, Jethro—who’d once come close to becoming a full-fledged member of the Iron Wraiths—studied the label of his beer. The room fell into a complex silence; complex because our family’s history with the motorcycle club was multifaceted and complicated.

Our father was a member. He’d been a captain. We grew up with a number of fellas who were now members. Personally, I didn’t consider each and every one of their rank to be evil assholes, but I did recognize the Wraiths were a disease.

I was going to destroy them, but not for any reason as altruistic as eradicating Green Valley of evildoers. My reasons were far more self-serving.

“Uh, Cletus, you want a beer?” Drew held out a longneck, breaking the tense silence.

I shook my head. “I can’t, I have an appointment after this.”

“Anyway,” Beau—clearly eager to change the subject—pointed down the hall, “let’s talk about the color Jethro decided to paint the second bedroom.”

“What’s wrong with green?” Jethro grinned slyly. His poker face had always sucked.

“Nothing is wrong with green, but that’s a very odd shade of green. What was it called again?”

“Sweet pea,” Duane supplied flatly for his twin. “It was called sweet pea and I believe it was labeled as nursery paint.”

“Nursery paint, huh? You have something to tell us, Jethro?” Beau teased, mirroring Jethro’s grin. “No news to share? No big bombshell to drop?”

Jethro glanced at me. “I can’t believe you didn’t tell them yet.”

“Why would I? I’m good at keeping secrets.” I shoved my hands in my pockets, making sure I looked innocent. “And I’m not the one who’s pregnant.”

“I knew it!” Beau attacked Jethro, pulling him into a quick man-hug.

Jethro’s grin widened to as large as I’ve ever seen it. “How could you possibly know?”

Duane clapped Jethro on the back as soon as Beau released him. “Because you’ve always wanted kids, and weren’t one to futz around once you made up your mind.”

“You should have painted it vomit green, to disguise all the baby vomit you’re going to have to deal with,” Beau suggested.

“And shit brown,” Duane added. “Don’t forget about the shit.”

“Y’all are the best.” Jethro placed his hands over his chest. “You warm my heart.”

“Make sure the floor is waterproof.” Beau grabbed a beer and uncapped it.

“Don’t tell me, to catch the vomit and poop?”

“No,” Beau wagged his eyebrows, “because of all the crying you’re going to do when you can’t sleep through the night or make love to your woman anymore.”

“Ah, yes. Infant-interuptus is a real condition. No cure for it either.” Duane nodded and it was a fairly good imitation of my somber nod. In fact, how he sounded was a fairly good imitation of me.

“You sound like Cletus.” Drew laughed, obviously catching on.

Duane slid his eyes to mine and gave me a small smile.

I lifted an eyebrow at my brother to disguise the fact that I thought his impression was funny. “Y’all need to lay off. Babies are the best. Think of all the cuddling. This is great news.”

“It is great news.” Beau held his beer out to clink it with Jethro’s and added sincerely, “It’s the best news.”

“I can’t wait.” Duane also tapped his beer against Jethro’s. “Jess and I will come home once the bundle of joy arrives. And I’ll teach Duanita how to race cars.”


“That’ll be her name, of course.” Duane took a long pull of his beer, nodding as though the matter was settled.

“I don’t know.” Drew shook his head thoughtfully, scratching the back of his neck. “Andy has a nice ring to it. And it could work for a girl or a boy.”

“Short for Andrew, of course.” Beau rolled his eyes.

“Or Andrea.” Drew shrugged, hiding his grin by taking another swallow of beer.

“Y’all forget, I’m not the only one naming this baby. Sienna has more than a say in the matter and veto rights.”