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Beard Science(74)

By:Penny Reid

He peered at me, turning his face slightly to one side. “More like my father?”

“Yes. More like the sheriff. You know. Like a badass officer of righteousness and awesome.” I nodded once, considering the description, then added, “And humility. He’s good at the humility, too.”

Unexpectedly, the side of Jackson’s mouth hitched and his eyes—instead of dimming and growing sullen, as I’d expected—warmed with respect.

“Fine. I’ll stop pulling you over and wasting your time.”

I squinted at him, at this Jackson James person who did not behave as expected. “Really?”


“And what about my brothers?”

“Duane is leaving with Jess this week, so I won’t be pulling him over anymore.” He shrugged. “But I do maintain it was my prerogative to harass Duane as I saw fit, since he is dating my sister.”

I considered his logic, but before I could decide if I agreed with it, he continued.

“But since Duane is leaving, there’s no reason to pull over Beau,” he added thoughtfully, his attention moving back to the movie star Raquel Ezra. He lifted his chin in her direction. “What do you think my chances are there?”

I glared at him, suspicious of his easy acquiescence. Then I glared at Ms. Ezra, automatically sizing up the situation.

“I don’t know,” I answered honestly. I’d overheard Sienna tell Jessica that Ms. Ezra was extremely open with her sexuality and was notorious for her proclivities involving handcuffs and sex toys. I decided not to share this information with Jackson. “She doesn’t appear to have a date, so you’ve got that in your favor.”

He stared at the woman, then—again, apropos of nothing—said, “You’re a lucky man, Cletus. Jennifer is a beautiful woman.”

I nodded my agreement, but said, “You’re right and you’re wrong.”

Jackson’s eyes searched mine. “How so?”

“Well, you’re right. Jennifer is a beautiful woman. But you’re wrong, because that’s not why I’m lucky.”

His eyebrows jumped, clearly not expecting my response, and I clapped my hand on his shoulder, giving him a small shake.

“Good talk, Jack.”

“It’s Jackson,” he corrected, stepping out of my grip but giving me an amused smile.

“We’ll see,” I said, then turned, walking straight for Raquel Ezra, debating the perplexing events of the last few minutes.

I didn’t trust Jackson much, but he’d seemed sincere. And if he was sincere, then Jenn had been right. And if Jenn was right . . . well then, that just proved how amazing she was.

“Excuse me,” I said, tapping Ms. Ezra on the arm.

The woman flipped her long brown hair over her shoulder. Her gaze made a quick perusal of my form and features, then finally lifted to mine.

“Yes?” she asked, a smile curving her painted lips; she stepped closer.

I retuned her smile. “I’m Cletus Winston, Jethro’s brother. Sienna has spoken of you with great esteem.”

“Sienna is the best.” Raquel said, with feeling.

I turned, pointing to Jackson James. “My friend over there is a police officer, local law enforcement.”

Her attention moved to Jackson and I saw his eyes widen, bouncing between Ms. Ezra and me.

She conducted the same swift once-over of Jackson that she’d employed on me. “Oh? Is he?”

“He is. And he’s got handcuffs with him.” I gave her an even smile. “Just FYI.”

Her lips twisted to the side and her brown eyes danced with laughter. “Thanks for the tip.”

“No problem. Have a nice evening.” I administered a short bow and turned for the table where I’d spotted Jennifer last.

I was determined to kiss her. We hadn’t kissed properly since the night before. Then maybe we’d dance. And then maybe I’d whisk her away and tell her she was right. I didn’t think I’d ever get tired of telling her she was right.

“Think of your feet.”

“There is nothing wrong with my feet. Put me down.” She laughed, and her laughter was heaven.

I craved it.

As of two hours ago, Sienna and Jethro were declared wife and husband. Jennifer had made the cake—which was not a banana cake, since Jethro hated bananas—and the wedding festivities were ongoing outside.

But we were inside, and had both had three glasses of champagne, and were presently on our way to my room. And she was still laughing.

As much as I enjoyed her laughter, I also enjoyed the other sounds she made. Consequently, as soon as we entered my bedroom, I sought those other sounds.

I kissed her as we crossed the threshold and she laughed against my mouth. “Are you trying to distract me? Because it’s working.”

“Not at all.” I kicked the door closed and let her slide from my arms, smoothly placing her feet on the floor. “I’m just really concerned about the health of your toes.”

“Why is that?” Jennifer turned her bright and brilliant eyes to me while she smoothed down her dress. It was a deep purple that clung to her body, making me want to peel it off. I wanted to unwrap her.

“Because I think I’d like to suck on them.”

She stood a tad straighter, lifting an eyebrow at me. “What?”

“I want to suck on your toes.”

“That sounds unpleasant. For both of us.”

I grinned, but not too wide, advancing on her until the backs of her legs met the bed. “Let’s just see, shall we?”

“Are you serious?” She caught herself before she fell backward, her eyes betraying her disbelief. “You’re joking. This is a joke.”

“It’s not. I am as serious as . . . as—”

The sound and feel of Jennifer undoing my belt buckle had me frowning at her. “What are you doing?”

Her fingers made quick work of my zipper and soon my pants and boxers were around my ankles. Saying nothing, she turned us, then pushed me to a sitting position on the bed. Kneeling between my knees, she gave me a frantic kiss, grabbed my hands, and pressed them to her breasts through her dress.

Jennifer broke our kiss just long enough to say really essential things like,

“I love you.”


“I want you to touch me.”

And then,

“But first I’m going to give you a blow job.”

Now, I admit, I was distracted. A man has only so much focus. When handed two, perfect breasts, all other thoughts must abruptly cease, and all attention is rerouted to the palms.

It took me several seconds to decipher the meaning behind her gibberish, but when I did, it was too late. I was already in her mouth.



I released a startled breath and my brain shut off. It just . . . flipped off. It hung up the closed-for-business sign and checked out. I’d been wrong about so many things recently. But this, denying Jennifer’s request to do this last week, was the wrongest.

See? Brain gone. Wrongest isn’t a word. But I didn’t know that. All I knew was that I never wanted this to end, but it was going to end. It was going to end mortifyingly soon. And there wasn’t a single fucking thing I could do about it.

Her eyes lifted to mine, full of excitement and trust, and I groaned.

So she stopped, gripping me in her hand and withholding her mouth. “Is it okay? Am I doing okay?”

“You are so perfect I don’t have words to describe how perfect you are,” I said on a rush, but then I held her shoulders as she moved to return her mouth. “Wait. I’m about to come, and you don’t want to—”

“No. No. I’m good. I read about this. I’m good. I’m prepared. I know what I’m doing.”

And with that, she took me inside her again. An involuntary sound escaped my throat, and then another. Later, I would thank Jethro for hiring a live band, because I wasn’t quiet, but no one would have heard me.

I was going to die.

I was going to die from how good this felt.

But I didn’t. I came, wanting to wrap my fingers in her hair but instead gripping the comforter on either side of my thighs.

She finished and I fell backward on the bed, reaching for her. She evaded me. Through one eye I watched as she leaned to the side, picked up a previously hidden washcloth and pressed it to her mouth. Then she picked up a hidden bottle of mouthwash and rinsed out her mouth, using another towel. And then, she picked up a hidden bottle of water and took a swallow.

Then and only then did she come to me, laying pressed against my side, a smug smile on her lips. “So, I was perfect?”

I exhaled an incredulous laugh, enjoying the sight of her triumphant moment, enjoying her. “You planned this.”

Her grin widened. “I did.”

“You’re a sneak.”

She nodded. “I am.”

I shook my head—at her, at myself.

“I love you,” I said, and breathed, and felt, and knew, and believed. I was faithing Jennifer. I was faithing her so hard.

And she was faithing me as she responded, “I love you more.”

This was our life. This woman was my future. She would be the mother of my children.

This was our beginning.

I couldn’t wait for the middle.

And I never wanted it to end.


“She walks in beauty, like the night

Of cloudless climes and starry skies;