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Truth or Beard(6)

By:Penny Reid

Beau’s eyes seemed to flicker then flare as though he could read my thoughts; they dropped to my lips.

Once again, a new rush of something not at all hero-worshippy made my stomach twist. My female reaction to his maleness made no sense!

Well, it made some sense.

Both Winston twins were seriously good-looking. It hadn’t escaped my notice how he’d walked just moments before, how his hips moved, the way his T-shirt pulled over his pectoral muscles and was tight where the short sleeves ended at his biceps.

“I am so sorry about your momma, son.” A voice to my right and his left pulled our attention away from each other. We both turned our heads to find Mr. McClure, our local fire chief and Claire’s father-in-law, standing there with his hand outstretched. Beau looked down at it and then, taking a step away from me, accepted the offered hand as the man continued. “She was a good woman, and she’ll be missed.”

I shook myself a little, a spark of sobriety cutting its way through Dreamweaver. The Winstons had just lost their mother not more than four weeks ago. Bethany Winston had only been forty-six. It was very sad and had been quite sudden. I hadn’t gone to the funeral as I was sick with flu, but apparently everyone else in town had shown up to pay their respects to Mrs. Winston, her six sons, and her daughter.

“Thank you, sir.” Beau nodded once. The heat of his earlier expression was now extinguished, replaced with a tight-lipped smile and a shuttered gaze.

Mr. McClure nodded at Beau, then turned to Claire and me. He greeted us warmly, stepping forward to give Claire a kiss on the cheek. During this intermission, I felt Beau’s eyes follow my movements. I gave myself a mental high five for keeping my attention on Claire’s father-in-law.

After hellos were exchanged, Mr. McClure narrowed his eyes at Claire, “Claire, did you lock your car?”

I thought it was cute how Mr. McClure looked after Claire like she was his daughter; it warmed my heart. Claire had married her childhood sweetheart. Her husband, Ben McClure, had been a marine; he’d died overseas two years ago.

Claire nodded and her lips curved in a warm and patient smile. “Yes, sir. I locked my car.”

To my surprise, Mr. McClure swung his blue eyes to me, “Jessica, did you lock your car?”

I blinked at him, caught off guard, and glanced at Claire.

“There’s been some thefts,” Claire explained, “and not just tourists, like usual. Jennifer Sylvester’s new BMW went missing last week.”

“Her momma told me she had a banana cake in the front seat, too.” Mr. McClure tsked, like the real crime was the disappearing banana cake, then he turned his attention back to Beau. “Are your brothers here?”

“Yes, sir. Everyone but, uh…,” his eyes flickered to mine then back to Mr. McClure, “everyone but my twin.”

“I see.” He nodded, glancing down the hallway toward the sound of music. “I need to talk to your brother Cletus about the transmission work he did.”

Beau stood a little taller. “Is there something wrong?”

Beau, Duane, and their older brother Cletus owned the Winston Brothers Auto Shop in town; hence the blue, grease-stained coveralls he currently donned.

When I was growing up, most new-to-town people had trouble keeping all the Winston boys’ names straight. I used to describe the family as follows:

Jethro has brown hair and true hazel eyes—though sometimes they look almost gray. He’s the oldest and the most likely to give you a sweet smile while he steals your car and/or wallet.

Billy is the second oldest. His hair is a darker brown and his eyes are a bright, startling blue. He’s the most serious and responsible (and incidentally the worst tempered) of the bunch.

Next comes Cletus, number three; shortest, brown beard, olive green eyes. You can tell him apart from Jethro because he doesn’t smile often and his beard is longer. Instead of stealing your car, he’s more likely to take apart your toaster and tell you how it works. And he’s always been a little…odd. Sweet, but odd. As an example, he’d started attending my first period advanced placement calculus class two months ago. Apparently, he’d talked to my principal and had been cleared to sit in for the rest of the year.

Ashley is number four. She’s the girl and looks just like a beauty contestant version of Billy.

Then the identical twins—Beau and Duane—with their red beards and blue eyes. Good luck telling them apart if they don’t talk; but if they do, Beau’s the friendly one.

Last but not least is Roscoe. He’s a mixture of Jethro and Billy—big smiles that hide a more serious nature. He’s also a huge and indiscriminant flirt (or at least he was when I last knew him).