Grin and Beard It (Winston Brothers #2)

Allow me to take a moment to express my appreciation for Cletus Winston and his entrances.

Congratulations, Jethro. She’s sweet on you. You’ve just taken one the world’s most famous role models of feminine independence and turned her into a giddy, flustered mess of hormones.

Dance with me."

Blinking, first at his offered palm and then at his features, I asked, "Why?"

Not immediately replying, he reached for me, pulled me to my feet, and slid an arm around my waist. I allowed him to hold my body against his, fit our hands together, and sway to the lovely music. Begrudgingly, I admitted to myself he had great rhythm. Someone had taught him to dance.

Jehtro dipped his mouth to my ear, his beard tickling my neck as he finally whispered an answer to my question, "Because you want me to hold you, but you don't know how to ask.


To the very capable engineers responsible for Microsoft Windows 10.

Bless your hearts.

Bless. Your. Hearts.

Ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.” ? Kahlil Gibran ~Jethro~

How’s the coffee?”

“She hasn’t had any yet,” Cletus answered for me, then added, “but she wants you to ask her on a date tonight, no place public. Somewhere private, for discussing things.”

Jethro’s eyes widened, and he glared at his brother’s reflection in the rearview mirror, snapping, “Cletus.”

“Don’t clutch your pearls at me, big brother. Look at her, for hootenanny’s sake. She’s got the hots for your ugly face, Lord help her. And I know you’ve been thinking about her, judging by how long you took in the bathroom this morning.”

I clamped a hand over my mouth just as shocked laughter burst from my lips.

“Dammit, Cletus,” Jethro growled, turning the ignition and shooting his brother an incendiary look. “You are the worst. Just, don’t speak. Ever. Don’t speak ever again.” Jethro’s gaze darted to me then away as he sighed, looking remorseful. “I’m so sorry.”

I placed my hand on Jethro’s thigh—FYI he had a really nice thigh—to ease his mind and because I wanted to touch him. “No, no. Please don’t apologize. He’s right and he’s wrong. I do have the hots for your face, but it isn’t at all ugly.”

At this Cletus snorted and grumbled, “Well, it ain’t pretty.”

Jethro pressed his lips together and I could see the hint of a smile there amidst his frustration. “Glad you have the hots for my face.”

“Just ask her out already,” Cletus demanded. “She ain’t doing anything tonight. You two will go out tonight.

I decided the map was clearly written by masochistic-doodling ancient Egyptians because everything was hieroglyphics and unreadable doodads.

I cursed the map.


Irrational anger bubbled to the surface and all I could think about was murdering the map. I would show the map who was boss.

I was boss.

Not some evil, wrong map from hell. I had no choice but to hit the map against the steering wheel several times, grunting and releasing a string of curses that would have made my sailor father proud. And maybe blush.

Then I opened my driver’s side door, still grunting and raging, and slammed the map against the car, threw it on the ground, stomped on it, kicked it, and just generally assaulted it in every way I could think of. I’m a little embarrassed to admit, in my mindlessness I was also taunting the map, questioning its virility, flipping it the bird, and cursing now in Spanish as well as English.

It was the most cardio I’d done in over twelve months.

Stupid map, making me do cardio. I’ll kill you!

If you don’t fight for what you love, then you have nothing worth losing.” ***

I'm after a woman who likes sex but doesn't put the lust part above the intelligence part. She could have a hundred partners for all I care, just as long as they've been vetted for psychopathic tendencies. I have four rules. Number one: don't invite a person into your body if you wouldn't invite her into your kitchen. Number two: the act needs to take place in a clean environment. Number three: precautions need to be taken to protect from disease and pregnancy. And Number four: don't ration the passion, i.e. put you best fuck forward.

I studied the smile, couldn’t decide if it looked sincere or rehearsed. And that thought troubled me. I was good at reading people and their intentions, but only if I wasn’t too invested. Once invested, I couldn’t separate what I wished to be true from what was actually true.

Jethro closed his eyes, a small grin curving his mouth, and whispered like it was a secret, "Thank you for being lost."

I smiled and whispered in return, "Thank you for finding me.

Maybe Jethro, Claire, and I can live together in harmony. Maybe she can be my sister wife. Yes. That was the answer. She could have her pretty farmhouse and custody of Jethro on Sundays. I could have him the rest of the week. And if she touched him, I would claw her eyes out. Perfect.

Nothing is ever really lost to us as long as we remember it.” ? L.M. Montgomery, The Story Girl   ~Jethro~

Okay. Fine. Why are you disappointed in me, Cletus?”

“Because I provided means and opportunity. All you had to do was exploit the situation.”

“What are you talking about?”

“On Friday? With the blankets and coffee? You think that was all by accident? That was arranged.”

“Arranged?” I blinked at him while he tore off another piece of his doughnut. It smelled like it was strawberry flavored.

“Yes. Arranged.”

Leaning back in my chair, I crossed my arms and examined Cletus. I decided he was odd. “You’re odd.”

“Yes. I am. But that doesn’t negate the fact that you fumbled my pass. If we’re going to make this thing happen with Jethro, I need you to bring your A-game.”

“This is about Jethro?” I sat up straighter.

“Of course. What’d you think I was talking about?” Apparently I wasn’t catching on quickly enough because he sighed loudly and rolled his eyes with great effect. “Do you want my help or not?”

“Yes, yes, yes,” I said quickly, leaning forward at full attention. “Yes. I want your help.”

“Fine then. We need to coordinate our attack.” Cletus punctuated this statement by popping the remainder of the first doughnut in his mouth.

“Good. Yes. Attack synchronization.” My phone rang as he chewed. I glanced at the screen, saw it was Marta, and sent it to voicemail.

Marta called back immediately, earning me a severe frown from Cletus.

“You should get that.” He gestured to my phone. “You get that and I’ll ruminate while eating this other doughnut.

People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they’re not on your road doesn’t mean they’ve gotten lost.” ? Dalai Lama XIV

She was a damn good kisser, maybe the best I'd ever had the immense pleasure of kissing. It helped that her lips were like pillows and she tasted sweet. Not like strawberries or peaches. Sunshine and sweet—her own brand of it. Plus there was desperation in the kiss, an understated but raw passion I couldn't recall ever experiencing before.

Or maybe that had been me. Maybe I'd been the passionate, desperate one. No matter. Either way, she'd stolen my breath, robbed me of thought and sense. She was a master thief, and I loved her for it.

So she’s like Redbull? She gives you wings?” He lifted a teasing eyebrow.

I shook my head. “More like she’s the sun, and she makes every minute better than the last

There’s no reason to be uncomfortable.”

“I’m not uncomfortable. I’m just feeling weird, and I don’t know how to un-weird myself.”

“Well, don’t un-weird yourself on my account. I like you weird.

Think of how much better the world would be if people craved compliments about the beauty of their heart rather than the beauty of their face.” The

We don’t believe in false pleasantries around these parts, nor do we kick a fella when he’s down. So I’ll just say, bless your heart, and leave it at that.

What are we doing?” I asked, feeling restless. “Taking comfort.” That made me smile, so I peered up at him. “You’re taking comfort in me?” “Yes.” My smile grew and I closed my eyes, giving myself over to the moment. Gradually, I heard a symphony of sounds rise around us. Wind played through the grass, rustled the small but plentiful leaves of a nearby lonely oak. Crickets and other insects chirped and hummed. I felt the beat of Jethro’s heart in his fingertips and where I gripped his wrists. My heart slowed until it matched the rhythm of his. My restlessness eased until it faded away, eclipsed by the stillness, the comfort of being close, yet barely touching. And I took comfort in him.

Where I'm from," Tom tilted his head to the side, "they call your kind a hipster or a lumbersexual, with the beard and flannel and such."

Without missing beat, Jethro responded, "Ah. See, where I'm from, they call my kind a man.

Without thinking, I asked, "Are you afraid of temptation?"

He shook his head. "God, no. Just being with you, just seeing you. Fuck." He mostly swallowed the expletive, his hips rolling in a way that made me think the movement was instinctual, then added on a rush, "You breathing tempts me.

Yep. His epic good looks without succumbing to the adorable label had made him a man-unicorn in my mind. Or a merman. Or a Loch Ness Monstman. He was a mystical creature.

You and your saying of sweet things, it does something to me. You do something to me."

Jethro's mouth hitched to the side with a pleased smile. "Happy to hear it. Because when I'm with you, I feel like I'm both flying and falling.

You are so adorable. I just want to take you home and put you in my pocket.”

I’d prefer her pants, but I guess I’d settle for her pocket

You’ll be tactile, and I’ll be clingy, and we’ll be very happy just as long as we sleep in a twin bed and call each other seventeen hundred times a day.

You’re a movie star. A celebrity with millions of fans.”

“And you’re a wildlife ranger who traps giant, dangerous black bears for a living and acts like it’s no big deal. Tell me that doesn’t sound like a heaping helping of crazy, with bizarre gravy, and a slice of mashed loco for Cocoa Puffs.

You should get a permit, but don’t attempt to outwit, and here’s a tidbit.” I pointed to my shoulder, “This is my armpit.

 “You’ve had a stick shoved so high up your ass all night, I’m surprised you can’t taste it.