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Beauty and the Mustache

By:Penny Reid

CHAPTER 1


“There is no comfort anywhere for anyone who dreads to go home.”

― Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little Town on the Prairie

It was 6:14 a.m. and I was awake.

The engine revved for a third time—louder, longer, angrier.

I know an engine can’t be angry, but this engine sounded angry. Specifically, it sounded angry with me. The engine must’ve been feeling pretty pissed in my general direction, because why else would it be waking me up after less than three hours of sleep?

But what the engine didn’t know was that I was not afraid of its anger. I took crap from no engine, not anymore and especially not when the engine was under the control of one of my six brothers. Because now, I was a badass.

The only way one of them would be awake at 6:14 in the morning was if they’d never gone to sleep the night before.

Likely, they were either drunk or stoned or both.

Lovely. Just…lovely.

Good old boys revving their loud engines early in the morning was reason number thirty-three for why I never came home. I’d started making the list two days ago, when I’d decided that I had no choice but to fly to Tennessee.

Though I hadn’t been home in eight years, my momma had visited me at college many times. Every year since I’d graduated four years ago with my BSN—a bachelor’s degree in nursing—I’d taken her on a vacation with me, just the two of us.

But three days ago, she hadn’t returned my call, nor had she picked up the phone when I’d called the next day. This was remarkable because she and I had spoken on the phone at the same time every day for the last eight years except for when we were together, of course. Our conversations didn’t typically last very long, just a quick check-in to see if she needed anything, see how life was treating her. Sometimes she’d share gossip about people I’d grown up with, and sometimes I’d tell her about a new book I was reading.

Mostly, I think we just took comfort in the sound of each other’s voices.

So after two days with no contact, I was worried. Finally, I resorted to calling Jethro, my oldest brother. He told me that Momma was in the hospital, and she was refusing to see or talk to anyone.

Therefore, I hopped a plane, intent on discovering the truth behind her mystery hospital visit. I was determined to take care of the woman who’d never failed to take care of me.

The car engine revved again. I growled, threw my covers off, and marched out my bedroom door. In my rush to rain a world of hurt on whoever was responsible for the early morning wakeup call, I slipped on the last three stairs leading to the first floor of my momma’s house and cursed, almost falling flat on my ass. The resulting spike in adrenaline was rocket fuel to my irritation.

Gone was the girl from small-town Tennessee, mild mannered, sensitive, and ignorant youth that my brothers once knew. Before I left I’d just begun to fight back against their antics. Now I was a ninja of mind over matter. Whichever of my brothers was responsible for waking me up revving his hopped-up engine after I had endured a delayed, three-connection flight from Chicago to Tennessee was going to suffer.

Retribution. Revenge. Perhaps death. At the very least, someone was going to be the recipient of an epic titty-twister.

I flew out the front door and let the screen door slam behind me. I wasn’t worried about waking anyone. If the inhabitants of the house could sleep through the ruckus coming from the garage then they could sleep through the banging of a porch door. Besides, the roosters were already holding a crowing contest.

Another thing I wasn’t worried about was my state of undress. My family’s property was situated on fifteen acres in the middle of Green Valley, otherwise known as podunk nowhere. It backed up to the Smoky Mountains National Park on the Tennessee side. If you didn’t count all the cars on blocks, defunct trailers, old tires, rusted machine parts, and general trashy appearance of the grand old house and yard, it was actually a lovely spot.

Usually, my idiot brothers ran around half-dressed, so I paid no mind to the fact that I was in my pink tank top pajamas with matching sleep shorts. I was likely overdressed.

I avoided a pile of broken beer bottles on the path leading to the detached garage; really, it was more like a giant hanger. My mind told me that the structure was called a quonset hut and I told my mind to hush. I didn’t care what it was called. I only cared that all of its inhabitants were soon going to be murdered by my hands. Then I would go back to sleep.

The sun was already up, which made the inside of the metal structure dark in contrast. Regardless, I could see the machine of my angst as I approached; it would have been impossible to miss.

Two male bodies leaned inside the open hood of an orange and white Charger. A third numbskull, currently hidden, was in the driver’s seat revving the engine.

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