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Make a deal with the devil and you might get what you want, but will it be what you need?
Jennifer Sylvester wants one thing, and that one thing is NOT to be Tennessee’s reigning Banana Cake Queen. Ever the perpetual good girl and obedient daughter, Jennifer is buckling under the weight of her social media celebrity, her mother’s ambitions, and her father’s puritanical mandates. Jennifer is officially desperate.
And desperate times call for Cletus Winston.
Cletus Winston is a puzzle wrapped in a mystery covered in conundrum sauce, and now he’s in a pickle. Despite being convinced of his own omniscience, extortion by the exalted Banana Cake Queen of Green Valley has taken him completely by surprise. So… what’s a maniacal mastermind to do?
Likely, the last thing you expect.
‘Beard Science’ is the third book in the Winston Brothers series, is a full-length romantic comedy novel, and can be read as a standalone.
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“I saw what you did.”
“You saw what I did.” He repeated flatly, apparently bored with me and the conversation. His eyes were on the rear-view mirror.
But I would not be ignored. Not this time.
Gathering every ounce of courage within me, I blurted, “I saw what you did, last week, with the Iron Wraiths evidence. You took it. And now they can’t find it, and now they’re dropping the case against Razor.”
Finally, Cletus looked at me. To my astonishment, his typically green eyes had become a fiery blue and he snapped, “You saw no such thing.”
“I did.” I nodded at my assertion. “In fact, I have a video of you doing it.”
He blinked. His expression and his voice, usually so controlled, both cracked with surprise. “You did what?”
“I recorded it, on my phone.” I swallowed three times for no reason.
His gaze sharpened in such a way that startled me, as though clouds or an illusionary mist parted and revealed a slight glimpse of the real Cletus Winston beneath. These new eyes flickered over my person.
“Prove it.” His demand was sharp and quick, like a whip, and made my heart jump to my throat.
I pulled my phone from my purse with trembling fingers. I knew why I was shaking. I wasn’t used to confrontation. I was a natural pacifist, preferring peace to sass. But desperate times called for desperate measures.
He snatched my cell once I’d unlocked it and tapped through the series of screens until he reached my videos. He found the one dated last week, the one I’d taken of Sheriff James talking about my banana cake and hit play. As Cletus watched, a touch of color drained from his cheeks. He was seeing what I’d spotted last week when I reviewed the recording. One half of the screen was the sheriff. The other half of the screen was Cletus in the background, pocketing the evidence, looking around, then walking away.
Cletus made a strangled noise that sounded both frustrated and enraged. I eyed the door next to me, considering and immediately dismissing an escape. Meanwhile, he watched the recording again. When it ended for a second time, silence took its place, hard and heavy between us. I examined his profile, endeavoring to parse his thoughts.
Cletus’ expression was blank, which—I abruptly realized—was highly unusual. He always wore an expression. Thoughtful, concerned, patient, bored, interested, somber, perturbed. How odd, for a person to always have an expression . . . unless that person wore emotions like a mask, meant to misdirect the true nature of his thoughts.
“You made a copy?” His tone, laden with ice and granite, made me shiver.
He didn’t sound at all like the bumbling but affable Cletus Winston I’d known since forever. He sounded . . . dangerous.
I needed to clear my throat before I could speak. “I did. I made a few. Saved in a few places.”
The side of his mouth ticked up, but his eyes lacked humor as he turned them back to me. “That was smart. Otherwise I would have smashed your phone into a quantity of tiny pieces. Then it would have been your word against mine.”
“That’s right,” I said the words on a breath, the good sense of fear wrestling with determination.
But, damn it, I need his help! And it had to be him. It just had to. He could make anything happen. Everyone in town and the surrounding areas owed him a favor. I’d heard the rumors. I’d paid attention. I’d put the puzzle pieces together.
And now I had the most powerful man in east Tennessee right where I needed him.
Holding the title of the ‘Banana Cake Queen’ should be a pleasant accolade for someone that loves to cook. For Jennifer Sylvester – it’s a thorn in her side. A reminder that she doesn’t have control over her own life. With an overbearing mother dictating what she should wear, how to present herself, and every other facet of her life – Jennifer looks upon this endearment as a cage. Keeping her in the role that her mother has so meticulously crafted from an early age. Trying to shed this façade has been impossible …until now.
Cletus Winston is no stranger to the folks in this Tennessee town. The quiet but intelligent Winston sibling tends to stick to the shadows when trailing around town. However – don’t let the mellow demeanor blind you. Cletus is far more ‘ahead of the game’ than your average resident. Always 10 steps ahead of folks, Cletus is just about to meet his match in the guise of a very ’yellow’ adversary.
Cletus and his famous sausage are here!!!!
I have impatiently wanted to get my hands on Cletus’ book for so long!! Let me say…..this story was well worth the wait! The banjo wielding, long beard wearing, master manipulator did not disappoint. Every nuance of this book was beyond what I could have expected. I laughed so hard at times, and could not put it down even for a moment!!
Penny Reid has captured a writing style that is engaging, funny, and so absolutely unique. I cannot get enough!! Beard Science will certainly charm your pants off, make you laugh out loud, and leave you realizing you will never think of sausage the same way again!! This is one series you do not want to miss!!