Beauty and the Beard
Author’s Note: Dear Reader, This scene takes place between the last chapter and the epilogue of Beauty and the Mustache; specifically, three months after the last chapter but seven months before the epilogue. Also, it has sexy times. So…yeah. <3 Penny
“Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.”
― Anthony G. Oettinger
Waiting for Drew was like waiting for Christmas morning; each day leading up to his March 4 arrival felt like a hundred days; each hour felt like a thousand hours; each minute felt like an eternity.
Time, the sadist, was never on my side.
I paced from my bedroom to the kitchen, looked around at the bare countertops, opened the vacant refrigerator, and then walked to the living room. I was fidgety, restless.
All my luggage was packed. All my furniture sold or given away. The remainder of my boxes had been shipped to Tennessee three days prior. My apartment was empty except for the aforementioned luggage, the sleeping bag and pillow I’d used last night, and my knitting work in progress.
Drew and I would be having dinner with my knitting group and their husbands/significant others where applicable, spending the night at Janie and Quinn’s penthouse, and then driving home tomorrow.
I was going home with Drew.
I was so ready. Stick a fork in me, I was done.
But time had slowed by epic proportions, and with each glance at my watch a minute or less had passed. I even checked the time against my phone to make sure my watch wasn’t broken. I thought about calling Drew but quickly dismissed the idea.
We’d been separated since I flew back to Chicago from Tennessee after the first of the year, and it had been torture—both the sweet and the terrible kind.
Terrible torture because Drew wasn’t an emailer. He didn’t like cell phones. I’d tried Skyping with him my first week back in Chicago, but we’d both become irritable and frustrated by the intangibility of the contact.
Sweet torture because Drew sent me a letter every day and demanded that I do the same. And by demand, I mean he’d called me one day during the middle of January and demanded that I send him a letter every day. Our conversation went like this:
Me: “Drew! Hey-”
Drew, sounding angry: “I don’t want to talk to you on the phone. It pisses me off. Instead, you’re going to send me a letter every day.”
Me, confused and initially hurt: “Talking to me pisses you off?”
Drew, sounding exasperated: “Yes, it pisses me off. Hearing your voice makes me want to do things to you. You’re not here. I can’t do those things.”
Me, still confused, no longer hurt, but also a little flushed with reluctant pleasure: “A letter doesn’t make you want to do things to me?”
Drew: “I always want to do things to you, Sugar. But I can touch a letter. And I know that you’ve touched it too. Your words, in your handwriting, committed to the page. It’s a gift, not a dangling carrot.”
Me: “Fine, then I demand you do the same.”
Drew: “I was planning on it.”
Drew: “Good. I love you. Don’t call me unless it’s an emergency. Bye.”
And that was the last time I’d heard his voice in ten weeks. True to his word, he sent a letter every day, sometimes two, sometimes three. He was right; the letters were a gift. Five became twenty; twenty became forty; at last count I had eighty-two letters.
They were so much better than a fleeting telephone call. They were a snapshot of Drew, of his thoughts and feelings and desires, a tangible representation of him. They were poetic and raw. They made me laugh and cry and turned me on and fall deeper in love with him. They made the separation more bearable and each cold Chicago day brighter.
But they made my nights agony. Sweet, terrible agony.
Did I miss the sound of his voice?
Hell to the yes.
But would I trade even one of the letters for a hundred phone calls?
Hell to the no.
Huffing out a frustrated breath, I checked my watch for the millionth time in the last ten minutes. Drew said he’d arrive sometime around 5:00 p.m. It was now 2:34 p.m.
I groaned. It might as well be a hundred years since time was an evil, agony-loving whore who enjoyed making me suffer. Gathering a deep breath, I pressed my hand to my chest because my heart hurt. I sat down on the carpet and leaned against the wall at my back, my legs stretched out in front of me and crossed at the ankles, determined to work on knitting my spring hat.
But I missed him so much, and I was crazy anxious; I couldn’t think straight. I kept knitting when I should be purling, slipping when I should be doing a yarn over. After two rows the hat was a mess, and I was exasperated and only five minutes had passed. Thank goodness it wasn’t a colorwork pattern or cables.
Growling, I shoved the hat back in my project bag; I would have to unknit the rows later. My dysfunctional hat caught on something as I was thrusting it into the zippered pouch, so I fumbled around the inside of the bag to remove the object. My eyebrows jumped, my eyes widened, and my heart gave a substantial leap when I found that the object was, in fact, two of Drew’s letters.
They were the two letters I’d read only once when they’d arrived last month. I thought I’d lost them and tore my apartment apart after they’d gone missing.
I was overjoyed that I found them and that they’d been safely tucked away in my knitting bag for weeks. Greedily, I opened the first of the missives, smoothing the pages he’d filled with his neat, efficient letters. I loved that his handwriting was so orderly, so legible. He wrote in small, perfect capital letters and in straight lines, so disciplined and careful, yet completely masculine.
But the words inspired chaos. They saturated my mind and my body, twisted my heart, tangled my emotions. They were a torrential downpour, surrounding me, and made me think of thunderstorms in the old mountains. I loved it.
We found two rabid raccoons in Cades Cove today. One chased a bear up a tree, but madness kept the raccoon grounded. It was unable to climb, its movements too uncoordinated. I shot the raccoon on sight then tranqued the bear. I used the new net design beneath the tree to break its fall. But the bear was infected, so I had to euthanize it. I’m guessing it was just over a year old.
I came home tonight, and I wished you were here, at the house, waiting for me. I needed you and your softness, the sweet gentleness of your voice. I needed you. Sometimes I feel like a monster when I do the right thing. I hope that feeling never fades. I don’t like the idea of becoming anesthetized to life and death, even when the death is a raccoon or a bear.
Being a reluctant monster is less concerning to me than becoming numb. I think I fear numbness and mindlessness above all else. I know the easier path is paved with the simplicity of indifference, of prioritizing hopes based on the effort required for attainment and the likelihood of achievement.
But then wouldn’t we miss out on dreams? Would we ever climb mountains? Isn’t being a realist, striving to be just one thing, accepting our limitations, the same as giving up?
I am a monster; I will not deny it. I exist as many things. All of them are in love with you.
I sighed with pleasurable pain, wishing I’d been there to hold him after his troubling day, and smiled a little at his meditations. Drew wasn’t overly dramatic, but he was a deep thinker.
His announcement that he was a monster struck me as extremely pragmatic, like he’d accepted this facet of himself without giving in to it or allowing it to take over. Instead he identified it, labeled it, allowed himself to mourn for the lives he’d taken as part of his duty, and accepted that he would carry this burden.
Furthermore, he would not attempt to lighten the burden. He was so freaking honorable, he drove me crazy.
I reached for the second letter. It had been sent on the same day but in a different envelope. I loved that he didn’t wait, collect them together to send in a batch, but rather made multiple trips to the post office.
This time his handwriting was slightly less meticulous, like he’d written the letter very quickly, in a sudden rush to commit the words to the page.
When you are here I will wake you every day. I will not be content to watch you sleep. I will cover your body with my body, with my mouth. I will take the sweetness from your skin. It will be mine to take.
When you are here I will make you laugh every day. I will not be content to see you frown or worry. I will take your burdens and turn them to dust. I will take the sweetness from your smile. It will be mine to take.
When you are here I will make you pie and watch you eat. I will watch you lick the fork with your tongue and taste and savor each of your moans and your sighs with my tongue. I will take the sweetness from your pleasure. It will be mine to take.
Thoughts of what I will take from you keep me from sleep, and I touch myself where I long to touch you, how I need you to touch me. I will take the sweetness from you, Sugar. You are mine to take.
I finished the letter, one of my hands pressed against my flushed cheek, and became aware that I was hot all over.
His words were still very much weapons. They slayed me, burned me, turned me to ash (no pun intended). Often times after reading one of his letters (like this one) my silly heart would dance and twist in my chest, gallop then stutter. Just like me, my heart had become a fool for Drew Runous.
I re-read it, imagining him doing all the things he’d promised in the letter; his hand on my stomach, inching lower; his lips at my neck…I closed my eyes. I was positively awash in want. My skin was sensitized, my breathing shallow. I was drowning in desire. Maybe losing the letter had been a blessing, because this hollow, unfulfilled craving was anguish.
A knock on my door startled me, and I jumped away from the wall. Blinking at the surrounding emptiness, I checked my watch; it was 2:55 p.m. The person knocked again, a little louder this time.
My heart sped at the thought that it might be Drew, but then I realized it couldn’t be him. He didn’t have a key and therefore would have to use the intercom to gain entrance; I’d have to buzz him in. If I was lucky it would be one of my neighbors. More likely it was my landlord.
I set the letters to the side and stood with the lack of enthusiasm befitting a surly teenager. My landlord was irritating. She’d stopped by four times this week to make sure I didn’t take the faucets out of the apartment. First of all, I knew nothing about plumbing, and even if I did, I didn’t share Elizabeth and Janie’s obsession with bathroom fixtures.
Secondly, the faucets—even by my standards—were lackluster.
I shuffled to the hall just as the person knocked for a third time.
“I’m coming!” I shouted, then mumbled as I unlocked the deadbolt and opened the door, “Hold your monkey wrench, freak. I’m not interested in your damn faucets.”
I lifted my eyes, expecting to see the frowning and freckled Ms. Deveraux. Instead I sucked in a sharp breath, my hand flew to my chest, and my heart was off like the lead contender at the Kentucky Derby.
He was…oh my God, he was breathtaking. He was magnificent. He filled the door, wearing a red and black checkered coat, his beard and hair cut neat, shorter than I’d ever seen them; though it looked like he’d been running his fingers through his blond locks because they’d arranged themselves as perfectly tousled spikes.
But it was his eyes that made me forget myself. They were glowing embers, glinting gray, stormy and feral.
My notice didn’t get much farther than his hair and eyes because, as soon as the door was open, Drew grabbed me around the waist and lifted me off my feet, his mouth crashing down on mine, his arms crushing me to him.
I didn’t try to speak. The relief I felt was too substantial, too overwhelming. Plus, if I’m being honest, his letter had me turned on like a Christmas light display on December 24, and I needed his body more than his conversation.
I wrapped my arms around his neck, and I might have climbed him a little bit, rejoicing in the perfection of his hot mouth sliding over mine. His tongue deserved its own Ken Burns documentary on PBS, and his hands deserved a Hollywood feature film. I moaned when his fingers slipped under my shirt, met the skin of my back. I arched against him while hooking a leg around his waist.
Obliquely, I was aware of the door slamming shut and a lock being turned, but then I was soon horizontal on the carpet in the living room—on carpet I’d just paid to have steam cleaned—with Drew above.
He tore his mouth from mine. Looming over me, Drew roughly pulled off his jacket, then his shirt. I used this opportunity to reach for his belt buckle, but my hands were shaking and couldn’t gain purchase.
He swatted me away, making quick work of the buckle, and said, “Clothes off.”
I did as he commanded, sitting upright just enough to tug off my shirt and unhook my bra. My jeans were another matter since Drew’s muscular thighs were framing mine. His pants were unbuttoned and unzipped when he seemed to notice my struggle. Again, he swatted my fingers away, his eyes intent on the hem of my jeans.
Swiftly, he pulled them from my hips and down my legs, taking my underwear at the same time. I held my hands out to him, wanting his weight, wanting him bare as quickly as possible, wanting skin on skin contact. But instead of returning to my arms, he slid slowly up my legs, trailing his fingers softly from my instep to the inside of my thighs, opening me, spreading me as he traveled up my body.
Then he paused. His eyes flickered to mine—quicksilver, savage, dark and half-lidded with wild need—then focused on my center. I felt his breath against me, and I shivered, my whole person taut with unbearable anticipation, fueled by months of sexy, dirty, unladylike fantasies.
He lowered his mouth to my apex, and I saw a flash of pink tongue just before Drew administered a slow, sensual lick to my favorite girl parts.
My head fell back, my back arched, and I moaned loud and proud. Curse words gathered in my brain like they were holding a convention, and I bit them back, instead opting to pant and sigh and grunt and groan nonsense.
I didn’t realize at first, but my fingers were twisted in his hair in a way that must’ve been painful. Drew didn’t complain. Instead he grabbed two handfuls of my ass and hips and pressed me more completely against his mouth and lips.
I was reminded of our first real kiss, the perfection of it, how it felt rehearsed, choreographed, like he’d thought about it beforehand, practiced. Because this was cunnilingus extraordinairus, i.e., perfection. This was a man savoring the taste of his mate. The slow, methodical caresses quickly drove me to that magic place where insanity and pain are the same as peace and pleasure.
The curse words erupted then, a steady scream of them—that’s right, I screamed—torn from me as I fell over the edge of madness and floated with the stars.
But I couldn’t stop cussing. I wanted to, but instead of saying, “That was fantastic and I love you and please take me now,” I said, “Holy fucking fuck.”
Drew chuckled against me then licked and nipped my inner thigh; his thumbs tickled my stomach just below my belly button with their delicate circles. I jerked and twisted, the sensations too acute; but he held me down, lifting to his knees and stalking up my body, kissing and biting my hip, my stomach, ribs, then the underside of my breast.
Meanwhile, I was laboring for breath and clumsily searching to make sure he’d removed his pants.
“Drew…” I gasped, “Your dick. My vagina. Now. Make that happen.”
He laughed outright then, his grinning face hovering over mine, his chest making a lovely rumbling sound in perfect tune and pitch with his voice.
“Your body haunts me.” He dipped his middle finger between my teeth; I sucked on it then bit him. “You are my-”
“Drew…” I gasped again louder, forcing him to remove his finger and interrupting him. “Please, less diction, more friction.”
He barked another laugh, his eyes merry, his smile enormous. But then he gasped as I tilted my hips to cradle his length. Drew sucked in a dangerous-sounding breath through his teeth when I rubbed against him, rocking my hips with purpose.
“Now, Drew. Now. I need you now.”
“Yes, ma’am,” he said in a low growl, then filled me with one thrust. Whether it was the desperation in my voice that made him indulge me or his own raging desire, I didn’t know.
I started to cuss again. I also clawed him and bit his neck and shoulder. My need felt violent, ferocious. My mind was already planning a second seduction, like I was preparing to negotiate another helping of dessert before I’d finished my first slice of pie.
Drew grabbed my hands, maybe to keep me from drawing blood, and held them above my head. He pinned me to the carpet and administered a punishing kiss. I still wanted to bite him, consume him, but he left me breathless and disoriented.
“I have loved you,” he said, hovering far above me, distancing himself, and added, “I love you.”
“Drew…” I tried to grab him, but he still held my hands hostage, his movements controlled and purposeful, steadily claiming. His gaze moved between mine, searching.
“I will love you.” His voice was soft, like he was trying to reach me, calm me.
I stopped struggling and allowed myself to look at him, really and truly look.
His gray eyes studied me with reverence and longing. His newly trimmed beard allowed me to see his full lips and the set of his jaw; both were earnest, verging on stern. He wanted something from me, something more—but not necessarily different—from our physical act.
I relaxed beneath him, sighed, even as he continued to move within me—languid, measured thrusts meant to hold us in place, because we weren’t in a race. There was no finish line, no end, no goal, no urgency. I needed him, and he was here. I was finally here. We were finally together.
I felt tears sting behind my eyes, and I didn’t try to blink them away.
“Drew,” I said, my voice watery. “I’ve missed you. I’ve missed you so much. I need you.”
His mouth hitched to the side, his gaze softening. “There you are, Sugar…” His voice held traces of satisfaction and relief, as though he were finally seeing me, as though I’d just arrived.
He kissed the side of my mouth and whispered, “I’ve missed you, too.”
“I love you,” I said though my chin wobbled, because I did love him. I understood what he meant when he’d said it earlier and why he’d said it three times.
He loved me, he was loving me now, and he would love me in the future.
I allowed myself to actually feel our joining, focus on it, on him. With every stroke I felt the anxiety and tension evaporate. I was present in the moment, still greedy for him, but finding peace and fulfillment in the knowledge that we now had nothing but time.
And time was finally on my side.
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There are three things you need to know about Kat Tanner (aka Kathleen Tyson. . . and yes, she is *that* Kathleen Tyson): 1) She’s determined to make good decisions, 2) She must get married ASAP, and 3) She knows how to knit.
Being a billionaire heiress isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. In fact, it sucks. Determined to live a quiet life, Kat Tanner changed her identity years ago and eschewed her family’s legacy. But now, Kat’s silver spoon past has finally caught up with her, and so have her youthful mistakes. To avoid imminent disaster, she must marry immediately; it is essential that the person she chooses have no romantic feelings for her whatsoever and be completely trustworthy.
Fortunately, she knows exactly who to ask. Dan O’Malley checks all the boxes: single, romantically indifferent to her, completely trustworthy. Sure, she might have a wee little crush on Dan the Security Man, but with clear rules, expectations, and a legally binding contract, Kat is certain she can make it through this debacle with her sanity—and heart—all in one piece.
Except, what happens when Dan O’Malley isn’t as indifferent—or as trustworthy—as she thought?