with a twist

twist cover text


It is a truth universally acknowledged that, a single woman in ownership of a distinguished and internationally known bourbon distillery must be in want of a best friend less needy than Bailey Charleston.

Darla Williams is in no mood to be bothered. At the pleading of her best friend Bailey, Darla has found herself no longer behind her desk at Pemberley Bourbon, but face-to-face with Eli Barnett at a dive bar in Bowling Green, Kentucky. And so begins a southern-fried, bourbon-soaked Pride and Prejudice adaptation… served with a twist!

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 It is a truth universally acknowledged that, a single woman in ownership of a distinguished and internationally known bourbon distillery must be in want of a best friend less needy than Bailey Charleston.

I sign my name as an inhabitant on the sublease, pressing down harder on the paper than necessary. It’s a nervous habit of mine. When I’m worried or stressed, I press pen to paper so hard that I’m certain to leave an indention in the desk. And today? Today you can see the name Darla Williams etched into the marble countertop of the furnished house I just signed as a tenant.

I take a certain amount of pride in my rational behavior. I never do something without knowing the result. Bailey calls that kind of behavior boring. I call it smart. But now I’m jumping without knowing where I’m going to land, and I can’t say that I’m enjoying the stomach-in-my-throat feeling that uncertainty provides.

“I still can’t believe you came with me.” Bailey claps her hands together excitedly while the realtor packs up the papers and forms scattered around us.

“Me either,” I say with obvious dread in my voice. Though, I wouldn’t call this excursion to Bowling Green so much of a tag-along as it is me finally admitting defeat to Bailey’s constant wheedling to join her as she helps manage the latest bar her family has opened. She’s been here for a week and has spent every moment not at the bar badgering me to stay for a while in a house that she insists looks as if it was built especially for reality TV shows.

The house, located in a ritzy golf club community called Netherfield Park, does not disappoint. Seeing as how this is for the family business, and therefore a tax write-off, Papa Charleston has spared no expense in making sure that his youngest child is comfortable. The house Bailey found is not only furnished with the finest mahogany and stainless steel appliances, it is possibly the largest house in the state of Kentucky, second only to Aunt Cathy’s place in Lexington. There is a full bar and movie theater in the basement, a billiards room, a library, and I swear that another bedroom pops up every time I turn a corner.

Of course, it’s not just Bailey and myself staying here. Her brothers, Carson and Lou, and Lou’s fiancée, Hannah, are all bunking here while the Bowling Green branch of The Bar Charleston becomes part of the money-making machine that keeps the Charleston family in houses like this one, with jacuzzis in three of the bathrooms.

“Are you at all familiar with the area?” Mr. Lyles, the owner of Lyles Lodge Realty, asks me, but he’s focused on Bailey. Not that that’s a surprise. Between the two of us, Bailey is the one that people tend to like. She gets along with literally everyone, thrives on being in a crowd, and is just constantly smiling.

Meanwhile, I crave structure, a quiet place to paint, and suffer from a condition commonly known as resting bitch face.

“Sort of,” Bailey answers for the both of us. “I’m still getting used to the side streets and things. Thankfully, Darla has been all over the state with her company; I never doubt her navigational skills.”

“And what company is that?” Mr. Lyles asks.

“Pemberley Bourbon,” I answer. I don’t miss the double take he makes at my response. To his credit, he composes himself quickly and mumbles something about always being a fan of the Pemberley 1813 blend.

I can almost see the wheels turning in Mr. Lyles’ head as he attempts to figure out how much my income must be, and that it has to be more than Bailey’s.

“Yeah, it’ll be nice to get Darla out of the offices for awhile and out socializing,” Bailey says, her voice twinkling. I raise an eyebrow at her. I don’t know how much socializing she has planned. The reason she’s down here is to monitor one of the bars her family manages, not to get me out of my shell.

Technically, it’s Bailey and her brothers, Carson and Lou, that are supposed to oversee operations at The Bar Charleston, but it’s Bailey who will do most of the work. Carson will be too busy doing what Carson does best: offering snarky commentary and sampling the bar’s liquor.

“If you’re looking for a place to hang out, my son, Chris, is a big fan of The Assembly. It’s a bar downtown. It was rundown when I was in school, and he assures me that the owners have done nothing in ways of renovating, but it’s popular with the under thirty crowd. His friend’s band is playing there this weekend, in fact.”

“Really? We’ll be sure to check it out,” Bailey says, and she means it. And not even in a way of judging the competition and stealing away their business, but in a ‘that sounds like a fun way to spend a weekend night’ kind of way. “What’s the band’s name?”

“Longbourn. They’re playing Saturday night, I think.”

“We’ll be there. Right, Darla?”

I give a little nod to Mr. Lyles as Bailey’s brother, Carson, walks into the kitchen, fresh from a shower. Don’t get me wrong, cleanliness is important, but I have yet to meet a person who takes more showers in a single day than Carson Charleston. It’s barely three o’clock and this is Carson’s second shower of the day.

“So, how’s it feeling being the man of the house?” Mr. Lyles asks as Carson digs through the refrigerator for an energy drink.

“You’re asking the wrong person. Darla is the one running the show,” Carson says, and then follows up his words with a wink to me. I roll my eyes. “She takes care of us.”

“I’m sure she does.” Mr. Lyles puts the last of the forms in his briefcase and snaps it shut. He looks at Bailey. “If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to give me a call. And I’ll be sure to tell my son to keep an eye out for you on Saturday.”

“Sounds perfect. Thank you so much,” Bailey says as she follows Mr. Lyles to the door.

“What’s going on on Saturday?” Carson asks me once it’s just the two of us in the kitchen.

“We’re going to some dive bar to see a band that can probably only play shitty southern rock covers perform,” I mumble as I inspect the cooking utensils. Not one plastic spoon or spatula; good job, Lyles Lodge Realty.

Carson groans. “You’d think Bailey would be more popular with the guys, what with her inability to say ‘no’ and all.”

“Gross. That’s your baby sister.”

He shrugs and changes the subject. “So, what’s the grand Darla Williams going to do without an office to report to every day?”

I shrug. I have no idea what I’m going to do not being at the distillery. I’ve spent nearly every day of the past three years behind a desk, not to mention every summer since I turned sixteen and all through undergrad working on the grounds and in the warehouses. As I was growing up, Mom and Dad thought that working for the distillery would teach me about hard work and the value of a dollar. Some days, when it’s raining especially hard, my back still hurts a little from all the many trips I took rolling barrels full of bourbon down the line. Which is why, as head of operations of Pemberley Bourbon, I have made sure to secure a comprehensive healthcare plan for the employees, along with ample vacation and sick time.

And now it’s time for me to use some of my own vacation time. I had considered visiting my little brother, Greg, as he wraps up his college career in London, but Bailey won out, only because I can be back at the office in less than two hours if needed. As much as I’m trying to call this excursion a vacation, I will still be in near constant contact with the company. Faye, my PR consultant and cousin, has already cussed me out this morning for all the emails and frantic texts I’ve sent her.

I’m sorry, relaxing is not my forte.

Bailey comes back into the kitchen all smiles, as usual.

“You know, sis, you could have just lied and said that it was just you staying here. You could have saved me and Darla the trouble of signing our names to a sublease,” Carson says, walking past Bailey and heading toward the den.

“But that wouldn’t be right. And I really want to do things by the book while I’m here. I’ve got a lot riding on this. I really want to impress Mom and Dad.”

The Bar Charleston chain in Bowling Green is playing the role of guinea pig and will be the first bar owned by Bailey’s family that will serve food. During college, Bailey spent a summer term in France and a winter term in Italy taking courses on cuisine. As much as she wishes to make her family proud and continue the family business, she also wants to put her own spin on the bar and leave her mark. All the food they’ll be serving comes from her personal recipe book.

I’m not one for bar fare, but I will admit that her fried pickle chips with homemade salsa ranch dip are to die for. I do have to admit that Bailey’s cooking talent is being wasted. While she’s putting a flair on the usual bar food, it’s still bar food.

“No matter what you do, you’re still going to be daddy’s little princess,” Carson says, and he’s trying to be supportive, but the jealousy of not being the family favorite reveals itself in his rough voice.

“Dad loves you just as much as me, Carson. He just doesn’t know how to bond with guys. He’s distant with Lou, too.”

Carson suffers from middle child syndrome in the worst possible way. I didn’t know him when he was a kid, but I imagine many of his days were spent with him whining “Lou, Lou, Lou!” with his arms crossed and his bottom lip jutted out. While Carson is a good friend to me, I am thankful that my parents stopped having kids after Greg was born. He and I are just neurotic enough to make us interesting. Throwing another kid into the mix would have resulted in at least one of us becoming a serial killer.

And my money wouldn’t be on Greg.

Not that I’m some crazed maniac bent on death and destruction; I can actually be quite pleasant. It’s just that I’m shy, slightly awkward, and tend to keep my emotions to myself.

I just have the traits of a serial killer. That’s all.

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