Stirring up the Sheriff(10)

By: Leslie North


"God, you really believe that." Trent stared directly down into her storming blue eyes. Marianne had more height on her than he gave her credit for; their noses were practically pushed together. "What the hell did they teach you at that fancy brewing school of yours?" he demanded.

"Guys." Sabrina drew up beside them and put her hands out. "I hate to be the one to break it to you, but you're both right. I think a good brewpub—great brewpub," she self-corrected when Marianne's steely eyes flickered to her, "could really thrive here in Lockhart Bend. That's where Marianne's right. If she's as talented as she says, this could be a great thing for the town's tourism industry. On the other hand, Trent also has a point. You're going to need the business of Bend locals just as much, if not more. I know better than anyone how mistrustful country folk can be of a big change." Sabrina grinned. "It's more than just 'decorations' that make this place the Honky Tonk, Marianne. You need music. You need line-dancing. You need conversations and laughter bubbling around here at all times, not just beer. That's what's going to pull people in."

Trent watched Marianne's expression carefully. He could see that she was at war with herself, but why? Sabrina had summarized his point better than he ever could. Didn't she see that all three of them wanted her to succeed?

"I don't know," Marianne said finally. "Event planning outside of tastings isn't exactly my strong suit. And the whole reason I moved here was to get away from Colorado. All the distractions, I mean," she added too quickly. Trent shot a glance at Sabrina, and she returned his look with an inquisitive one of her own.

What was Marianne really trying to escape by coming so far south?

“But I admit it sounds like fun. Dancing, I mean," Marianne said. She crossed her arms and squinted, as if trying to picture the space in a different light, then she sighed. "I'll have to think about it," she said.

"Any time you want to chat, and maybe bounce some ideas around, call me," Sabrina enthused. "I'll give you my number. Trent?"

"What?"

"Aren't you going to give Marianne your number?" Sabrina batted her eyes innocently at him. Trent had heard more discreet hints come out of the mouth of his quarterback brother, Charlie. "She might need it," Sabrina continued. "You know. In case of an emergency."

"There's a specific number set aside for emergency purposes," Trent said in amusement. "I hear it's the same in every area code. You want my personal number?" He asked Marianne pointblank, just to get the spotlight off him and onto somebody else.

Marianne flushed. "Actually, my aunt already gave me the number for your cell. And she has it posted behind the bar just in case."

"Perfect!" Sabrina said. "Then you're all set. We won't trouble you anymore. I'll just have Trent help me haul some of this stuff out for you, if that's okay?"

"More than okay," Marianne replied. "You're doing me a huge favor. Although…maybe leave a few of the decorations I tore down," she added. "I'll find space for them. You can even let Trent decide which ones he likes the best."

"Hey now," Trent protested, but Sabrina just laughed and turned away to start the move-out process. He caught the flash of a smile on Marianne's face before she suppressed it. "You like giving me a lot of shit," he noticed. "You're almost too good at it. Guess I better watch myself around you."

"Guess I better do the same," she said.

"Marianne…" He stepped closer, and she didn't back away. He ached for any excuse to touch her. He wanted to say the right thing, to give the right advice…hell, to ask her out for that drink they had talked about when they first met in her garden.

"Yes?" Her gorgeous blue eyes were round and expectant. Any trace of the acerbic, defensive edge was suddenly gone. It was an opening. He could make amends for any insult he had paid her; he could drive home a real point to his earlier flirting and try to convince her to see him again in a more private setting.

"Don't work too hard," he concluded. Marianne looked about as disappointed as he felt by his own words, but it was only for a moment. She nodded and straightened a little. Trent could see Sabrina struggling with the front door, and duty called. He clapped a parting hand to Marianne's shoulder, letting it linger; he heard her sigh as he let go. It was a sound he would take with him and mull over for the remainder of the day.





5





Marianne





She finished varnishing the Honky Tonk floors by three.

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