Stirring up the Sheriff(4)

By: Leslie North


"The Honky Tonk isn't just a name. It's a kind of establishment," he mentioned, in case she wasn't aware. Marianne actually rolled her eyes at this, and he didn't blame her. It was condescending as hell to bring up, but he was trying to regain his conversational footing after the unexpected news.

"Well…I might have to put in for a new name," Marianne replied as she bent to twist the hose off. "Maybe we could have the town vote on it. What do you think?"

Trent removed his hat and raked a hand across his scalp. "You really want to know what I think?" he asked.

Marianne straightened, wiped her brow, and crossed her arms. "I can take it," she assured him. Her mouth quirked in a small, ready smile, and Trent was struck once more by how stunning she was. For a moment, any thought of warning her against her plans flew from his mind; instead, he found himself wanting to sample those determined lips for himself. He imagined they tasted as sweet as their candy-pink color suggested.

It had been a while since Trent had so badly wanted to flirt with a woman, and he hated that he had already closed the door on an easy opportunity with Marianne. He wanted to establish himself as firmly on her side. He wanted her to consider him an ally, someone she could trust…so there could be no holding back what he said to her now.

"I think your aunt wants me to look out for you. Make sure you get settled in all right," he said.

"I never asked either of you to do that for me," Marianne interrupted, but Trent put up his hand.

"I would have done it with or without Celia's request." His gaze lingered on her for a second too long, and Marianne's cheeks flushed a little. Then again, maybe it was just the momentary exposure to the sun. "I want us to be friends, Miss Stanton."

"Then feel free to call me Marianne," she invited.

Trent nodded. "And you don't need to call me 'sheriff.' Trent is fine." He turned his hat over in his hands a moment before replacing it on his head. "It's my personal opinion that any changes you make to the Honky Tonk are going to be met with resistance by the town. The bigger the change, the bigger the hassle it might be for you in the long run. I'd like to offer my help, but I can't guarantee that people—myself included—won't be put off by whatever you've got planned here."

"I appreciate your concern," she said. "Really, I do. But I don't need any help." She indicated the neat rows of her garden, the freshly-turned soil (what wasn’t now on her skin and clothes, anyway). "I've got it covered…and I think that anyone resistant is going to like what I come up with. Have you ever tried beer brewed with coriander? It's excellent. A staple of all good Belgian wits. I've never brewed with it before personally, but I'm excited to try. I'll promise you the first sample."

Marianne waggled her eyebrows suggestively, and while Trent couldn't deny it was a cute look, he still had to be the bearer of bad news. "That what you're planting here? Coriander?" he repeated.

Marianne grinned. "Of course!"

"Because what you've got in your hand is rosemary," he stated. "It used to be my grandma's favorite. I'd know it a mile away." He tipped his hat in farewell as Marianne's jaw dropped in dismay. He made his way back around the side of the Honky Tonk, grinning as her expletives followed at his heels. Maybe he had better give the new girl a day to cool off before he tried talking her out of her grand scheme again.

Trent had no doubt that Marianne Stanton would come to see things his way. And if he'd be seeing a hell of a lot more of her in the process…then he considered it a double win.





3





Marianne





To think she used to enjoy the smell of rosemary! Now, it just reminded Marianne of her crushing humiliation in front of Sheriff Trent Wild.

A few days after their initial encounter, Marianne still had the sheriff's smug expression firmly fixed in her brain. It probably didn't help matters that she found Trent Wild more than a little irresistible…to look at. His personality was a different story. The last thing she needed was someone tall, dark, and fixed in his ways sniffing around while she tried to forge herself an independent place in the world.

"Thanks a lot, Aunt Celia," she muttered to herself as she dropped her chin into her hand. "It's not like everyone wants or needs to be looked after."

Still, Marianne couldn't help the way her eyes traveled occasionally to the front doors of the Honky Tonk. The wireless at her new house was still buggy, so she had been forced to bring her laptop to the bar to research specifics on brewing with rosemary. She might be able to concoct a fragrant, refreshing pale ale out of the inadvertent mess she had made of the garden…but every time she got close to defining and jotting down the perfect recipe, she couldn't help glancing up to check the parking lot for a police car.

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