Stirring up the Sheriff(5)

By: Leslie North

Trent had warned her he would stop in again, hadn't he? Well, what was taking him so long? It's not like Marianne wanted him hanging around, obviously, but not knowing when or where their paths might cross again made her nervous. Better to get it over with. She was determined to see him again, if only to confirm to herself that she had exaggerated the memory of his strong jaw, his dark eyes, his easy smile that sent shivers racing through her—

A car door slammed, and Marianne jumped. She slid down off her bar stool and hurried to the entrance, only slowing her pace at the last second to appear outwardly more calm and collected than she felt. On the inside, her heart thundered with excitement…and the storm only worsened at the sight of Trent Wild strolling up to the curb. She barely noticed the woman with him.

She hadn't exaggerated him in her memory, not in the slightest—only today, Lockhart's sheriff was out of uniform. It seemed unfair that he should look so totally at ease in blue jeans and a T-shirt; it seemed unfair that he should make the off-duty ensemble look so damn good. Weren't sexy civil servants supposed to be a revelation when they were all dressed up, and not the other way around? At least, that was what every made-for-TV chick flick she had ever seen had told her.

But this wasn't a romantic comedy. This was a man who might, at any moment, turn from ally to nemesis if she didn't watch herself. She should probably keep that in mind.

"Sheriff Wild!" Marianne exclaimed as she pushed open the door. "To what do I owe the visit?"

"Don't act so surprised to see me." He grinned, and Marianne's stomach flipped like she'd just dropped over the edge of a rollercoaster. "I told you I'd be around to lend a helping hand, didn't I?"

Marianne flushed. "But I don't need any—"

He interrupted her protest by thrusting a hand out toward her. Marianne blinked in surprise and accepted the bundle of packets Trent gave her. The blonde beside him grinned, her eyes flicking happily between the two of them as if she were afraid of missing a single expression.

"What is this?" Marianne asked.

"Little welcome present," he said. "Coriander. Enough to last you through more than a few potential mishaps."

Marianne heated to her ears at the implication, but she couldn't deny that his gift touched her. “Thank you.”

She turned to the woman at his side. Trent's partner was pretty, young, and bubbly. Marianne smiled in surprised delight when she noticed that the earrings dangling down past her heart-shaped face were in the shape of pint glasses. Marianne couldn't help liking her on sight…even if she were in a relationship with Trent.

Why the hell should it concern you? Marianne wondered as she smiled big and tucked a piece of hair behind her ear. You really think a guy who makes a uniform look that good would still be single? Get over yourself, Marianne.

Still, she couldn't shake the impression that Trent had been checking her out from the moment they first met. Did he just have a wandering eye?

"Marianne, I'd like you to meet my brother's girlfriend, Sabrina," Trent introduced the two of them. "She's the adventure coordinator down at Wildhorse Ranch."

"Oh?" Marianne's eyebrows shot up. She tried to keep any noticeable relief out of her voice. "How do you do, Sabrina? It's a pleasure to meet you."

"Right back at you!" Sabrina shook her hand, crisp and chipper. "It's great to finally meet you! Have you met Trevor yet? He's Trent's twin brother."

"Marianne just moved to the Bend," Trent explained. "I doubt she's had time to make it out to the ranch or that my brother has had much time in his busy schedule to make it off."

"So true." Sabrina pulled a face. "It's been so long since anyone saw him in town that Trent keeps getting mistaken for Trevor today. Must be because he's out with me."

Trent grimaced, and Marianne caught the expression before it quickly vanished again. What was that about? Didn't Trent get along with his brother? Less than two weeks in town, and she was already finding local mysteries to investigate.

"Come on in." Marianne held the door open in invitation. "I was just, well, trying to do a little of everything." She swept a hand toward her open laptop. "I was fixing one of the bottling lines before I got distracted. I could definitely use a break from work for a minute."

"We won't get in the way," Sabrina promised as the three made their way over to the brewing room viewing window. "Oh, wow!" Sabrina cupped her hands around her face as she gazed in. "Would you look at that buildout? I can't believe how much you've been getting done right under our noses!"