Stirring up the Sheriff(6)

By: Leslie North

"The tarps outside do a good job of concealing it all," Trent remarked. Marianne shot him a look, but she couldn't read his expression as he spoke. She had a feeling she didn't need to. He had stated his opinion of the bar's renovations loud and clear upon their first meeting.

"I'm not hiding anything, if that's what you're implying." She fisted her hands on her hips. "I have every permit in place. All that's left to do is varnish the floors and tweak a few things on the assembly line."

"And grow some coriander," Trent reminded her. "I suppose you intend to do that overnight?"

Marianne bristled, but Sabrina wheeled back around to her before she could retort. "You really do look almost ready!" the blonde enthused. "When do you expect to throw open the doors?"

"Well…all I really need to do is wait for the floors to dry overnight," Marianne said hesitantly. "I guess technically everything's in place to open in a week if you just wanted to use the space, but I need another month to have enough beer brewed. I was planning on opening in time for the Spring Festival."

Sabrina exchanged a look with Trent, alerting Marianne that something was up. They might not be boyfriend-girlfriend, but they certainly conspired as if they had a long history of working as a team.

"Why?" Marianne asked the two of them suspiciously. Trent cleared his throat and backed off from the window as Sabrina took over.

"Because," Sabrina said, "we just came from the town hall. A major water pipe broke, and they sprang a pretty nasty leak overnight. There was supposed to be a big meeting held there next week, but they have to do some major repairs. We wondered if…"

Sabrina caught her lip between her teeth and nudged Trent. "The town's been buzzing about your renovations," he added. "We came over to see what sort of shape you were in. If you agree to it, I'll report back to the mayor that they can host the meeting here."

"Oh, wow." Marianne touched her forehead to reorient herself. A million and one doubts scrambled to hold her attention, and all of them presented themselves to her in Simon's voice. Thankfully, the lone thought she heard in her own voice rang the loudest: opportunity.

"Only if you agree to it," Sabrina put in quickly. "We know it's short notice. Actually, it was Trent's idea that we ask you." Then, before Marianne could even think of a sufficient comment to express her surprise: "Oh, wow! Get a load of all this stuff!"

The “stuff” Sabrina referred to—and there really was a load of it—was all the old furniture and torn-up equipment Marianne had deemed redundant during her renovations. For a lack of any better solution, she had temporarily piled it all up against the wall in the Honky Tonk's main lounge.

"I actually wasn't sure what to do with it all," Marianne admitted. She was still trying to wrap her head around their unexpected offer. "Do you know a dump I might take it to?"

"Dump?" Sabrina exclaimed shrilly. "You're just going to throw all this in the trash? You're sitting on a goldmine, Marianne!" She gesticulated wildly toward the pile like she had just uncovered a fairytale dragon hoard.

No matter how much Marianne squinted, she couldn't see what Sabrina saw. "You want it? You'd be doing me a favor by taking it, actually."

"Really?" Sabrina squealed.

"Don't mind her." Trent came up on her left side unexpectedly; his shoulder brushed hers gently, and Marianne experienced an unexpected flood of warmth at the connection. "She's fanatical about upcycling. But if there's anything you want us to take with us, we came in my brother's pickup."

"Are you leaving so soon?" The question was out of her mouth before she could think to hold it back. Trent raised an eyebrow at her, and Marianne flushed. "I mean…I meant the two of you. Obviously. Don't you want a quick tour? If you're going to bring the Honky Tonk up as a viable option with the mayor, you should at least see the rest of it."

"The two of you go ahead." Sabrina waved them off without looking, transfixed by the trash pile. Marianne found herself admiring the way the other woman could see so much possibility in the stuff she had deemed worthless. Marianne considered herself a dreamer, but she was also practical. She was good at exercising her imagination in the brewing room, but outside of it she sometimes came up short.

She exchanged a look with Trent to see if he was still game, and he nodded. They left Sabrina behind them as they strolled back toward the brewing room. Marianne swiped her keycard, and Trent pushed the door open first so he could hold it for her.