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Naughty Is Nice

Written by Tawny Weber

Chapter twenty

Declan's jaw was still scraping the ground when Mari turned on her heel and stormed back toward the town hall. She didn't bother to check and see if he was following her or not. Letting her anger propel her, she weaved through the crowd to step up to the podium at the front of the room. She looked out at the crowd and gulped. Wow, there were a lot of people out there. She twisted her fingers together to hide their trembling. Maybe she didn't have to make such a grand gesture. Then she saw Declan, just inside the doorway. The group of guys surrounding Sylvie sent him collective glares and a few people stepped away as if he had cooties or something. He looked like he was about to leave. "Wait," Mari blurted into the mic. Her voice shook. She cleared her throat, then said again, stronger, "Excuse me, everyone. Please, do you have a second?" The noise softened to a dull whisper as everyone focused on her. Mari thought she might pass out. "I want to clear up a rumor." The room went silent. Mari's head spun. "Back in high school, there was some gossip about Declan Cole and me. That we…" "Bumped uglies?" someone shouted. Mari blushed then shrugged. "Whatever. But it wasn't true." There were a few knowing glances. And more than a few smirks. Declan looked grim. "It wasn't true then." Cue the rolled eyes. "It is now. I'm seeing Declan. And I'm going to keep on seeing him, no matter what people think." Murmurs washed over her. Some of amusement, a couple of disdain. But most were simply curious. Declan's eyes warmed her from the back of the room. "I'm sure a few of you remember Declan Cole as trouble. But a lot of you have worked with him this week. You've gotten to know him. He's been a big help to everyone. But now he's thinking about leaving," she said into the mic, her voice blanketing the room. "Not the hall, but the town. For good." And her. Mari swallowed hard. This time it was misery that was clogging her throat, not nerves. There was a heartbeat of silence, then the protests rang out. Declan's eyes widened in shock as people swarmed around him. Mari stepped off the stage, slowly making her way through the crowd to Declan and the people giving him reasons to stay in town. Everything from renovation requests to poker games to an offer of a kitten. When she reached his side, the invitations widened to include them both. "Excuse me," he said, wrapping his hand around Mari's. He hesitated then promised to the crowd, "I'll be back." *** "Want to explain that performance?" Declan asked once he and Mari had reached the questionable privacy of his truck. She hated being the subject of gossip. He couldn't believe she'd stepped up and told the town they were a couple. "You won the bet," she said. "It was a tie." He arched a brow. "And I don't remember you agreeing to those stakes." "I don't want you to leave," she said simply. Her blue eyes shone with a warmth that filled him with joy. "You're sure?" he asked, finally letting his heart accept that he deserved Mari. Deserved her sweetness, her sassiness and her determination to make him climb out of his bitter shell and be happy. "Because if I stick around, I plan to do it right next to you." "Yes. I'm positive," she said, brushing a candy-cane-sweet kiss over his lips before giving him a wicked smile. "After all, the way you do naughty is pretty darned nice."

THE END

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I love romance. Happily ever after, hot love scenes… all the g...

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Tawny Weber

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