Eventually her father stopped talking, and the clapping and cheering slowed. Josie wasted no time in making her exit. She made it all the way to the resort building, but didn’t go up the balcony steps—there were too many people—instead she headed for the corner of the building and the side doors there.
“Good grief, do you have wings instead of feet?”
Josie hadn’t realized Scooter was still at her side. The fact he’d been pulled center stage along with her overrode any lingering anger. “I’m sorry about that.”
“That,” she said. “Being pointed out.”
“Your father’s proud of you, Josie, of all of his daughters. He just wanted to acknowledge that.”
“Maybe some of us don’t want to be acknowledged,” she answered, finally arriving at the side door that led to the storeroom. Josie clasped the doorknob, worried Scooter was going to start another argument. That would take more energy than she had right now. This day truly couldn’t end soon enough.
But it wasn’t Scooter’s voice that had her spinning around.
Scooter stepped aside so Josie could see past him. Having recognized Gloria Kasper’s voice, he hadn’t turned around. Anger once again stirred his insides. The fury had left him for a few minutes, while he and Josie had been dancing. Now, seeing the shadows back in her eyes, he wanted to tell Gloria the same thing he’d told his mother. Leave Josie alone. Find someone else to do their dirty work.
“Hello, Eric,” Gloria greeted him.
He bit the tip of his tongue before turning about. “Hello.” The bitterness in Gloria’s eyes told him exactly what he’d already known. His mother had told the other woman what he thought. What he knew. Not that it would matter to Gloria. She had her own agenda. As always. Short, round and gray-haired, she looked as fierce as an angry badger as she strolled toward them.
“I know you won’t mind, Eric,” she said formidably, using his given name as if that gave her authority. “I need to speak with Josie.”
“Actually, Gloria, I do mind,” Scooter said. Normally, out of respect, he addressed her as Mrs. Kasper. He wasn’t feeling overly respectful right now. “Josie and I are busy.”
Gloria’s wrinkled lips pursed while a gasp sounded from Josie.
“Well, I never,” Gloria snapped, her nostrils flaring like a bull’s. “I insist on speaking with Josie this very moment.” She reached out and grabbed Josie’s arm, tugging her forward. “What I have to say is extremely important.”
Scooter grabbed Josie’s other arm. “I can’t believe it’s that important.”
“Eric,” Gloria snarled, “don’t do this.” She pulled Josie toward her again.
He tugged her back his way. “I could say the same to you, Gloria. Now is not the time or place.”
Gloria gave Josie another hard pull. “Young man, I—”
“You’ll what?” Scooter challenged, pulling Josie back.
“Stop!” Josie twisted until neither of them held her arms. “Stop it, both of you.”
Regret washed over Scooter. He was acting like an idiot, to both Gloria and Josie. The older woman wasn’t bad; she’d helped a lot of people, including his family when they’d needed it, and continued to assist others. He just didn’t want her sending Josie out on another run. Not today. Not ever. It had grown too dangerous, yet he seemed to be the only one to realize that.
Josie glanced between him and Gloria. The sorrow in her eyes stabbed at him, and left him feeling about as low as a flat tire. He had no right to step in, but his intuition said he had to.
“I have to talk with Gloria, Scooter,” Josie said, almost apologetically. “I won’t be long.”
He’d fully expected her to tell him to get lost. It wasn’t as if she’d invited him to wait for her, but what she’d said could give that impression. “I’ll wait here,” he said.
A tiny smile tugged at her lips and she shook her head. “Go back to the party. I’ll see you there.”
He shook his head. “I’ll wait here.”
Gloria rushed Josie through the door before any more could be said. It was just as well. Scooter didn’t have much more to say. He wouldn’t until he figured out a way to stop Josie. Telling her to stop wasn’t working. Josie had a mind of her own. He’d always admired that about her, long before any of this nonsense had started.
Even as a kid, Josie had caught and held his attention. Although she’d always been quiet and thoughtful, when riled, Josie had stood up for the underdog like no other. That had all been years ago, before he’d left school to become the family breadwinner.