Once the trees hid him from most of the partygoers, he increased his speed. His mind raced, too, telling him over and over that he shouldn’t have let Josie out of his sight. That had been his plan and he should have stuck to it. Shortly after collecting her from Duluth, a truck driver with a flat tire had pulled into his station. The truck was from the huge US Steel plant in Duluth. While working on the tire, Scooter had mentioned he’d recently been in Duluth. The man asked if he’d visited the docks and the girls there. With a few innocent-sounding questions, Scooter had learned all sorts of information from that truck driver and none of it was anything Josie should be involved in.
Upon arrival at the little green-and-white cabin, he leaped up the two steps and threw open the door.
Gloria was still jumping up from a chair at the table when Scooter slammed the door shut behind him. “Where’s Josie?”
A single glance toward the bedroom door told him all he needed to know.
“You can’t go in there,” Gloria declared, as he started in direction of the door.
“You can’t stop me.” He was already pushing open the door, and what he saw not only stopped him in his tracks, but it also sent his temper soaring. “Get your dress back on.”
* * *
Josie finished buttoning the top of her white blouse before spinning around. A combination of anger and relief surged across her stomach. Going with anger, she planted her hands on the waistband of her dungarees. “I will not.”
“Yes, you will.”
“No, I won’t.” This sounded a lot like the conversation she’d had with Gloria a short time ago. That argument she’d lost. This one, she wouldn’t. Scooter had no say in what she did or when she did it, and it was beyond time he realized that.
He strode forward. “You either change back into your dress, or I will.”
“Go ahead,” she said. “It’s an ugly dress, but I doubt it’ll fit you.”
The anger in his eyes was enough to make her flinch, but he didn’t notice her reaction, not with Gloria storming into the room.
“Eric, this is none of your business,” the woman insisted. “Now leave.”
“I’m not going anywhere,” he said, “and neither is Josie.”
Josie had half a mind to tell him he was wasting his breath, but some people just had to learn that on their own. She had learned it years ago. Offering an opinion when no one was willing to listen was as useless as raking leaves during a storm.
“Do you honestly think she can sneak away on one of your missions today?” he was asking Gloria. “The entire family is looking for her. The dance-off is about to start, and Roger wants her on the floor along with her sisters—
Gloria frowned. “What dance-off?”
Since the doctor was now looking her way, Josie answered, “It’s for the guests.”
“Not just for the guests,” Scooter said none too quietly. “Your sisters say it can’t start until you’re there.”
“Why didn’t you tell me about this?” Gloria asked.
Josie wanted to scream. She had told Gloria sneaking away today would be too difficult, but when it came to her cause, Gloria dismissed any obstacles in her way. Normally, Josie did, too, but today things just hadn’t felt right. Hence the relief at Scooter’s arrival that softened her spine. She wouldn’t tell anyone, or let it show, but the thought of traveling to Duluth today frightened her. In all honesty, the past couple of missions had scared her—ever since she’d been arrested for speeding.
“You must have known about it,” Scooter said to Gloria. “It’s been in all the advertisements about the party.”
“Blast it,” Gloria said as she took to pacing the floor. “With Francine Wilks and her number one henchman here, we have a chance of discovering where those girls are.”
Josie flinched, and noted how Scooter noticed this time. He was sharp, and Gloria should have realized how much information her babbling was giving away. Then again, Gloria was no fool, and most likely knew exactly what she was doing. To be fair, Scooter probably knew that, too.
He took Gloria’s arm with one hand and pointed at the pea-green dress with the other. “Put that back on,” he said, while pulling the other woman to the door. “And be quick about it.”
Josie feared quick wouldn’t be quick enough. It would still give Scooter time to question Gloria about their activities. Francine Wilks had a warehouse in Duluth where she kept girls “that weren’t ready,” as the madam had put it. Francine didn’t mind her working girls receiving the free condoms Josie passed out along the waterfront, but the woman didn’t let anyone near her captives.