The Forgotten Daughter - Page 31

She’d released herself during their kiss, and that had thrilled him in ways not even motorcycles did.

“You’re not thinking of the fire?” he asked, withholding his grin. Inside, though, he was chuckling. She must be thinking of the kiss they’d shared, and was most likely mentally beating herself up over letting it happen. Josie liked to pretend she held no interest in men, but he knew she’d wanted him to kiss her as badly as he’d wanted it. “Not thinking about who may have thrown that fireball?”

She spun around. A frown tugged on her brow while her eyes displayed a hint of surprise.

“That’s what I’m thinking of,” he said. “How someone wanted to spoil your party.”

“You said it was probably a practical joke.”

He knew she didn’t believe that any more than he did. Whoever had started the fire had had more in mind than a joke. Scooter had nothing to go on but instinct, but that was enough. A man of Roger Nightingale’s stature was bound to have enemies.

Big shots and no-name gangsters, and those in between, had all been in attendance at today’s party, but Scooter’s gut told him none of them were responsible for the fire. He had a horrible suspicion that, whether it had happened before tonight or when Roger had introduced his family to the crowd, someone knew Josie was the girl infiltrating the prostitution rings at the docks.

His stomach clenched. That firebomb suggested they wouldn’t stop until she did. Or worse.

She spun all the way around to face him. “You told—”

He interrupted, “Because I didn’t think you’d want them discovering your secret.”

Her lips snapped shut as her eyes widened.

“You need help with the stands?” Dac yelled, as he climbed out of the boat near the dock a few yards up the shoreline.

“No, thanks,” Scooter replied. “I’ll come get them in the morning.”

“See you at the party,” Dac answered.

“See you,” Scooter replied, while gliding the boat up next to the dock they’d launched from earlier. While stabilizing the boat by grabbing hold of the dock, he gestured for Josie to step out. Several sizes too big for her, his coat hung down to her thighs and the sleeves completely hid her hands. The sight also stirred his insides more than any other outfit she’d ever worn. Climbing out, he grabbed the rope at the front of the boat and tugged it along the side of the dock as they walked to shore. There, he walked through the damp sand, pulling the boat toward the boathouse.

Josie didn’t follow, and he didn’t expect her to. Those ugly green shoes would get stuck in the sand. A grin crossed his lips. His coat was an improvement on the dress that matched those shoes.

A spit and sputter echoed over the lake, signaling Dac had climbed on his cycle and was heading back to the resort building. Scooter released several feet of rope, letting the boat float out into the water a bit in order to line it up with the double doors he pulled open.

The boathouse was pitch-black when, after hauling the boat all the way in, he closed the double doors facing the water, yet he knew Josie stood just inside the other door. Not just because he’d heard the door squeak, but because his internal awareness honed in on her presence—as it always did.

With the stealth of a cat stalking a mouse, he maneuvered his way between the boat and the side of the building, listening for any sound she might make. She was silent. Perhaps she was hoping to scare him. She’d been known for doing that, years ago, when they’d played hide-and-seek as kids.

He paused at the sound of a twig snapping. An almost silent hiss said Josie had heard it, too. It also told him exactly how close she was.

Scooter reached out and grabbed her arms. “Gotcha!”

She squealed, and then pushed at his chest. “That was not funny.”

There was laughter in her tone. His, too. “Oh, and standing in the dark, prepared to scare me, was?”

“I wasn’t—”

“Thinking about scaring me?”

“Fine,” she said with a sigh. “I thought about it, but only because I want to know what secret you were talking about.”

The boathouse was darker than a barrel of oil and he could barely see her eyes, but he really didn’t need to. She was right before him, and his lips could find hers without him seeing them. “Not the one about us kissing,” he whispered.

Her protest was little more than a murmur. His lips had found hers. They were warm, lush and sweet, and met his with an intensity that said they’d wanted another bout of kissing as much as his lips had. For a man who was cautious around fire, he sure was playing with it right now.