The Forgotten Daughter - Page 4

Josie nodded and watched him walk to the stairs leading to the ground. Reggie, the resort’s long-standing bartender, had set up a portable bar beneath the balcony. Now that she was alone, the noise—that of the people beneath her, the music, the gaiety in general—vibrated against her eardrums. This was by far the largest party the resort had hosted and the entire day had gone without even the tiniest mishap.

She was thankful for that, but would be even more grateful when the day was over.

Josie spun around and walked through the open double doors leading into the resort’s ballroom. Once nothing more than an old dance pavilion her grandfather had built to entertain weekend visitors to the lakes, the room now rivaled ballrooms in California and New York. Leastwise, that was what Norma Rose claimed. Her sister would know. She’d spent hours studying pictures of those places while designing the renovations on this room.

Stopping near one of the few tables left behind, Josie wrapped one hand around the back of a chair to steady herself while adjusting her shoe with the other hand. Blisters were forming on her heels from the hideous shoes she’d been requested to wear.

Her matching dress, identical to the one Twyla had bought to wear today, was just as bad as the shoes. The entire ensemble was an ugly pea-soup green—green was Twyla’s favorite color. Josie much preferred her soft-soled slip-on shoes, dungarees and loose-fitting blouses. They were not only more comfortable, but they also didn’t stand out. In them, a person could easily hide in a crowd.

After adjusting the second shoe, she wiggled her hips to shake the handkerchief hemline of the silk dress back into place. Cut above the knee in the front, but almost touching the floor in the back, the dress was as repugnant as the color. And the matching beaded headdress covering her hair had long ago started to itch. Fashion was not her thing. Thank heavens Twyla had been too busy to put much effort into insisting she pierce Josie’s ears before the wedding.

That was all she’d have needed. Swollen earlobes.

Then again, they probably would have taken her mind off her aching feet. In all honesty, she should be glad it was only her feet aching. Modesty had never been Twyla’s biggest trait. A lavish wedding would have been more her sister’s style. It was rather amazing that other than the green dresses, the actual wedding had been a simple affair. Granted, it had happened in the middle of the largest Fourth of July party the state had ever known. That made up for the simplicity of the wedding in Twyla’s eyes, no doubt.

Norma Rose’s wedding wouldn’t be simple. She’d been planning it for weeks. That, too, was a bit surprising—how easily Norma Rose had accepted Twyla getting married before her. If Josie had been more herself, she’d have questioned all of those things. Both of her sisters insisted she’d understand some day—how the most important thing truly is who you’re marrying, not where or when it’s taking place, or even what you’re wearing.

Hearing either Twyla or Norma Rose say that was as out of the ordinary as roses blooming in winter. Never one to voice her opinion when it wasn’t necessary, Josie had held her tongue. It wasn’t as if she had plans of marrying anytime soon. If ever.

“I mean it this time, Josie.”

The voice startled her so deeply that if not for the chair still nearby, she’d have toppled over. With both hands gripping the back of the chair, she took a stabilizing breath before lifting her gaze.

One foot braced on the lower brass rail, arms crossed and leaning against the bar a few feet away, Scooter Wilson stared her down like a John would a whiskey runner. Scooter was about as formidable as a copper, too. Over six feet tall and as beefy as any of her father’s men, Scooter’s size alone made people think twice before questioning him. That was just one of the things she’d admired about him. Or used to admire when they’d been kids. His attitude of late had her questioning if they’d ever been friends.

The other thing she used to admire had been his looks. His slicked-back black hair, parted on the side and combed behind his ears, made women of all ages stop at his gas station just to get a close look. Some didn’t even need gas in their tanks or air in their tires.

“I mean it,” he repeated.

Looks were as deceiving as friendships. They both faded over time.

“I heard you the first time, Scooter,” she replied. “And earlier today, and yesterday, and last week, and—”

“And I’m tired of saying it.”

Josie refrained from saying she, too, was tired of hearing it. This was Scooter. He didn’t care what she wanted. There wasn’t much he cared about. Other than his gas station and flirting with the girls who visited it.