The sun was shining down on her like a spotlight, allowing him to see right through her white top and the thin undershirt she had on beneath it. Regardless of the fact he was in water up to his armpits, fire shot through his veins. The way she had her hands on her hips emphasized the wet material over her breasts. His eyes refused to look away, so he closed them, but it did little more than burn the vision into his brain.
Hoisting himself onto the raft, he spun around to face the lake, and took his time dumping the water out of his boots as an excuse not to glance her way again.
“You don’t need to keep trying to save me, Scooter. I’m completely capable of taking care of myself.”
There were a dozen ways he could respond to that, but he chose silence. It was his best option. After removing his socks, he tucked them inside his boots, which he then tossed into the boat. Then he grabbed the anchor rope.
“So now you aren’t talking to me?”
He shook his head and kept pulling on the rope.
“Ducky, Scooter, just ducky.”
A grin tugged at his lips. She was too cute for her own good. “Maybe I just don’t have anything to say,” he said.
“That would be a first.”
He grabbed the second anchor, made from another chunk of scrap iron, and set it on the platform. Set free, the raft, and the boat tied to it, started to drift. He should climb into the boat and tow the raft to shore and then head home. Get as far away from her as possible. That would be the smart thing to do. As much as he knew it couldn’t happen again, he wanted to feel Josie in his arms again. Kiss her again.
“We’re all sworn to secrecy.”
Scooter turned around. She’d sat down, and he refrained from mentioning how black her wet britches would be from sitting in the layer of ash covering the wood. Her shoes were sitting beside her and her bare feet, her toes, were as cute as the rest of her. He bit the inside of his cheeks, trying to dissolve yet another bout of desire. His willpower wasn’t easily found, so he dug deeper. She was Roger Nightingale’s daughter, and Roger didn’t like anyone sniffing around his daughters.
His traitorous mind chose that moment to point out that nothing bad had happened to Brock, or Forrest, or Ty Bradshaw. Telling himself that was like comparing a Ford to a Buick, so he forced his attention back to what she’d said. Secrecy. That was an understatement. He hadn’t been able to crack much from his mother or Gloria. He’d considered asking Maize, but he couldn’t do that to her. It had taken too long for the haunted dullness to leave her eyes. She still wasn’t the person she’d been before that night, and he feared she might never be the same.
“Sworn to secrecy after Maize was taken,” he ventured.
“How’d you get involved?”
* * *
Josie had no idea what made her want to tell him everything. Other than that she was at her wits’ end. Scooter was relentless. Her only hope was to make him understand why she couldn’t stop. Not right now. She didn’t have to tell him everything, just enough to make him see things her way.
Water still dripped off his hair, off the hat she’d purposely plunked on his head without emptying. The smile that wanted to appear on her lips was stifled by the frustration inside her. His handsomeness had never affected her before, not like it was now. For a split second, when they’d been in the water together, she’d thought he might kiss her again. She hadn’t just thought it. She’d wanted it to happen. That couldn’t happen any more than he could help her. Last night had been a fluke. She’d been caught up in all that was happening around her. The kissing, the dancing, the companionship her sisters were all experiencing. She’d wanted that, too, and because Scooter was close at hand—had never left her side—she’d used him to experience it.
That was as good an excuse as any. She’d come up with that reasoning while sitting across from him in the kitchen, eating the lunch Moe had prepared for them. Now, though, she knew it had gone far enough. She had to put a cork in it. She had no desire to get married—not that kissing Scooter would lead to marriage. Moe’s comment had been a startling revelation. People would now start questioning when she’d be getting married. She couldn’t rule it out entirely, but it certainly wasn’t going to be today, or this summer. Nor would it be with Scooter. When she finally fell in love, it would not be with a man who continuously threatened to tell her father about every little move she made.
In fact, her plan for the future put her far away from Scooter. From the resort and all the suffocating expectations that went along with being Roger Nightingale’s daughter. She’d remain in close contact with her family, for she did love them, but she’d be doing more with her life than she ever could around here. She’d be saving lives.