“Gloria and your mother. The rest of the Ladies Aid Society was there, too, but not at the same table. I served them brunch.” Josie let her gaze wander back to the lake. “I think they had the idea to recruit one of us girls when they arrived. Ginger was too young, Norma Rose too stubborn, Twyla too...”
“Wild,” Scooter stated.
“For lack of a better word, yes,” Josie admitted.
“So they chose you.”
“They probably had you in mind all along.” His sigh hung in the air before he added, “You fit the bill perfectly.”
Josie held her gaze, focusing on the tall oaks on the shore, how their leaves fluttered in the breeze, rather than how unsettled the gravity in his tone left her feeling.
“So what happened that day?” he asked. “The day Maize was rescued?”
“We found her and brought her home.”
“I know that,” he said dryly. “I want details.”
He would just have to get details from someone else. She was done. Had to stop. The more she told him, the more she wanted to tell him, and that couldn’t happen. There was no betting on what he’d do if she let it slip that Maize had been naked when they’d found her. No one ever made mention of that, but she remembered it pointedly. “We should get in the boat and tow this raft to shore,” Josie said. “If we just keep floating we’re going to end up on the other side of the lake.”
“Yes, we will,” he answered.
Josie waited for him to move first, not overly eager to return to the resort. Her gaze shifted to the island off to their left. A boat was pushed up on the beach, near a tent. Discontent like she’d never known rose up inside her. Twyla and Forrest were still on the island, celebrating their marriage. Ginger was visiting her new in-laws and Norma Rose and Ty were off having fun together. They were all content. All happy. And here she was...
“What happened that day, Josie?”
He wouldn’t give up, nor would he row them back to shore, until she gave in. She knew how to row, and could easily climb into the boat and grab the oars, but she didn’t want to. Her gaze was still on the island and she was recalling her conversation with Twyla shortly after her arrest. Twyla and Forrest had almost been kidnapped, a harrowing experience full of Tommy guns and fast cars, especially the way Twyla told it. Josie was remembering something else Twyla had said then. Her sister had said she wished Josie had someone like Forrest. Someone who would erase all of her fears, even while being shot at.
Perhaps that was when she’d started to wish for that exact same thing. Except she didn’t need that. Didn’t want that.
She did, however, want to release some of the weight dragging her down. Scooter had kept her secrets this long because he had just as much to lose as she did. Perhaps more. One word from her father and his business would be wiped out. She wasn’t afraid of her father’s wrath. Her fears came from not rescuing those young girls in time.
Father would forgive her, eventually, but he rarely forgave someone who put his daughters in danger. That was the reason Galen Reynolds was finally arrested. The charges against him had been for counterfeiting, but everyone knew Galen had been sent to jail so he’d never threaten Norma Rose again.
The dread inside her grew larger than ever. Scooter could lose everything because of her. The weight of that was more of a burden than she could carry.
Pulling her eyes away from the island, she said, “We left the resort that day as soon as brunch was over. Gloria, your mother, a couple of other women from the society and me. It was before noon. Once in Duluth, I walked along the piers, waiting to be approached.”
“You walked the piers? Alone?”
Ignoring the anger in his tone, she continued, “Once I was propositioned—”
Unable to ignore his shout, Josie shot a glare his way and snapped, “Do you want to hear what happened or not?” Her insides had become a tangled mess. Her life was a tangled mess.
His glare was as sharp as hers, but he gave in. “Go on.”
“I let the man lead me toward the warehouse. The other women were hiding and watching. I knew they’d follow.” The confidence she’d gained that day, at how easily their plan had worked, renewed itself inside her. “All went exactly as planned. As soon as he unlocked the door, the rest of the women charged forward. The plan was for me to run for the car. Colene was the driver and waiting just around the corner. While I ran, Gloria, your mother and the others found Maize. It wasn’t too hard. The men never expected a hoard of umbrella-wielding women to charge at them, especially not in broad daylight. Colene pulled the car around the corner and everyone ran across the parking lot and climbed in.” Pausing, she pointed out, “We had Gloria’s big Buick so there was plenty of room. She won’t be seen in a Ford, you know.”