Josie opened her mouth to say yes, but if Norma Rose asked what she’d heard, she wouldn’t have an answer. She hadn’t been listening. Her mind had been on Scooter. He’d made her promise not to mention what they’d figured out to Gloria. Josie hadn’t planned on it—then. Now she was contemplating it. Scooter could be in real danger. As much danger as those poor girls locked in the warehouse.
Snapping her head up, she asked, “What?”
“What is wrong with you? It’s not like you to be so preoccupied.”
“I’m not preoccupied,” Josie said. Searching for an explanation, which wasn’t easy, she added, “I’m just worried about—”
“Who threw that fireball at the raft last night?” Norma Rose asked. “Well, don’t worry. Ty’s looking into it.”
Every muscle in Josie’s body went stiff. “There’s no need for Ty to be investigating it. I’m sure it was just some pranksters.”
Norma Rose sighed. “If you’re sure of that, why are you worried?”
This was exactly why Josie had chosen to remain silent for so many years. It was way too easy to talk herself into a corner when it came to her family. Fortunately, she had heard a word or two her sister had said earlier. “Tell me again what you are suggesting when it comes to Maize?”
Norma Rose frowned, but then leaned forward and pointed to the calendar on her desk. “Ty and I are going to be gone for two weeks. Now, I know Twyla said she’d come and help, but I believe she’s going to be very busy at the Plantation. I was thinking we could hire Maize to help you. She could bring Jonas with her. A boy his age will find all sorts of things to keep him busy out here, fishing and swimming. All the things we used to do as kids. Uncle Dave suggested it yesterday, and after seeing Maize last night, I think she’d do a good job. I didn’t mention anything to her, because I wanted to ask you first.”
Thankful the conversation didn’t require much thought on her part, Josie nodded. “That sounds fine to me.”
“I know how important your Ladies Aid meetings are to you, and I don’t want you to have to miss them while I’m gone. With Maize here, you won’t have to.”
Josie held in her sigh. “I said it sounds fine.”
“I was thinking I’d ask her to start this week, if she’s interested,” Norma Rose continued, as if Josie hadn’t spoken. “That way she can shadow me for several days. Learn all the ins and outs and...”
Careful that her sister didn’t catch the way she glanced toward the window out of the corner of her eye, Josie leaned back in her chair and let Norma Rose go on. She was bound to, whether Josie spoke or not. Which was fine, as it gave Josie free rein to wonder what was taking Scooter and Ty so long. All they had to do was load up the raft. It wasn’t even that heavy. Well, it was for her, but not for two strong men. She feared but doubted Scooter would tell Ty anything about her trips. He’d held his silence for this long. Then again, he hadn’t been as involved then as he was now. All because of her.
Josie’s thoughts were completely twisted among themselves when the office door opened. “Where’s Scooter?” she asked, as Ty entered the room.
“He went home,” Ty answered. Turning to Norma Rose, he said, “Your father just arrived. So did Ginger and Brock, along with his family. And I saw a boat coming across the lake, so I’m assuming it’s Twyla and Forrest. You might want to let Moe know they’ll all be here for supper.”
“That will be nice,” Norma Rose said. “We can have a family dinner one last time before everyone goes their separate ways.”
Glad to have an excuse to leave the room, Josie stood. “I’ll go and let Moe know.”
“Tell him to add a plate for Scooter, too,” Ty said. “I invited him to join us.”
Josie flinched. She wanted to talk to Scooter, but didn’t need him talking to the entire family.
And that was precisely what happened. She’d barely had a chance tell Moe who’d be there for dinner and change her clothes before the entire family, plus Scooter, were gathered on the balcony raving about the party the night before, including Scooter’s fireworks, while eating Moe’s fare.
Twyla’s animated description of watching the fireworks from Forrest’s airplane dominated the conversation for an enormous amount of time. Josie kept glancing at Scooter, who was at the other end of the table, next to her father. The two of them had had a brief but deep discussion that left her hands trembling, especially when they both looked her way.