His willpower stood strong. He should thank his lucky stars for that, but he couldn’t seem to feel relieved. Kissing her was just too memorable. Too fascinating and wonderful and—Scooter cut short his thoughts.
“You are going to do exactly as I say from here on, Josie,” he said sternly. The twisting going on inside him was putting more pressure on his will. So were her woeful eyes. “No arguing,” he went on. “No questions and no buts. You just listen and obey.”
She frowned slightly. “But—”
“I said no buts.” He set her farther away from him, breaking her hold on his neck. Once she was firmly planted on the truck bed, he let her go.
“Who are you going to call at US Steel?”
He scrounged up a deep scowl, even when part of him wanted to smile. Asking for no questions from Josie was like asking a bird not to fly. “Just you never mind,” he said. “The less you know the better off we’ll all be.”
“We are in this together, you know.”
“How could I forget?”
She pinched her lips together, then opened them, then closed them again. The humph she let out told him she had several questions and rebuttals, but was obeying by holding them in. The desire to laugh, or at least chuckle, rose up inside him. He had to turn away and tell himself several times that none of what was happening was a laughing matter.
Thankfully it wasn’t much later when Dac turned off the road. Scooter’s mind, even while it was conjuring up what he’d say to Clyde Odell, was questioning exactly why he couldn’t kiss Josie again. Just once.
The truck stopped and Dac’s head appeared over the top rail. “Phone booth is on the side of the building.”
Scooter scanned the very run-down building and completely empty lot. “You sure it works? The place looks deserted.”
“It is during the day,” Dac said. “And yes, the phone works.”
Although he had a general idea of their location, Scooter asked, “Where are we?”
“About five miles north of Cloquet. This road goes past the back of town. Near B. S. John’s old place.”
Scooter stepped up onto the seat of his motorcycle. Before using his arms to hoist himself over the side rail, he turned to Josie. “You stay put.”
“Dac just said the place is deserted.”
“I don’t care. Someone could still be following us. Now stay put.”
Her shoulders drooped, but she nodded.
Scooter climbed onto the cab of the truck and then down the driver’s side. “Keep the engine running,” he told Dac. “Just in case.”
He dug change out of his pocket as he ran. The phone inside the wooden booth looked brand-new. Dropping in a dime, he waited for an operator, and let out a tiny whoop inside when a voice came on the other end. Scooter asked for the US Steel shipyard, and when a voice answered on the other end, he asked for Clyde Odell.
His toe was tapping a steady beat by the time the voice came over the line. “Odell here.”
“Mr. Odell, this is Eric Wilson, we met earlier today in—”
“Are you and your girlfriend safe?”
Scooter stopped shy of saying Josie wasn’t his girlfriend. “Yes.”
“I saw you snatch her out of Francine’s hold. I also tried to cut them off to stop them following you, but I wasn’t fast enough.”
“Thanks,” Scooter said. He hadn’t witnessed Clyde’s actions but didn’t doubt the man’s word, and that gave him hope. “I gotta get that blue Chevy out of your parking lot.”
“Yes, you do,” Clyde answered. “Francine’s boys are watching it, ready to swoop down like a hawk on a field mouse.”
“That’s what I was afraid of.”
“Where are you?”
Scooter chose a vague answer. “South of town.”
“Somewhere hidden, where we can meet up? I’ll bring you the Chevy.”
He wanted to trust his gut instincts, but the man seemed almost too willing to help. “I know a place we can meet up, a secluded one, but we’ve got the keys.”
Clyde laughed. “I’m from New York. I know how to start a car without a key.”
Scooter was giving himself a moment to decide if he should trust the man or not, when Clyde spoke again.
“No one will follow me. I’ll make sure of that.” After a short pause, Clyde asked, “If you’re wondering if you can trust me, all I have is my word that you can. If you’re wondering why I’m willing to help, well, besides the fact my boss wants Francine Wilks and her henchmen shut down, you have something I want.”
Of their own accord Scooter’s eyes shot toward Dac’s truck. Josie must have been standing on the seat of his motorcycle to be tall enough to be leaning on the top boards of the rails, talking with Dac. Curse her. She could fall and break a leg.