“But you are.”
Unable to stop herself, she asked, “I’m what?”
She rolled her eyes skyward.
“Looking like that, with your nose up in the air and acting all hoity-toity.”
“Funny-looking? Hoity-toity?” She huffed out a breath. “Think what you want, I’ve never acted hoity-toity in my life, but I do seem to be the only one who remembers what happened today. What could happen if we don’t get Dave’s car and get home soon.”
* * *
Scooter hadn’t forgotten anything, nor did he really think she was funny-looking. Adorable was more like it. All puffed out like a mother hen defending her brood against something twice her size. He was just trying to keep himself from thinking about things like that. How adorable she was. How her eyes snapped open and her lips pursed when she was mad. Just the act of her striding along beside him had his blood pounding in his veins.
Josie had never gotten under his skin like this. Then again, he’d always refrained from spending too much time in her company, knowing full well there would come a day when he wouldn’t be able to keep his hands to himself.
Today would not be that day.
The rumble of a big engine vibrated in his eardrums. Scooter turned toward the road. The truck was huge, and so were the white letters painted on the side of the barrel-rack body of the trailer it was pulling. The name US Steel covered the iron-plated sides. If he’d been a praying type of man, he’d have thanked the Lord for stepping in at this precise moment. As a matter of fact, he went ahead and sent up that little prayer of gratitude. Then he turned to Josie.
“Remember the rules.”
She opened her mouth.
“If you don’t, I’ll paddle your backside.”
Her startled expression was laughable. He just wasn’t in a laughing mood. His radiator tale had worked to kill time while waiting for Clyde, but the man’s arrival would spike John’s curiosity, and a viable excuse as to why Dave Sutton’s Chevy was being delivered to him wouldn’t form in his head.
“Don’t think I won’t,” he warned Josie. “Not for a minute.”
Her eyes were on the truck, which was now slowing down to pull into John’s yard. “Uncle Dave’s car is in that truck, isn’t it?”
“Yes, but John doesn’t need to know why.”
She sighed. “I know that, Scooter. Good heavens, I’m not a dumb Dora.”
He didn’t bother responding to that. She wasn’t a dimwit, but right now, he wasn’t going to agree with her. “Just stay quiet, Josie, no matter what is said.”
The wheels were spinning inside her little head. The way she gnawed on her bottom lip told him so.
“Promise me, Josie,” he said sternly. “No matter what I say, you stay quiet.”
She glanced from the truck to him. “Fine. I promise.”
“Good. I’d appreciate it if you’d stay by Dac’s truck.”
She made no promise a second time, and he didn’t push her for it.
Scooter carried the radiator to Dac’s truck and then walked over to show the driver where to park the big rig. John moseyed closer, his eyes gleaming. The truck was a sight to see. Brand-new, with a stylish square cab so high off the ground a side step was mounted below the door. The apple-red paint probably still smelled factory fresh.
“Dave Sutton’s Chevy was left in Duluth,” Scooter told John “A man I know at US Steel offered to meet me here. They had a truck already going this way.” He wasn’t sure how much he had to tell the man to make it sound believable.
“Peddling some whiskey up in these woods, was he?” John asked.
Scooter didn’t agree or disagree, and didn’t want to further his lie, either. “Good thing there’s a southbound train,” he said, leaving it up to John to make his own assumptions. As Clyde Odell climbed out of the truck’s passenger door, he added, “I’ll be back in a minute.”
John followed, and so did Dac, to whom Scooter tossed the key he’d taken out of his pocket. Surprisingly Josie stayed back. He’d expected her to follow on his heels. Dac and John stopped to talk to the driver while Scooter walked around the front of the big rig, admiring it.
“Don’t worry,” Clyde said, meeting him near the headlight mounted on the passenger side of the front bumper. “No one saw us and Howard won’t say a thing. Not to anyone.”
Scooter nodded. “I don’t have a lot of cash on me, but I’ll send—”
“There’s no delivery charge,” Clyde said. “Not in money.”
“What do you want to know?”