The Forgotten Daughter - Page 69

He would have to do something about that.

Kissing her had made her presence in his mind bigger. If only she wasn’t so unique. So one-of-a-kind. Josie stood out from her sisters like a peach in a barrel of apples. Or a Buick in a line of Model Ts. Quality. That was what Josie was. With fine lines, and smooth and precise curves, she had showroom shine like no other. Josie was no assembly-line car. She was built solid, inside and out. He probably couldn’t count the number of eyes she’d caught or the heads she’d turned. She probably couldn’t, either, but only because she never would have noticed.

Josie didn’t want to catch anyone’s attention. Didn’t need to. Her mind was on other things. Things she believed in. He couldn’t fault her on that. Her heart was in the right place. Her head usually was, too. This whole saving-the-world thing had just gotten bigger than she could handle.

He understood that trying to get a grip on something so big, so large, could easily take over a person’s life. If they let it. A person had to take life one step at a time. Things didn’t seem so big then, so consuming. Pretty soon, almost before they realized it, a milestone could be reached. Then another one. And another one.

Maybe if he had explained all that to Josie, she’d understand it more. He didn’t want to stop her from doing the things that mattered to her. She just needed to be safe while doing them.

Then again, maybe if he wasn’t so stupidly stubborn, she would have accepted his help. After all, no one wants to eat when someone is shoving food into their mouth.

That was just him. He saw a problem and wanted to fix it. If a car was misfiring he wanted to know why, and he wanted to know how to make it run smoothly again. He’d stayed up many a night tinkering on engines until they were running perfectly. People, though, weren’t like cars.

He wasn’t like Josie, either. He didn’t want to save the world. He just wanted to save her. But she’d never asked him to, and wasn’t impressed by his actions. She’d pointed out the problem he was trying to fix wasn’t hers. It was his.

Riding down the highway, which was growing darker by the minute, with nothing to draw his attention away from all that was going on inside him, admitting she was right was easy. It was his problem. The moment Ty Bradshaw had pulled into the gas station with Norma Rose sitting next to him, Scooter’s heart had started backfiring. Up until then he hadn’t worried much about all the men who visited the resort. Roger hadn’t let any of them near his daughters. Ty’s arrival had changed that and now Josie was the only Nightingale girl not claimed.

Why did he have to love her? Of all the women in the world, why her? It was a problem he couldn’t solve, and it was driving him crazy.

With so many questions rambling around in his head, he arrived in Duluth before he knew it. The streets were quiet, but the dock area was humming. Clyde was right where he’d said he’d be. Scooter cut the engine and removed his hat and goggles.

“We’ll take my car,” Clyde said. “Francine’s place is several blocks from here. No sense walking when we can drive.”

Scooter climbed in the Buick, and within minutes they arrived at their destination. The warehouse was old, and the first thing that assaulted Scooter’s senses was the smell. He coughed and spat.

“I know,” Clyde said. “The rooms those girls were in were despicable. Some of them were little more than babies, and not one of them had any clothes.” After cursing, he said, “They’ll be returned to their families as soon as possible.” The man gestured toward a long hallway. “It gets better up here, just hold your breath.”

Scooter was already holding his breath. The smell of urine was stronger than in Dac’s dairy barn on a rainy day. His nose and eyes were burning. “What is it you want me to see?”

“You’ll see,” Clyde said. “I’ll verify the information if you need me to.”

A shiver rippled Scooter’s spine. What on earth would he need verified? And with whom? The police? He hadn’t done anything illegal. Ever. Other than speeding, namely on his motorcycle after whisking Josie away from the docks, the closest he came to breaking a law was fueling up tanks and revamping bootlegger’s cars. There were no laws against either of those things. He’d purposefully kept his nose clean. He’d encountered enough problems in his life and had never warmed to the idea of some foolish mistake taking away all he’d worked for. The temptation had been there a time or two, especially when he saw the kind of cash Dac collected from running shine. Stuffing old Humphrey had cost Dac plenty of jack and though Scooter would have done it for free, Dac had paid him well to mount the bull in the back of his truck. Dac had called it an investment. Scooter had called it foolish.