The Forgotten Daughter - Page 76

“She’s not hiding me,” Josie shouted, trying to push out of the branches of the tree she’d planted herself into. The tree seemed to have swelled up around her and wouldn’t release its hold.

“What on earth are you doing up there?”

Of course Scooter would find her. Even in the dark, she could tell it was him standing at the tree’s base, looking up.

“How did you get up there?” he asked.

“Well, I certainly didn’t fly,” she answered, still trying to move. Her bottom was wedged solidly on three sides.

“Climb down,” he said.

“I’m trying.”

“You all right, Josie-girl?”

She closed her eyes against the frustration welling inside her. “Yes, Daddy.”

“I’ll get her,” Scooter said.

“Bring her to my office when you’re done,” her father said. “Right now Gloria and I are going to have a conversation.”

Josie squirmed harder, determined to get free before Scooter reached her. He was scaling the tree faster than she had managed, and she’d been quick.

The crack of the branch beneath her was completely unexpected. The sense of falling had her screeching and grabbing for something solid, which turned out to be Scooter’s shoulders as one of his arms caught her around the waist.

“I’ve got you,” he said.

With her mind and body completely enthralled with him, Josie wasn’t aware of much until her feet touched solid ground. Even then it was a moment before she realized they were out of the tree and Scooter was kissing her. It was so pleasurable, so fascinating, that it was close to consuming every part of her. Not wanting to, but knowing she had to, she twisted out of his arms. The need still pulsing on her lips had her pressing a hand against them. Her heart was pounding, too, and air didn’t want to stay in her lungs. Feeling suffocated, she parted the willow branches and stepped out into the moonlight.

“You aren’t even dressed,” Scooter pointed out.

She had forgotten that. In her hurry to leave her room, she’d only taken the time to throw a housecoat over her short nightdress. “I have extra clothes at Gloria’s,” she explained. “I figured I would change there.”

“Before you went where?” he asked.

Not about to admit she’d been set on going to look for him, she said, “Someone still has to rescue those girls.”

“No, they don’t.”

“Yes, they do. Of all people you should realize how much danger they are in.”

“Were in,” he said. “The police raided Francine’s warehouse tonight. The girls will all be returned to their families as soon as possible.”

“How do you know that?”

“Because I was there earlier,” he said. “Clyde, the man from US Steel that delivered Dave’s car to us, called me and asked me to drive up.”

“Why?”

Scooter took a hold of her elbow. “Come on, you need to go back to the resort.”

Wrenching her arm away, Josie held her ground. “No, I don’t. I don’t need to go anywhere, what I need are answers. Why did he ask you to go to Duluth?”

“It doesn’t matter why he called me,” Scooter said, grabbing her arm again. “All that matters is that those girls are safe.” He pulled her forward, forcing her to walk. “And you will be, too, once you get inside the resort.”

“What?”

His growl said he didn’t want to have to say more, yet he said, “One of Francine’s men is still on the lam. He could be anywhere.”

That explained why Bronco had hired extra men tonight. Another realization hit as Scooter pulled her past Gloria’s cabin. “You told him. You told my father everything, didn’t you?”

* * *

Scooter figured he’d lost several years off his life tonight. Roger had assured him Josie was in her room, but his gut had kept telling him she wasn’t. With the other man’s permission, he’d gone to her room, just to check. Finding her bed empty except for a line of pillows had stopped his heart. When it had kicked in again, so had his feet. The only place he could think to look had been Gloria’s cabin.

Drawing a deep breath, he slid his hand down Josie’s arm to hold her hand as they walked.

Before finding her bed empty, he’d told Roger everything. About Josie’s activities in Duluth. About Gloria and the other ladies in the society, including his mother. About Dave’s car and how he’d gone to Duluth to find her.

Then he’d asked one thing of Roger.

Permission to marry Josie.

Roger had said that was up to her.

Scooter stopped and turned to face her. “Yes, I told him everything,” he said. “Your father knows all about your Duluth runs and why you did it.”

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