He squeezed her hands. “It’s quite a storm out there,” he said. “A real downpour.”
Her insides screamed with a longing more commanding than she’d ever encountered. Scooter’s breathing said the feeling was just as strong for him. That made her smile. He was right, though—with all this kissing, she was getting ahead of herself.
“A real downpour,” she repeated. “Your britches are wet. They got my clothes wet.”
He let go of her hands. “Sorry. I’ll run upstairs and get you a towel.”
As he started up the steps, she asked, “A towel? You have a bathroom up there?”
“A bathroom, kitchen and bedroom,” he answered. “All I need.”
She nodded, even though he was already halfway up the steps. For some reason, she’d assumed there was just a tiny room up there. A place for him to sleep in between filling up bootleggers’ vehicles that ran shine for her father. Not an apartment.
Excitement zipped up her spine, and Josie raced up the steps.
The low ceiling was lit with two bulbs hanging on wires. One was in the kitchen area, complete with cookstove, cupboards, a small refrigerator and table and chairs. The other light hung over the bed, where Scooter was. He had his head upside down and was rubbing his hair with a towel. The muscles on his arms bulged beneath his skin.
“I was going to bring the towel down to you.”
“I...uh...” Spotting the bathroom over his shoulder, she asked, “Could I use the bathroom?” A moment to put everything together was exactly what she needed.
He stepped aside and waved an arm. “Of course.”
Walking past him sent a tantalizing shiver through her center. Her toes curled in her shoes. She might not be experienced, but she was knowledgeable. Very well informed when it came to certain things.
Josie closed the door behind her. Her eyes locked on her image in the mirror. The challenge was there, in her reflection. Now what?
She saw her grin form in the mirror. “Watch and see,” she whispered, unfastening her britches while kicking off her shoes.
Stepping out of her pants, Josie draped them over the edge of the bathtub and then shrugged out of her blouse. She started to remove her camisole top, but stopped, recalling how often she’d seen the girls on the third floor wear little more than camisoles while opening their doors.
The set of underclothes she had on was white, not nearly as eye-catching as the red or black ones the other girls had worn, but they were made of silk and trimmed with a delicate lace.
She straightened the straps over her shoulders and then stepped closer to the mirror and pinched her cheeks. Licking her lips to make them shine, she bit down on the bottom one.
Her image had a glow she’d never seen before, and her heart thudded madly. She jolted slightly when thunder made the building rumble. Then again, it could have been the excitement inside her. Josie turned around and grabbed the doorknob.
“Did you find...” Scooter’s voice faded as his gaze went from her head to her toes and up again.
“A towel?” she asked, leaning one hand against the door frame. “My clothes are wet. They need to dry.” Running a hand across the damp silk of her top, she said, “Even my underclothes are wet.”
“Josie.” He shook his head and drew a breath while taking a step backward.
Her breasts, as small as they were, felt teased in a unique way by his eyes and the soft fabric flowing loosely over them. Looking him up and down appraisingly, she said, “Your pants are wet. You should take them off.”
“This isn’t funny, Josie,” he said. “Go get dressed.”
“Because...” Scooter ran a hand through his hair. “Because I say so.”
Stepping forward, she kept her eyes locked on his. “Telling me what to do didn’t work before, Scooter, and it won’t now.”
Holding up both hands, as if that could stop her, he said, “You don’t know what you’re doing, Josie.”
“Yes, I do,” she said. “But I also have a confession to make.”
He swallowed visibly. “A confession?”
She nodded. “I wasn’t mad at you for telling my father everything. I’d have told him myself, if not for Gloria. I knew we were in over our heads, but the way you kept coming to my rescue made me believe we could find a way to save those girls without my father’s help.” To make sure she held his attention, she reached up and pushed one of the thin straps of the cami top off her shoulder. “You saved them and I need to thank you for that.”
Scooter’s gaze danced between her face and shoulder. “No, you don’t,” he said. “Clyde saved those girls, I didn’t.”