“You are?” Scooter asked, the ability to build Josie a proper house instantly foremost in his mind.
“Sure am,” Roger said. Leaning forward he waved a hand. “Bootlegging has been good to me, but it’ll come to an end. I’m aware of that. But steel, automobiles, gasoline—those are all here to stay.”
“I’m interested, all right,” Scooter said.
“Good,” Roger said. “We’ll set aside some time to talk more about it next week. Get things going.” He glanced between the two of them. “A man fighting to give his wife the life she deserves is a man to reckon with. I’ve been there.” His expression grew solemn as he glanced around the room. “And would give everything I own to be there again. Rose, your mother,” he said specifically to Josie, “died before I had any of this. Our life together was that of scrimping and scraping. We never lived alone. Moved in with my parents on our wedding night, and they all three died within days of each other, in that very house.”
Scooter tightened his hold on Josie’s hand again, and offered a consoling smile when she squeezed his in return.
“I’m assuming you two will be announcing a wedding date soon,” Roger said.
“Yes, sir,” Scooter answered.
“We’ll wait until Norma Rose returns from her honeymoon,” Josie said. “I’ll be here to help you with the resort while she’s gone.”
“We’ve already talked about that,” Roger said.
“I know what you said, Daddy, but—”
“But you don’t think I can do it without you?” He chuckled then. “I know this place is Norma Rose’s baby, and I’m glad of that. Just like I’m happy you are branching out to follow your dreams.” Puffing up his chest, he continued, “But let me assure you, I can run this place if need be. And let me assure you, there was never any threat of the Eastman gang taking it all away from us.”
Scooter flinched slightly. Retaliation for Francine’s arrest was still a real threat.
“Your secrets made me realize it’s time for me to come out in the open a bit, too,” Roger said. “To my family. I’ve told Forrest and Twyla, and will tell Ginger and Brock everything when they come home for Norma Rose’s wedding.”
“Tell us what?” Josie asked.
“That I’m not a gangster,” Roger said. “But I do business with a few of them. They like the product that I provide them, and we all make a lot of money from it. The men I deal with aren’t about to let a band of underground thugs step in, and never will. The only thing that could have taken me down was the government, and that didn’t happen because the federal agent that could have done it was after a mobster named Ray Bodine, not me.”
“The undercover agent the feds keep well hidden,” Scooter replied.
“Yes, the one who turned in his badge to marry my oldest daughter.”
“Who? What? Ty?” Josie asked all in one breath.
“Yes, Ty,” Roger said, then laughed. “And you thought you had consequences falling in love with Josie, Scooter.”
“They seem pretty minimal now,” Scooter said.
“They always were minimal,” Roger said. “It’s just that when some things consume our minds, they grow much larger than they really are.” He stretched his arms out to his sides and let out an exaggerated yawn. “Well, I think I’ll call it a night.” Standing, he held out a hand. “Welcome to the family, son.”
Scooter stood and shook Roger’s hand. “Thank you, sir.”
Stepping around his desk, Roger kissed Josie’s cheek when she stood. “Catch the lights after Scooter leaves, will you?”
“Yes, Daddy,” she said. “Good night.”
Roger pulled open the door before he turned around. “You know there’s an old saying that women marry men who remind them of their fathers. Handsome. Intelligent. Suave.”
The grin on Roger’s face caused Scooter to chuckle. “Can’t say I’ve heard that one before.”
“Me, neither,” Josie said.
“You haven’t?” Roger shrugged. “Maybe I just made it up.”
“Maybe you did,” Scooter replied.
His gaze was on Josie then. “He has one up on me, Josie-girl. I never had to bail your momma out of the hoosegow.”
Josie’s blush was so endearing, Scooter wrapped both arms around her waist and tugged her into a solid hug. “I’d do it again,” he told Roger, and her. “I just hope I won’t have to.”
“You two are incorrigible,” Josie said, although she was laughing along with the two of them.