Roger stepped out of the room, but before he completely closed the door, he said, “Let me know if you want me to tell Norma Rose you’ll be getting married before her.”
The door closed before either of them could respond.
* * *
Josie’s mind was twirling so fast she could very easily be going batty. There was so much to think about, to process. Thank goodness Scooter’s arms were around her, keeping her grounded.
“He was joking.”
Taking a step back, mainly so she could think, Josie asked, “What? Joking about what?”
“About telling Norma Rose you were getting married before her,” Scooter said.
Josie purposefully held his gaze. The spark in his eyes was mesmerizing, and promising, which had her insides dancing the Charleston, but there was also a hint of something else. Distress maybe.
He took hold of her hands. “We can wait as long as you want.”
“As long as I want?”
His kiss was glorious and she didn’t want it to end, but she sensed he was kissing her in order not to have to talk. Pulling her head back, she asked, “How long do you want to wait?”
His silence made her stomach bubble.
“I love you, Josie,” he said seriously. “I sincerely do, and what I have to say isn’t easy. I want us to be married as soon as possible.”
“But...” she said, her nerves kicking in. After all they’d been through, all they’d talked about, she couldn’t comprehend where this conversation might lead.
“But I believe the earliest it can happen is this winter. Hopefully.”
“This winter?” she repeated. “Hopefully?”
Josie willed herself to remain calm. A difficult thing. “Why?”
“I’m hoping by then to have a house built.”
“You have a house,” she said.
“No, I don’t.” He let go of her hands and brushed the hair back from his forehead. “That’s my mother’s house. I don’t want us to live with her. It would be too crowded.”
“I asked if we’d live at your station,” she pointed out, “and you said yes.”
“I know, but after thinking about it, that’s no place for you to live.”
Josie stepped back. She thought Scooter had understood her. Completely. “After thinking about it or after bringing me home?”
“I don’t want to wait, either, Josie, but—”
“But,” she interrupted. “You said I say that all the time. I don’t. You do. But this. But that.”
His smile could have meant to be consoling. There was just no soothing her. There was no changing her mind, either. “Scooter Wilson,” she began, wagging a finger before his face, “let me tell you a few things about myself, things you’d best remember. I don’t care about a lot of things. I don’t give a wit about fashion or makeup or flashy parties with fireworks. I don’t care about fancy houses or food I can’t pronounce. None of those things have ever made me happy. And that’s what I do care about. I want to be happy. I am happy when I’m with you. Therefore, I am not about to wait until next winter, until you build a new house. But—” she emphasized the word on purpose “—if a new house means that much to you, I’ll help you build one. I’ll pound nails and sew curtains and fill it with all sorts of useless furniture because I love you. That is what I do care about. You. Loving you. I care about becoming your wife. And that I want to do now, not months from now.”
He took a hold of her hands again. “You may say all that, Josie, but when it comes to living above a gas station, you’ll think differently.”
“No, I won’t. I know myself, Scooter, and you know me, too.”
“Yes, I do,” he said. “I know you’re used to the finer things in life.”
“Used to and wanting them are two different things.” She shook her head. “Don’t do this to yourself, Scooter. For once in your life, put what you want first.” The conversation with her father came to mind. “Do you know why Clyde and Karen were separated all those years ago? It was because her father refused to allow her to marry a poor man. When he discovered Karen was pregnant with Clyde, he forced her to marry Galen Reynolds. Something he soon regretted.”
“How do you know that?” he asked.
“Twyla told me all about it yesterday.” Josie leaned forward and pressed her lips to his briefly. “I love you, Scooter.”
“I love you, too, Josie, and I want what’s best for you.”
Pulling her hands out of his grasp, she ran her fingers up his arms and onto his shoulders, while stepping close enough that she could feel the heat of his body. “You are what’s best for me,” she insisted. “Living in your apartment will be best, too. Given there’s so much we have to do.” When he frowned, she said, “You told me you’d help me buy a house in Duluth for those girls.”