The Forgotten Daughter(2)

By: Lauri Robinson



Roger Nightingale was feared as strongly as he was revered by everyone, including his daughters.

He kissed the top of her head. “Dare I say I’m happy there’s no man waiting in the wings to steal you away from me?”

The lump in her throat grew big enough to strangle a cow. Refusing to give in to the sadness or to peek toward the edge of the dance floor, Josie shook her head. “No chance of that, Daddy.”

“Don’t fret,” he said with another kiss. “The right man’s out there for you, too. Give him time.”

“I’m not fretting.” Lifting her gaze, because depending upon his answer, she knew things could get a whole lot worse, Josie asked, “Are you?”

“Nope.” His grin was broad and his blue eyes shimmered. “Losing three daughters in a matter of weeks is more than enough. I’m going to hang on to you until the very end.”

The strangling sensation happened again, and this time Josie couldn’t speak around it. Scrounging up a painful smile that was as wobbly as her insides, she once again rested her head near the front of his shoulder. Her gaze wasn’t controllable, either. Of their own accord, her eyes landed on Scooter Wilson. The sinking feeling within her could have sent her all the way to the other side of the earth.

Scooter was looking up to see if she was looking down at him, and when their gazes met, he lifted a brow. Though the Chinese lanterns were hung and the music had started, night had yet to fall, and she could clearly see, and feel, the challenge Scooter sent her way.

Josie swallowed. Why had she called him, of all people, when she’d been arrested? Because he’d been the one person she could count on to get her out without too many questions. Way back when she’d worn pigtails and hand-me-down dresses, Scooter had been the one to come to her rescue when any of the other boys, or girls for that matter, had picked on her for one reason or another. He’d never told anyone about those incidents. True to form, just like he’d kept all her other secrets, he was keeping this one. Despite the ultimatum he’d laid down. Either she stopped her activities, or he’d tell her father.

Neither of which could happen.

“Did Scooter fix your car?” her father asked, his gaze following hers.

“Yes.”

“Good,” he said gruffly. “I still think I should have Ned look into that entire escapade. One of my daughters being arrested for speeding is ludicrous. They should have told you to slow down and nothing more.”

Getting Sheriff Ned Withers involved would completely blow her last bit of cover. Her father thought she’d given Colene Arneson a ride up to Duluth to see a niece and that the speeding incident had happened on the way back home. “It was like Scooter said, Daddy,” Josie replied, her nerves hitting a high gear. She’d never blatantly lied to her father, and it didn’t settle well with her. It hadn’t settled well with Scooter, either. “The gas pedal stuck. He promises it won’t happen again.”

“It better not.” Her father spun her around by the shoulders to directly face him. “Matter of fact, it won’t.” He grinned broadly. “I told Scooter you need a new car. Come Monday, he’ll go with you over to Big Al’s to pick one out.”

Her stomach sank. Avoiding Scooter hadn’t been easy over the past weeks, not when she’d had to arrange for him to set off the fireworks later tonight, but she had no intention of going anywhere with him, not even to pick out a new car. When searching for an excuse didn’t result in one, Josie asked, “Couldn’t it just be delivered?” The way her father frowned made her add, “I mean, with Twyla married, she won’t be here to help and Norma Rose is busy planning her wedding, and—”

He kissed her forehead. “No, it can’t be delivered. I know you. You’ll want Scooter to check it from bumper to bumper. Being the only one of my girls here, you’ll need a car—one you can depend on—while Norma Rose and Ty are on their honeymoon. They’ll be moving into the farmhouse when they return, and don’t worry, she’ll be taking over the helm again before the end of the summer.”

It wasn’t the work at the resort Josie was worried about. She didn’t mind covering the front desk and helping with all the parties. Just like she’d never minded cleaning rooms and doing laundry. The resort was her responsibility as much as it was anyone else’s. She just didn’t know how she’d manage everything with Twyla gone. Unlike her, Twyla thrived on being the life of the party. She’d been thrilled to step up and help Norma Rose and had completely plunged herself into making sure the events at the resort were top-notch. Twyla had planned tonight’s party, in fact she’d planned the whole day of activities that included the entire town of White Bear Lake, and it had been a success.

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