The Forgotten Daughter(5)

By: Lauri Robinson



If those girls could see him right now, in his black suit, with a white shirt and shiny black boots, they’d be pulling in to his station two at a time. Then again, they probably had already seen him. Everyone for miles around was here today.

“Why aren’t you dancing?” she asked.

He didn’t so much as blink an eye. “Don’t change the subject, Josie.”

“That would be a little difficult,” she snapped. “Considering the way you’ve hounded me.”

Scooter didn’t just step forward, he lunged, and took her arm in a tight hold. “Enough is enough, Josie.” The sound of giggles on the balcony made him lower his voice. “You need to be glad you only got arrested for speeding in Duluth.”

Enough was enough all right, and she’d had more of Scooter than she could handle. “I got arrested for speeding on purpose.”

The instant the words left her mouth, Josie repented.

Scooter’s sapphire-blue eyes narrowed and his lips tightened. “You got arrested on purpose?”

She wasn’t intimidated easily, but Scooter had a way about him that unsettled all sorts of things inside her. Lying to him would be useless. “Yes,” she hissed.

He cursed under his breath and released her arm when a man and woman, whispering and giggling, entered the ballroom. Josie kept her gaze averted as the couple made their way to the sweeping staircase leading to the second and third floors above.

She knew exactly when they were far enough away not to hear. Not only had their giggles faded, Scooter had grabbed her arm again.

“What about her?” he asked. “Are you going to save her, too?”

Josie pinched her lips together. Answering wasn’t worth her breath.

“You know what they’re going up there to do,” he said.

Normally not embarrassed by talk of sex, it had become a common subject in her life—her underground life—Josie chided herself for the sting in her cheeks. “Of course I know.”

“And you’re fine with that?”

Once again Josie told herself not to answer. Not to respond to his nit-picking.

“You’re a hypocrite, Josie Nightingale,” he said. “Right under your own roof, you live with and condone the very thing you get on your soapbox to preach against.”

The air in her lungs turned fiery as her spine stiffened. Josie wrenched her arm from his hold. “I do no such thing.”

“Like hell you don’t,” Scooter retorted, planting his face so close to hers the tips of their noses almost touched. “Nightingale’s is known for the women on the third floor.”

“It is not,” she argued. “Most people don’t even know about it.” Justifying the activities at the resort was not something she’d ever had to do before, but she’d justify the very air she breathed to get Scooter off her back. “Those women choose to rent rooms during large events, just like everybody else. Nightingale’s has nothing to do with it, nor does it take a share of their profits. And,” she added, emphasizing the point Gloria Kasper took pride in, “Dr. Kasper checks every girl who enters, making sure they’re healthy and not here against their will.”

“Securing your investments.”

Scooter’s words were lined with loathing. The twisting in Josie’s stomach intensified, gnawing on her backbone. “Fine,” she snapped. “Believe what you want. It makes no difference to me.”

“Well, it makes a difference to me,” he growled. “I’m sick and tired of waiting to hear if you’ve come up missing or not. I told my mother—”

“You what?” Josie bit her lips together and glanced around to make sure the ballroom was still empty.

“I told my mother to tell Gloria you’re done.”

Relief that no one had heard her shout disappeared. Josie grabbed the lapels of Scooter’s suit jacket. “It’s not for you or anyone else to say when I’m done. And,” she added with all the fury spiraling toward the top of her head like a champagne cork let loose, “you need to remember where Maize might be if not for Gloria.”

Her stomach sank before the words had completely left her mouth.

* * *

Eric Wilson, otherwise known as Scooter because of the motorcycles he’d coveted since seeing his first one around the same time he’d learned to walk, hadn’t been this angry since he didn’t know when. Josie Nightingale knew how to get him fired up, and she’d had him running on all cylinders for the past two weeks. Before then, too, but not to this degree. Passing out condoms to prostitutes was one thing, but her recent activity—attempting to steal girls away from their pimps—was far more dangerous than her pretty little brain could fathom.

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