The Rebel Daughter(5)

By: Lauri Robinson

Things had certainly changed since he’d left town. His return hadn’t been overly welcomed, either, but he hadn’t expected it to be. The tapping of a toe, along with those glittery blue eyes shooting daggers at him, brought his mind back to the conversation at hand, which had been... Aw, yes, being Twyla’s date for the evening.

“I thought you didn’t need a date,” he said, nodding to another couple he recognized who’d just walked through the front door—the local sheriff and his wife. Nightingale sure knew how to play the game. Galen should have taken lessons.

“I don’t need a date,” Twyla said coyly, gracefully sweeping a hand toward the front desk, indicating that was where the couple could purchase their meal tickets, which included complimentary drinks. No one had to be told that; it was a given. The resort didn’t need the lure of a blind pig to bring in drinking customers, or the ploy to make the government think it was all legal. People poured through the doors knowing full well drinks would be flowing all night. Even lawmen.

Twyla was peering back up at him and batting those long lashes. Forrest bit back a grin. She did make a dazzling hostess—a glimpse of the glamour people could expect all evening—however, all the charm she had in that sweet little body wouldn’t work on him. He was immune by self-inoculation, if there was such a thing, but he could let her think differently for now. Toying with Twyla, challenging her every word and action, had long been a favorite pastime, and he’d missed it.

Last week, when he’d attended Big Al Imhoff’s anniversary party, Norma Rose was the only sister he’d seen. She’d disappeared shortly after it started. So had Roger. Forrest had left early, too, but he couldn’t do that tonight, and connecting himself to Twyla would give him more chances to do what had to be done. There were things that needed to be cleared up between their families and it would help if he knew for sure if Roger had orchestrated Galen’s arrest.

To his benefit, Twyla had never been able to keep a secret. At least, not from him.

It wasn’t Twyla’s intake of breath, but the flash of fear that raced across her face that had him shifting his gaze to the hallway that led to the resort’s offices. A cold lump formed in his gut. Norma Rose stood in the hallway, in a shimmering purple dress with a single feather poking out of the matching headband that circled short waves of blond hair. She’d fared well, and for a moment the past returned. He wondered how different things could have been. If he hadn’t been who he was and the Nightingales hadn’t been who they were. Unfortunately he couldn’t change any of that back then. He couldn’t change it now, either.

Norma Rose wasn’t alone. A tall man stood beside her. Oblivious to anyone watching, they were looking at each other and laughing and in truth, looked happy, very happy. The man was obviously the lawyer, and for a moment Forrest wondered if he should leave and telephone Roger to say what he had to say. But he wanted to look the man in the eye when they spoke, so his work was cut out for him. All thanks to Galen Reynolds, the man his mother had married years ago and the reason all the Nightingale sisters hated him.

Norma Rose and the lawyer, who Forrest had heard was called Ty Bradshaw, made a striking couple. Despite the way Norma Rose felt about him, he did hope Ty made her happy.

She reached out and plucked something, a piece of lint perhaps, from the lawyer’s shoulder and then kissed his jaw. The man’s hand roamed over her side familiarly and Forrest’s hands wanted to ball into fists. Galen had ruined so much. It was past time it stopped. For good.

The tapping of a toe snagged Forrest’s attention and he turned to the woman at his side. Twyla’s lips were pursed and her little nostrils flared as she breathed in and out. He shoved his hands into his pockets. Galen would not win this time. “You may not need a date,” Forrest told Twyla, “but I do. I hate attending these shindigs by myself.”

A softness entered her eyes, but disappeared quickly. “Really?” she asked sarcastically. Her gaze bounced from Norma Rose and the lawyer to him.

Forrest grinned, though it was as false as the floorboards of a bootlegger’s truck. “Everything’s more fun when you have a partner.” That part was true. Twyla had always been fun and adventurous. Then again, they’d only been kids. She could have changed, and might well have, considering the way her blue eyes turned brooding and rather cold.

Yet, to his surprise, she nodded.

“All right, then.”

“All right then,” he repeated, for no other reason than to get in the last word, knowing that it would irk her. Norma Rose still hadn’t noticed him. He was watching out of the corner of his eye, trying to make it look as if he wasn’t. She wouldn’t be impressed to see him at Twyla’s side. From all he’d heard over the years, she’d like to see him six feet under.

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