The Major's Wife - Page 20

A short time ago he’d questioned Lieutenant Paisley, but the man couldn’t say when the line might be up again. Poles could be down all the way to Tulsa. It had happened before. He’d given Paisley instructions—private ones—that as soon as the lines were working, a message needed to be sent to Richmond. He was determined to confirm his suspicions that it was, in fact, Millie in his cabin.

It had to be Millie. There were too many inconsistencies for her not to be.

Seth pushed off from the post he’d been leaning against. Whether it was Millie or Rosemary, payback was in order. “Lieutenant,” he shouted into the barn.

A man appeared instantly. “Yes, sir?”

“Get my saddle and some saddle soap. Bring it to my cabin.”

“Now, sir?”

“Yes, now.”

“But that soap will stink up your cabin. The Indians make it for us and—”

“I know,” Seth said, already heading there.

It took even less time than he’d anticipated. He’d barely opened the tin, had yet to work much of the black slime into the leather when the door to her room opened. Her little nose was curled and her eyes were squinting.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“Oiling my saddle.” He explained the obvious without looking up.

“In here?”

“Why not in here? An army man has to keep his equipment in order.”

She crossed the room, opened the door. “Don’t you have a barn for that kind of thing?”

He leaned back in his chair, stared at her pointedly. “If you don’t like it, you’re welcome to leave.”

That was a nasty glare, the one she flashed his way, as she stomped across the floor to Russ’s old room. Seth allowed himself a moment to gloat.

Only a moment, because in the next instant she was back, pouring something onto the seat of his saddle.

“What the—” He grabbed the bottle, not needing to sniff the container to know she’d just dowsed his saddle with rose oil. “What do you think you’re doing?” A stupid question, but it was all he could think to say.

“Disguising the stench,” she said with a curl to her lip.

They stood there, across the table from one another. In all his born days, Seth had never backed down from a challenge, and he wasn’t about to start now. He even felt the tiniest mingling of guilt. After all, her only weapon was a bottle of rose oil.

Wrong.

Two nights later, Seth conceded her plethora of female things was more than he could take. Like those big bows, all eight of them, tied to the rungs of the ladder leading to his loft. And the bouquet of flowers that had been sitting in his hat this morning, which she’d positioned in the center of the table as if it was some huge, hideous vase.

She had to have done that after he’d gone to bed last night.

He should have heard her. He’d barely slept. Not with the way he was sneezing. The thought of another sleepless, miserable night snapped his last nerve. Two days of trying to out-scent each other hadn’t got him anywhere.

Seth barreled through the door of their cabin. “What are you doing here?”

Spinning around from where she stood near the stove, she held up a bundle of weeds. “Drying out wild lavender.”

He sneezed.

“Bless you,” she said.

He’d been worn down before, but never quite like this. The cabin was overrun with flowers and bows and cushions and curtains. A man couldn’t take it.

“No, I mean, why are you here?” He sneezed again. “If it was to make my life as miserable as possible, if the past five years haven’t been enough, you’ve succeeded.” They hadn’t spoken much over the past forty-eight hours, having been too busy trying to outdo each other. He was ready to talk now. “I did your father a favor—not to mention you—and he promised me a divorce in return.” After one more sneeze, Seth waved a hand around the cabin. “Instead, I get this.”

Her eyes grew wide. “My father promised you a divorce?”

“Yes, he did.” Seth hurried to shut the door before the entire compound heard him. “What were you thinking that night? Why’d you climb into my bed?”

“I—I...”

The way she trembled from head to toe sent a wave of guilt curdling in his stomach. He took a step back, but wasn’t going to back down on his questioning. He needed some sleep—in a cabin that didn’t smell like a flower garden.

Another sneezed raked his body.

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