“Bless you,” she repeated. “And I don’t know why I did that.” She spun, then walked across the room so the table separated them. “I thought I was going to marry another man, but—”
“He was already married,” Seth supplied.
“Yes,” she answered quietly, “he was.”
That despondent little whisper did more to his insides than it should have. So did the way she gathered up several pots of flowers and set them outside the door.
“Why are you here?” he asked as she propped the door open.
“Because of your letter,” she said.
She frowned slightly. “The one asking for a divorce.”
“Which one?” he repeated.
Her frown deepened.
“I’ve sent you five sets of divorce papers.”
“You have?” Shaking her head, she said, “I—I, um, I only saw this last set. The ones that arrived last month.”
“How can that be?” he asked. “I know they were delivered.” After hearing no response to his first requests he’d insisted upon and received confirmation that the papers had been delivered to the house.
He saw how wide her eyes grew before she turned and headed into his office. “M-my sister, M-Millie, always accepts the correspondence that arrives at the house.”
Following, watching her pull dried bundles of flowers from the rope stretched from corner to corner, he sneezed before asking, “And she withholds mail from you?”
“No...” Millie was searching for an explanation. She’d wondered if that had been the first time Seth had sent papers, yet had believed Rosemary when she’d assured her it was. The fact that Papa had promised a divorce was a surprise. He’d never mentioned that, but she had to believe Rosemary knew about it.
The way Seth sneezed several more times had guilt and concern rippling through her.
“Then why didn’t you get my other requests?” he asked, somewhat winded.
“There was a lot of mail after Papa died.” Millie continued to pull down the flowers. It had been fun, irritating him, but his puffy, bloodshot eyes said this had gone far enough. “Anything to do with the army, anything official looking, was forwarded on. I must assume that’s what happened to your previous letters.”
He gave a nod that didn’t really say if he believed her or not. She, on the other hand, had no doubt that Rosemary had received every set. Squeezing past him, flinching at another of his sneezing bouts, she carried the flowers she’d gathered out the front door.
A fortifying breath helped, as did the memory of comforting Rosemary on her wedding night—after Seth had left for Indian Territory again. “I was distraught the—the night we met. When I crawled into your bed.” Mortification had her neck on fire, having him think she’d behave so, but she had to press on. “My father had forbidden me to see the man I thought I loved. I hadn’t known Clifton was married, and I thought...” She had no idea what Rosemary had been thinking when she’d acted so. Back in the office, Millie pulled down the rope. “I guess I hoped the action might make him change his mind.”
“How was that going to help?”
“I don’t know,” she growled. The answers weren’t coming to her, and him sounding so plugged and miserable didn’t help. “I told you, I was distraught and not thinking straight.”
He sneezed again and Millie speeded up her gathering. Word had gotten out that Mrs. Ketchum had given her permission to pick a few flowers from the garden in the center of the fort, and the soldiers started bringing her wild ones by the dozens. It had been kind of them, and the flowers had worked to combat the foul-smelling concoctions Seth kept bringing in—including the cigar he’d puffed on until the entire cabin was full of blue smoke. But making him ill was not in Millie’s plan. The cabin had shaken with his sneezes last night. She’d grinned then, but this morning guilt had hit her when she saw how wretched he looked. Rosemary or not, it had gone too far.
Millie had known a few things about Seth before arriving, such as how his work was revered from here to Washington. But it was the respect the others had for him that told her more. Even while traveling over the barren land, Mr. Winston and Mr. Cutter had nothing but admiration for the man they assumed was her husband. An individual didn’t earn that type of esteem by chance.
“Whatever happened to him?”
Drawing a blank, Millie asked, “Who?”