“Our cabin is that way.” She glanced over her shoulder toward the little rooms that no longer smelled like roses. To-She-Wi had helped her scrub the place with water boiled with a minty-scented plant, while Seth had been gone that day and a half. That’s when things had changed between them. Ever since his return, he hadn’t questioned who she was. Instead he treated her with the utmost respect, and actually seemed to enjoy her company as much as she did his.
“I know,” he said, with a noteworthy twinkle in his eyes. “But your surprise is this way.”
Butterflies once again inhabited her insides, too strong to ignore even if she wanted to. “Ah, yes, my tea.”
Several steps later, as they walked toward the officers’ quarters, she asked, “Are we visiting the Ketchums?”
He angled their path toward the last house on the left, the big one she’d learned was a storage building. A sad thing for sure. The inside of the Ketchums’ home was roomy, not at all like their tiny cabin, and she assumed this one must be, as well. Identical in size and shape, it was made of thick round rocks and mortar, like most of the rest of the fort, including sections of the tall wall.
During the past week, Seth had given her tours of every building on the property except this one. He’d said there might be mice in there, with all the boxes and crates. Hard to believe, with all the people scurrying in and out of it every day. The activity would surely scare away the varmints.
Perhaps that was her surprise—a tour of what was kept in the building. Not that it mattered. The ride he’d already taken her on had been a wonderful gesture, and just being with him had made the world seem brighter and her steps lighter. He was a busy man and she couldn’t expect him to keep her entertained when there was work to be done. Yet she didn’t have the wherewithal not to want him near whenever possible.
He escorted her up the short set of stairs, onto a porch where two high-back rocking chairs swayed in the wind. A day didn’t go by when the steady gusts weren’t stirring up dust, leaving no choice but to accept it. Therefore, in her mind, the breezes were no longer a bother.
The contemplative look on Seth’s face as he paused near the doorway made Millie’s stomach flip. “What?” The moment that followed had her brows twitching and pulling downward.
With a bow of his head, he opened the door. “After you.”
The smell of beeswax reminded her of the hours she’d spent coating the banister, floors and furniture back in Richmond. She’d never minded the work, for afterward the house had shone. Taking a step forward, she removed her hat to get a better look while glancing around. The house back in Richmond gleamed as brightly as this one did right now.
The left side boasted a large front parlor and the right held an arched doorway that led to a kitchen. Both rooms were fully furnished with pieces as finely crafted as those in her father’s home. A staircase straight ahead created a wall that led toward the back of the house, and the sun shining into the hallway proved there were more rooms with their doors open.
She spun all the way around. There wasn’t a box, crate or barrel anywhere to be seen. Her gaze stopped on Seth, who wore an endearing, secretive grin. A chill not of fear or apprehension, but of anticipation zipped up her arms.
He took her hat, and removing his, placed them both on a nearby table. When he turned, he held out his hands.
Curious and delighted, she laid her fingertips in his palms, and drew a breath at how tenderly his hands folded around hers.
“Welcome home,” he whispered.
She tilted her head, to make sure she’d heard what he said, and to quickly scan the area again. His touch created a unique craving inside her that had her pulse racing and blood pounding in her ears. “Home?”
“Yes, I decided it was time for the major to start living in the major’s house.”
“Oh.” A nervous quiver made her ask, “But what about the cabin? Who’ll live...?” She swallowed, stopping the question as she suddenly remembered they weren’t married and truly shouldn’t be living as such. A shower of sadness rained inside her.
“Russ will move back in there.”
“Oh,” she repeated, glancing to where her feet had glued themselves to the polished floor. Just this morning he’d compared the quiet nights they’d shared to the ones where Russ had filled the cabin with snores. “I guess I’ll get used to his snoring,” she mumbled.
Seth had wondered how this moment would go, and now that it was upon him, anticipation had his insides kicking like a lassoed pronghorn. He let loose one of her hands to lift her chin with his knuckle. The forlorn look in her eyes only heightened his excitement. His plan was working, almost too well. He found himself looking forward to spending every waking moment in her company, but he was still in control. Was always in control. “No, you won’t get used to Russ’s snoring,” he assured her, “because you’ll be living here. With me.”