“Our food was just delivered,” he said as they walked down the hallway. “At least that’s what I’m assuming. I heard the front door close.”
He was so very handsome, she could spend hours just looking at him and never tire of the sight, and when he smiled at her as he was right now, her insides turned all warm and soft, making her want to feel like this forever. That, too, was wrong and selfish, and she had to put a stop to it.
Once they were at the bottom of the stairs, she sought what she hoped was a safe subject. “Would you prefer I cooked our meals?” Cooking wasn’t her best talent. Lola had made all the meals back in Richmond, but Mr. Ryan was sincerely kind, and he’d probably assist her if she asked.
Seth tugged her toward the kitchen. “I,” he said, leading her toward the table, “prefer that you do whatever you want. If you want to cook, cook. If you don’t, don’t.”
Sitting in the chair he held out, she glanced over her shoulder. “You don’t even know whether I can cook or not.”
He paused, gazing at her curiously as he pushed her chair in. Her stomach flipped. Rosemary would never have offered to cook, and his look said he knew that.
“I have some things to see to this morning,” he said, after sitting down across from her and filling her cup with tea. “But this afternoon, I can take you over to see Jenkins. A cargo wagon pulled in a short time ago. Your boots might be in it.”
“Oh, I forgot about them,” she admitted. Shopping was something Rosemary would do. She lived for it. “I can go over there this morning. There’s no need for you to take me. It’s only across the compound.” She cut a piece of bread in half, thankful her insides were returning to normal—or as normal as they could be. “It’ll give me something to do while the men look for snakes.”
“I can send Russ with you if you want.”
“That’s not necessary,” she answered, pulling up Rosemary’s tone. It chilled her to the bone, but it was the only thing she could do to still her heart and fulfill her purpose.
Damn, he was tired of these eerie feelings. Fighting the urge to devour her all night had left him so full of frustration his skin was too tight. But right now, her tone sliced him deep, as did the set of her chin. Together they caused a peculiar inner instinct to kick in, as if he somehow knew a storm was brewing.
They finished the meal in silence and that irritated Seth even more. The shine was gone from her eyes, the glow from her cheeks. She was like a chameleon, changing her skin color to adapt to her surroundings.
A knock on the door had him pushing away from the table. The movement didn’t help the knot in his stomach, the one that coiled itself around his spine until his back ached. That gut-wrenching sensation occurred whenever he was reminded of the old Rosemary, and nothing relieved it. Hadn’t for years.
Aw, hell. He was putting too much thought into all this, that was the problem. This wasn’t an Indian uprising, where he had to strategically consider every move, find a way to think ahead of his opponent. This was about one tiny woman. He had to quit questioning if she was Millie or Rosemary. He knew the answer to that. Carrying Rosemary to his bed would never have happened. Would never happen. Ever. His goal, to get to the bottom of why Millie was here, and send her home, hadn’t changed. The fort was no place for her. She was too innocent for this untamed territory, and for him.
“Major? We’re here to check for snakes.”
Shaking his head, Seth glanced up, half unaware he’d even opened the door. Stepping aside, he waved a hand. “Come in, Private.”
“Ma’am,” Kent Wickham said, clicking his heels together as he squared his shoulders and pulled the hat off his head.
From the archway between the two rooms, she nodded. “Good morning.”
The way her cheeks grew pink again when Seth caught her gaze had him clenching his teeth. Leaving as soon as possible was what would be best for everyone. The men were taking too much notice. Even in the simple dress, green with tiny white stripes, without lace or ruffles or other embellishments, she looked as stunning as a woman decked out in finery for a fancy ball. The form-fitting gown enhanced her slender figure, but it was more than that. Natural beauty hovered around her like a glow an artist painted around images of angels.
He’d discovered that something soft and whimsical swirled around his heart whenever he looked at her lately. A reaction he’d never before experienced, and that worried him. Almost as much as what had happened last night worried him. He had a fort to oversee and couldn’t afford to be distracted. He certainly couldn’t afford to take Millie’s innocence.