Lola hadn’t given her time to answer before continuing, “I’ll take care of everything here. No harm will come to that baby, not before it arrives or after.”
Tears pressed on Millie’s eyes now, just as they had that morning. Although she believed Lola would see to the baby’s safety, she wouldn’t be going to Texas. She’d known that then, but hadn’t told Lola. During the train and wagon rides, Millie had tried to convince herself she could go to Texas when this was all over, but knew the entire time she wouldn’t. That would be as big a sham as this one. She and Martin didn’t love each other—not like that. Not as a husband and wife should.
Flinching inside, she rerouted her thoughts.
Weeks before the morning of her departure, she’d told Rosemary she would help, had even offered to claim the child as hers. But her sister would hear nothing of that. She’d announced that as soon as the child was born, and her divorce settled, she and the baby’s father would marry. Lola insisted the baby’s father was already married, and Millie believed that to be true. Most of the men that “frequented” the house were married. Millie had tried to talk to Rosemary about it over the years, only to have her insist that Millie knew nothing about the needs a woman had. She couldn’t argue with that, but she did know right from wrong.
Shortly after Papa had died, Martin had told her about her sister’s trysts. He’d been over in Charlottesville and seen Rosemary, who’d pretended not to know him.
Millie’s stomach started churning again. Martin had been disgusted by her sister’s behavior, and he’d feel the same way about what Millie was doing. Though he’d been her best friend for as long as she could remember, he’d never understood the guilt that churned inside her. She’d never told him about it, either. That she was the reason Rosemary was the way she was. As an infant, Millie had been too young to remember their mother, but Rosemary had been older, and the loss had scarred her—forever.
Quiet, thoughtful, Millie sat for several minutes. She’d have to return to Richmond when this was all over. Rosemary would need her more than ever.
Eventually, she pushed herself out of the chair and walked down the steps, to carry the box onto the porch. Digging out the pad and pencil, she sat back down, and after loading the lead in the holder, flipped open the cover on the tablet.
Despite starting over several times, she found Seth’s features appearing on the paper again and again. It was the only image her fingers wanted to draw. After the seventh or eighth picture, she gave up, though her eyes remained on the tablet. How had the plan suddenly become so complicated? First, she hadn’t known how to delay him in demanding a divorce, and now she didn’t know how to convince him that she wanted one, after all. No, that Rosemary wanted one. But she was supposed to be Rosemary. Oh, how had it come to this? Millie pressed her fingers to her temples to try to ward off what was building into a fearsome headache. The thought of leaving Seth tugged at her heart as fiercely as if they truly were married.
A heavy lump formed in her throat. She was being selfish again, thinking about herself and not her sister.
Flipping to a new page, she found her pencil strokes flowed easily, quickly. From practice. Rosemary loved to have her likeness sketched, until a few years ago, when out of frustration at her sister’s latest antics, Millie had drawn Rosemary a bit chunkier than she was. That, too, had been selfish. Other than in the secrecy of her room, Millie hadn’t drawn since then.
Her heartbeat quickened, and she didn’t understand why until she lifted her head.
Seth stood at the bottom of the steps, more handsome than when he’d left this morning. But it was the smile on his face that was almost her undoing.
The tip of the lead snapped against the paper.
“Hi,” he said, walking forward.
Wiping away the chunk of lead, which left a smear across the bottom of the page, Millie answered, “Hello.” Thank goodness her voice wasn’t as out of control as the flock of butterflies dancing a cotillion in her stomach. Ignoring them was next to impossible. So was finding where she’d buried her sister inside her.
“What are you doing?”
“Just drawing,” she answered, making a few more strokes.
“May I?” He held a hand toward the pad of paper.
Shrugging, she passed it over. He’d already seen the picture, so there was no use attempting to hide it.
His gaze made several trips from the paper to her face, until her cheeks were burning.