The Major's Wife - Page 43

She nodded and lifted her fork, but it was obviously a show. He opened his mouth. Wind was fine, but she should never have purchased so much candy for him. Seth took another bite of food instead of voicing his thoughts. This was all new to her. She didn’t understand that trading a single item was fine, but multiple items needed to be distributed evenly. That was the tribe’s way, but Wind hadn’t wanted to share his jackpot. If anyone but her had caused the skirmish, Seth would have already reprimanded the instigator. Things were precarious right now, and even fighting children could be enough to set off some of the tribes.

When his plate was empty—an act of habit, since his mind was ticking away—he laid his fork down and refilled his coffee cup. “I have to go back to headquarters. Will probably be there until evening.”

She nodded, but was clearly deep in thought.

The silent treatment wasn’t like her. Mealtime usually was full of her questions about everything from the meaning of Briggs’s maidens’ names to how many horses were in the stables. “Wind is fine,” Seth finally said.

Her head snapped up, but she bit her lips together as if afraid to speak.

“Please don’t purchase any more candy for him without asking me first.”

She frowned. “I didn’t charge it. I used my own money.”

“That’s not the issue. Everything given to the Indians has to be distributed evenly. It causes trouble if it’s not.”

She gave a slight nod, and after setting her cup on the table, lowered her hands to her lap and looked everywhere but at him. The air in the room seemed to take on a tension it hadn’t before, not unlike how it did during deep negotiations with one of the tribal leaders.

“Did something else happen? Something I should know about?” Seth asked.

She barely blinked. Just sat as stiff and straight and stubborn as a mule, and her brown eyes had a dull glaze instead of their usual luster. He bristled. Rosemary was back. Leastwise, Millie was attempting to be her again.

“Nothing happened, and nothing is wrong,” she said, lifting her chin slightly.

The way she sat there, had ire inching up his back like a slow-growing vine, twisting and curling along the way. “I’d prefer you not lie to me.”

Her neck reddened as she drew an audible breath.

He knew how to handle soldiers, but this woman... He hadn’t known what to do with her from the start. Then, as her eyes squinted and her lips pursed, life pitched him backward five years, except he wasn’t sitting in her father’s office.

Millie was good. Right now she caused an image of Rosemary to shoot across his mind like a bird flying past a window. Seth ran a hand through his hair. “Why are you here?” The back of his throat felt laced with shards of glass, suggesting he might not want to know her answer, yet he said, “The truth this time.”

She swallowed hard, then answered, “Because you want a divorce.”

He lifted a brow, waiting for more.

“And—and I’m not sure if I do.”

That split him in two. He took the route he knew best. “Why? So you can go on seeing other men?” He’d heard things over the years, but chose not to pay attention, for they hadn’t bothered him. Then. Now they did. If men at the fort heard of Rosemary’s activities, they might assume Millie, in her guise as Rosemary, would behave in the same way.

“I’m not...” She took several deep breaths before pushing the chair away from the table. “I believe I shall pack my things. Corporal Kemper’s snoring can’t be as—as ghastly as your manners.”

He was already on his feet, had been from the moment she’d spit out the word pack. Taking her arm, he willed self-control to keep his tone even. “No, you will not pack your bags. This is your house. This is my house. This is where we both will live.”

She tugged free of his grasp. “I find it impossible to remain here.”

He snatched both arms this time, with a hold she couldn’t break, while frustration ate at his neck muscles. He should tell her he’d have a wagon ready in an hour to take her to Tulsa, but his tongue didn’t want to create the words. He didn’t want her to go, and that was a reality he couldn’t quite accept. Nor was the idea of her living anywhere but at his side.

Her arms trembled and she closed her eyes. The glistening tear slipping out the corner of one eye melted his heart, or the armor around it, anyway. Without even knowing he’d declared it, she’d won their second battle, too. This time she hadn’t even needed flowers and weeds.