“I don’t know what I want,” she whispered.
He was quiet for a few minutes, and she tried to put her emotions back into the little imaginary box she’d enclosed them in earlier. Saving them for a day when she could cherish every moment.
“Can I put my arm around you?” he asked.
Her little box wasn’t very strong, for it exploded as if hit by the force of a locomotive. Not trusting her voice, she nodded.
The arm that stretched over her back to cup her shoulder was not only familiar, its touch sent calming relief spreading through her system. It was so comforting that even her spirit felt soothed. Drawn to him, she leaned his way and tilted her head to rest it against his shoulder.
His jaw gently bumped her forehead, and a sweet blanket of solace covered her from top to bottom and inside out. She loved her body when it touched his. The sensations were unique and precious, and so utterly amazing. This was for her imaginary box, something she’d remember forever, and she closed her eyes, embedding the moment deep inside.
Not so long ago she’d wondered how a person knew when he or she had fallen in love. Well, now she knew. And the thread of pain flowing through these wonderful, life-changing feelings was enough to make her wish she didn’t. Loving Seth altered everything. Inside her, that was. But it didn’t alter the fact there was nothing she could do.
When she opened her eyes, the brilliance before her had her blinking. The sun had met the earth at the far-off horizon, and the way it splayed a rainbow of colors—reds, yellows, oranges, pinks, blues and purples—over the great flat land made it impossible to tell where the ground ended and the sky began. The irony of the scene made a heartrending smile tug on her lips. The sunset was exactly like the feelings overwhelming her. There was no way to tell where the love began or ended, nor the pain.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?” Seth asked, knowing she was staring at the sunset. He’d never been in this state before, this gray area of being neither right nor wrong. It was not only frustrating, it left him lacking, searching for answers that wouldn’t come.
“Yes, it is,” she whispered.
Even though he was holding her, he wanted more, and it wasn’t just physical. This went deeper than that. He’d known that right after walking out of the house this afternoon. When it came to her, he didn’t want to be an army major. He just wanted to be man. A plain and simple man.
Russ had came to headquarters an hour or so after lunch, said she’d walked out the gate. The corporal offered to go after her, but Seth said he’d go himself. He had, and for the past several hours he’d sat a short distance away, watching her.
A dozen scenarios had played in his mind during that time, but the one that stood out was that he had to face the truth. He could put himself in dangerous situations, lead a charge of men into a heated battle, and defy death head-on, because there was no one he had to worry about leaving behind. No widow or children to mourn him.
Somehow, in some unimaginable way, he’d fallen in love. The one thing he’d sworn never to do. With a woman who didn’t exist. She was flesh and blood, but beyond that it all became a little hazy. The very fact that he felt the way he did proved she was Millie and not Rosemary, and that, too, only complicated things.
The fort was no place for her. She was too gentle for such harshness. But he couldn’t come clean, either, tell her he knew who she was, because then he’d have to send her away. Army regulations stated she couldn’t live here, not without being married. He’d pointed that out himself, which meant the sham had to continue.
Sitting there watching her, he’d thought of many things, including his mother. How she’d cried after his father had died, but only when she thought no one was near.
Amanda Parker-Wadsworth was a strong woman. He’d heard that his entire life, still did, and knew it to be true. Though she hadn’t wallowed in her grief, it had changed her. He’d seen that, too. His father’s death had changed Seth, too. His dreams, his plans. And that had led to something else he couldn’t abide. His death—that of a husband, or someday, maybe a father—would affect other people. People he loved. Namely, one very pretty woman currently nestled against his side.
Seth had also wondered, while thinking of his mother, what her dreams had been. He’d bet they hadn’t been to run a shipbuilding company, yet she had. When her husband and brothers were called to fight in the war, she’d taken over the helm, overseen the building of ships that were still carrying supplies up and down the eastern seaboard and making the entire family very wealthy.