Page 48 of The Major's Wife

Some thought marrying Ralph Wadsworth had been a business move for her. The man had worked for a competitor before their marriage, but Seth now wondered if his mother had remarried so that he and his brother could move on. Go to West Point as they’d always dreamed. He hoped not, but while entertaining the fact that he’d fallen in love, he’d started to wonder just how far people might go to make someone they loved happy. Perhaps even as far as pretending to be someone they weren’t.

The sun was slowly fading and early stars were popping out in a purple-hued sky when Per-Cum-Ske walked toward them.

“Major.” The Indian leader stepped closer as they rose to their feet. “Your wife?”

Seth hooked a hand on Millie’s hip and tugged her a bit closer to his side. “Yes, this is my wife. Mrs. Parker.”

Per-Cum-Ske, standing tall with shoulders squared, gestured toward the three women behind him. “My wives.”

Tightening his hold when she wobbled slightly against him, Seth nodded toward the women. “Maruawe. Hello.”

Once they’d responded in kind, Per-Cum-Ske said, “You, your wife, eat with my family.”

Seth looked down at the woman beside him, letting her know it was her choice. Her eyes were thoughtful, glimmering in the fading light, yet a little smile formed as she nodded.

“Yes,” he told Per-Cum-Ske. “We’ll join you.” As the others started walking toward their tepees, he held her back. “Are you sure?”

She glanced from the camp to him before nodding. “Yes, I’m sure.” Seconds later, as they started to follow, she whispered, “What does Per-Cum-Ske mean?”

“The Hairy One.”

“Oh.” Glancing up with a mystified expression, she asked, “And all three of those women are his wives?”

Smiling, for some of her expressions were too adorable not to grin at, Seth answered, “Yes, all three of them.”

Eyes wide, she gazed at the women.

His mind, the one small section he still had control over, wondered how she was going to react to the meal. There would be no table, no chairs, no silverware or pot of tea. His nerves started ticking, and he glanced over his shoulder, checking the sentry seated in his lookout post. If the Rosemary he’d met five years ago suddenly appeared and sat down on the ground with Per-Cum-Ske and his wives, there just might be an Indian uprising before the meal ended.

An hour later, Seth was eating his thoughts, while his wife had the entire tribe eating out of her hand. The charm and grace she’d portrayed most of the time since arriving at the fort had captured the band as easily as it had won him over, especially when she allowed them to pass her sketchbook around. Laughter had abounded as members pointed to themselves on the pages.

Per-Cum-Ske now rested the book across his folded legs, carefully examining each page, and frowning so deeply Seth’s spine quivered.

“How you draw,” Per-Cum-Ske asked, gesturing across the fire, “Major Parker so—” the leader squared his shoulders and lifted his thick, square jaw “—perfect, and draw you—” he was now gesturing toward Millie as he pulled his face into a fierce grimace “—so ugly?”

Fire shot up Seth’s back, but his wife’s laughter launched the entire tribe into hoots and guffawing.

Still laughing, she reached over and folded her fingers around his hand. The firelight shone in her eyes and made her cheeks glow as she glanced up at him. “Because,” she said, “I can look at him.” Turning to Per-Cum-Ske, she pointed to her eyes and then patted her chest. “I can’t look at myself. I have to draw from memory.” She pointed to her temple. “I have to think what I look like.”

The leader shook his head and, making a show of turning the page, said, “Think better. Harder.”

Her giggle floated on the air and swirled all the way around Seth as she leaned her head against his shoulder.

Gently bumping her, he teased, “I told you it wasn’t a good likeness.”

“Yes, you did,” she said, still giggling.

It was amazing all the things she manifested inside him, the way she had him looking at the world in a different way.

“You draw me and my wives?” Per-Cum-Ske asked, handing her the tablet. “So I take to Washington, show Great Chief.”

“Yes, I will draw you and your wives,” she said, setting the paper on the ground beside her. “But not now.” Pointing to the sky, she explained, “I need the sunlight.”

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