“Wasting it? You only save it because you don’t want to carry it out back.”
With the towel tucked beneath her armpits, covering her front to her thighs, and her hair still dripping water, she opened the door a crack. “There might be snakes out there.”
His blue eyes were sparkling and her toes curled against the floor.
“There might be. So don’t empty the tub. I’ll do it when I get back.” He touched the tip of her nose with one finger.
Excitement zipped under her skin at the simple connection, yet disappointment pulled her lips downward. “You have to go back to headquarters? It’s been dark for hours.”
His grin widened. “Yes, Jasper and Per-Cum-Ske and I are going through the pictures to send to Washington, but we can’t find a specific one.” Reaching through the narrow opening, he brushed a clump of hair off her forehead. “It’s one of three women tanning a deer hide. Do you remember it?”
Breathing was difficult, and thinking hard, yet she managed a nod.
“You drew it that first day,” he said, tucking the hair behind her ear. “Do you know where that sketchbook is?”
Her fingers wrapped more firmly around the door handle, clutching it with all her might in order to keep her trembling body from melting onto the floor and joining the water dripping into a pool between her feet. The notion of stretching onto the tips of her toes and kissing him was so strong she had to shake her head in order to clear her mind enough to answer. “It’s in my trunk. The one next to the door. There’s a pouch inside the lid.”
“Mind if I get it?” he asked, now smoothing the hair behind her ear all the way to her shoulder.
She wondered what he’d do if she pulled the door open and let the towel slip to the floor. Heavens, but that was a wanton thought if ever she had one. But an enticing one, too. Swallowing against the growing urge to do just that, she answered, “No, I don’t mind, go ahead.”
“Thanks.” Pinching her cheek, he winked. “I’ll be home as soon as I can. Leave the water.”
He was long gone, thudding up the stairs, when she whispered, “I will.” After shutting the door, she plopped onto the bench and let the air out of her lungs slowly. Goodness, he continued to grow more handsome, and more endearing, and more lovable every day, and she grew more desperate.
Martin had been right. Women did grow amorous when alone for long period of times. Like an hour. Pressing a hand to the heat beneath her belly, she sighed heavily. Yes, she now fully understood what Martin had meant. She even had a touch of understanding for Rosemary’s behavior. Millie had thought it outrageous then, but now she could grasp what her sister meant.
Another sigh built and she had to let it out. She’d even spoken to Mrs. Ketchum about it. Not that she’d broached the topic; Ilene had brought it up on one of her visits. The woman’s companionship had become very special to Millie. They’d even spoken of her mother, and loving Seth as she did—all these reactions boiling around inside her body were confirmation of the love she had for him —she grew to understand how much her parents must have loved each other. How badly it had pained them to be separated.
She wished her mother—and Rosemary—could have had the friends she now did. Other women to help them understand all the complexities of men. One of Per-Cum-Ske’s wives had become a dear friend, too, which was another part of the reason everything made sense now.
Leah-Widd-I-Kah—One Who Stirs Up Water—had explained it, as well as many other things. The Indian leader was very amorous. All he had to do was look at one of his wives and they’d followed him into his tepee. No matter what they were doing or what time of day it was.
A few days ago, extremely curious as to what took place, Millie had asked her newfound friend. Without a hint of embarrassment, Leah-Widd-I-Kah had explained everything. Everything. Even in broken English, Millie had completely understood. Perhaps because now, unlike when Martin had told her a few things, she could relate, knew exactly what the other woman described. And it not only had increased a hundred times over the desire she had to lie with Seth, it prevented her from thinking of just about anything else. Leah-Widd-I-Kah didn’t understand how a married couple hadn’t already shared their love, and assured her that when they did, it would make them both very, very happy.
The one thing Millie couldn’t understand was how Leah-Widd-I-Kah could allow her husband to do that with other women. Millie could never share Seth.