A knock on the door had her jumping to her feet.
“I got it. I’ll be back soon,” Seth said, before she gathered the towel off the floor. “Don’t float away in there.”
Giggling, for even with all the frustration eating at her, he made her smile, she said, “I won’t.” Hearing his footfalls, she eased the door open an inch, just enough to watch him walk out the front door.
It was more than an hour later when he finally walked through it again.
Over her nightgown she wore a blue flannel housecoat that had three large pearl buttons she absolutely adored. It was very pretty and Mrs. Ketchum had told her how important it was to always look pretty for her husband, so she was sitting on the divan in the parlor, where she’d brushed her hair until it was completely dry. Millie smiled, watching him remove his hat and jacket. She cherished this time, when all was calm and quiet, and it was just the two of them.
“Hi,” she murmured.
“Hi.” He walked into the room. “I’m glad to see you didn’t float away.”
“There was no chance of that,” she said, setting the brush aside. “And I saved you my water.”
He nodded, but the grin on his face wasn’t quite as bright as normal.
A shiver rippled her back, settled deep between her shoulder blades. Concerned, she asked, “Didn’t you find the picture you needed?”
“Yes.” He held the sketch pad in one hand, and as he lifted the cover she noticed an envelope.
Her stomach rolled. It was Rosemary’s divorce papers. If Millie had been thinking straight she’d have remembered they were in the same pouch as the sketchbook.
Tapping a corner of the envelope against the pouch, he said, “It was inside the tablet. I didn’t notice it until I was back at my office.”
A chill had her skin quivering. “Did you sign it?”
Frowning, he stared at her for a moment before he shook his head. “No, I didn’t even open it.”
Relief had her wanting to close her eyes, but she didn’t. Just nodded, accepting his answer.
He set the envelope and her sketchbook on one of the two tapestry chairs in front of the fireplace, and then moved to the window, where he held the curtain aside and stared out into the darkness. His broad back was stiff and the air in the room grew dreary and heavy.
“Will you answer a question for me?” He moved back to the chair, leaned both hands on the back. “Tell me the truth?”
“Yes,” she said, even with anxiety welling in her chest.
“Do you want a divorce?”
A bone-chilling fear raced through her, so fast it felt as if flames leaped to life under her skin. An impossibility, so cold it was hot, yet it was fitting. Telling him the truth was just as impossible. Unable to face him, she studied her hands, ran a thumb over the slickness of her fingernails. But when they started trembling too hard, she laced her fingers together, all the while searching for an answer. There was no sense trying to pull up Rosemary. That wouldn’t help. Besides, Millie was done playing that game. She’d given it up the day of their last argument.
“Do you?” he asked quietly.
She had to close her eyes in order to find the fortitude to answer. Blinking at the moisture on her lashes, she said, “If our marriage was...” Shaking her head, she tried again. “If you and I had said the words spoken five years ago, and meant them, then no, I wouldn’t want a divorce.” Hurrying, before he could grasp exactly what she’d said, what she’d just told him, she continued, “However, as it is, with the way things are, resulting from that day, then yes, the divorce is still needed.”
He turned, walked back to the window, and she bowed her head, biting her lip so hard she tasted blood. Here, too, things were convoluted. She’d never want to divorce him, but she wasn’t married to him. Rosemary was.
It was several minutes before he moved, turned around and then walked all the way across the room without glancing her way. “I’m going to empty your bathwater. I’ll see you in the morning.”
Her mouth had a mind of its own. Before she realized it had opened, she heard herself saying, “It doesn’t have to happen until December.”
With one hand on the banister as he turned the corner toward the hallway, he stiffened and twisted to look at her.
She pressed the hand she’d slapped over her mouth harder against her lips. His frown was fierce, but it was the squint of his eyes that sent her heart into her throat.
Shaking his head again, he turned, and a moment later the bathing room door shut so hard she flinched.