Millie didn’t even nod when Corporal Kemper bade her farewell and pulled the door closed. The only thing keeping her where she stood was Mrs. Ketchum’s advice. A major’s wife doesn’t question her husband’s actions. But Millie wasn’t his wife. Not really, and even if she was, she doubted she’d ever be a good one.
Seth came out of the bathing room, snapping his suspenders over his white shirt, and she lost the ability to keep her mouth shut. “When will you be back?” she asked, in place of begging him not to go.
“I don’t know.” He lifted his coat off the back of the chair near the door, where he always hung it. “Don’t leave the house.”
“I won’t.” She moved down the steps, somewhat amazed at how calm she could pretend to be when fear had her heart racing. The way he watched her made her try harder, to force even her fingers not to tremble. Brushing his hands aside, she buttoned the jacket, holding her breath at the way his eyes followed her movements.
“You’ll be fine,” he said, reaching for his hat.
“Yes, I will,” she said. “And so will you.”
The smile that appeared on his lips played with her heart, filling it with sweetness, while panic squeezed the life from it at the same time. She pulled the ends of the yellow scarf held on his jacket by the shoulder bars, and tied it in a loose knot.
One of his fingers settled beneath her chin, forcing her face up. She closed her eyes for a moment, contemplating. Right or wrong, she loved this man, and knowing she might very well be sending him into battle made that love even more precious.
Lifting her lids, she met the gentle caress of his gaze, and in that moment she honestly didn’t care whose husband he was. He’d become a hero in her eyes, some magnificent knight in armor that had swept into her life and saved her from fire-breathing dragons, highwaymen and all the other evil-doers of the world, all the while remaining a flesh-and-blood man who had stolen her heart.
He stared directly into her eyes for what seemed an eternity before he said, “Yes, I’ll be fine.”
“I’ll wait up for you.”
“No, you go to bed,” he said. “It may be several hours.”
The desire to beg him not to go grew, and there was only one thing she could think to do. Rising on the tips of her toes, she pressed her lips to his.
He hesitated, a brief poignant moment in which Millie was too afraid to breathe. Then his hands grasped her waist and lifted her into his arms. She caught his shoulders, and held on as their lips met and parted and met again in an almost desperate fashion.
He pulled back, but then, cupping her cheek, kissed her again, before whispering, “I have to go.”
“I know,” she answered. “I’ll be here when you get back.”
His lips quirked in the confident grin she loved as he cupped her other cheek. “You’d better be.”
This time his kiss was long and tender, and when she wobbled, he held on tighter. As soon as the kiss ended, he turned and left. Which was for the best. That way he didn’t see the tears flowing down her cheeks.
Seth rode front and center, flanked by the M troop on both sides and followed by a dozen more soldiers. It was where he always rode. That was about the only thing that hadn’t changed. He hadn’t really thought about it before, where he rode. It hadn’t mattered, because if something were to happen to him, the men beside him would continue on. On the field or at the fort. Jasper would take over. Nothing would change.
But inside him, everything had changed, making this the first time he’d ever ridden though the gates desperately praying he’d return in one piece. For her and for him. For them.
A man could take only so much before he snapped. Seth had used that fact against his opponents regularly, but this was the first time he’d felt it himself. When he’d left the house earlier this evening, the image of Millie peeking around the washroom door with dripping, tangled hair falling across wet, glowing shoulders, and grinning like a mystical imp, had danced in his head, and that picture returned now. Actually, it had never really left him, not even when he’d found the envelope tucked between the pages of the tablet.
His question had been a fact finding mission, he’d thought. Whereas really, there was no right or wrong answer. He’d realized that sitting in the bathtub full of chilly water still carrying her scent. The papers had thrown him for a loop—had him thinking it was her he’d be divorcing. It wouldn’t be. It would be her sister. He’d remembered that, too, in the bathtub. Millie was the woman he’d fallen in love with, and Millie was the one waiting for him back at their house. Yet he wasn’t married to Millie.