The Major's Wife - Page 54

Was this some kind of demonic curse? He’d never wanted to fall in love, and when he had, it was to a woman he couldn’t marry, one he couldn’t proclaim his love to because she couldn’t know he knew who she was.

Even with his mind twisted, his sight was clear, and he reined in his horse, holding up an arm for the soldiers to follow suit, near the edge of Per-Cum-Ske’s village.

The leader stood there, flanked by braves. The two of them, Seth and the chief, had known each other for years as allies and enemies, and at times that had made dealings more difficult.

“No one in Washington will talk to either of us about better provisions if an attack happens right now,” Seth said, without dismounting. “Even an attack on one man.”

Per-Cum-Ske waved an arm. “We are here.”

Seth showed no emotion, which in the past hadn’t been this difficult. Knowing Millie, with sweet, petal-soft lips and smelling like a bouquet of sun-kissed flowers, was depending on him to return, made his desire for peace stronger than ever. “Are you saying those weren’t Comanches chasing those men?”

The leader made no sign of a response.

Riding off in the dark of night, chasing down braves who’d had the time to find strategic hiding places and set up their attack, was dangerous, crazy even, but Seth would do it. They wouldn’t expect that, which was what had made him the commander he was today. Doing whatever it took to gain the upper hand and keep it. He’d been able to because he’d had no worries. No one to leave behind if his plan failed. That wasn’t so now, but he couldn’t let it change him.

“I know they’re Comanche,” he said, displaying none of the companionship he’d shown to the leader the past several days. “No other tribe would come this close to your village.” His horse shifted and he let it take a full step closer to Per-Cum-Ske. “You round them up or else I will. But know that if I go after them, I will make no concessions, show no mercy, and when I return neither of us will be going to Washington.”

The air grew heavy, tense, as they faced off, neither man blinking an eye. Seth knew stare-downs. There’d been a time he’d thrived on reading what was playing inside his opponent’s mind. Right now he was impatient for it to end. As the realization clicked, so did something else. He’d never had anyone to protect before, either, and thinking of Millie, her safety, had a mountain of determination growing inside him.

“I warned you,” he said, wrenching on his horse’s reins.

“Wait,” Per-Cum-Ske said. “I go to Washington.”

Seth issued a silent curse. He hadn’t yet agreed to let the Indian go, and this had been Per-Cum-Ske’s way of pushing him into a decision. If Seth had been paying closer attention, he’d have seen it coming. His mind may have been elsewhere before, but it was focused now. He had more to lose than ever before.

“I haven’t decided that yet,” he said. “Behavior like this makes my decision more difficult. I won’t travel with men I can’t trust.”

The movement was slight, but Seth saw it—the slight bow of disgrace Per-Cum-Ske displayed. “I find them. I stop them.”

“I’ll go with you.”

The leader surveyed the soldiers with a cold gaze.

“Just me,” Seth said.

Per-Cum-Ske lifted his square jaw.

“I don’t ride with men I don’t trust,” Seth said again.

This time the Indian let his action be seen by everyone. He bowed his head in acceptance and waved for his horse to be brought forward. “Just you and me.”

“Just me and you,” Seth repeated, hoping he wasn’t making the second biggest mistake in his life. As an army commander, he knew when to send others to do a chore and when he had to do it himself. This was one of those times where he had to be the one to go, and that had his stomach churning.

It was several hours later, deep in the night, when even the locusts were sleeping, that he finally rode back through the gates of the fort. The four braves, who he’d seen at Per-Cum-Ske’s village mere days ago, had been apprehended, and he did believe the leader when he’d vowed there were no more.

Seth relayed the outcome of the event to Jasper, who met him in the stables, and then hurried toward his house, where he found Corporal Kemper sitting guard on his front porch.

“She’s asleep in the parlor,” Russ said. “I checked on her a few minutes ago.”

“Thank you,” Seth said, with a throat full of gravel. He’d been gone only a few hours, but he missed her. Missed her like he hadn’t ever missed anything before, and in all honesty, he didn’t want it any other way.

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