“I’ll be right back,” he said over the whistle of the wind.
“Is something wrong?”
“No, I just want to talk to the drivers, see how the wagons are faring in the wind.”
She nodded, and he spun his mount around, trotted back and steered the animal to ride next to the first wagon.
“Storm’s brewing, aye, Major?” Sergeant Moore said in greeting.
“Yes, I’m afraid it’s going to hit soon,” Seth admitted, unable to keep his eyes from going back to the head of the line, where his wife rode.
“Roberts and I have the wagons under control. Nothing’s going to happen between here and Tulsa. I know the trail. It’s clear sailing from here on in.” Rex Moore then gestured with his chin. “I’d be obliged, though, if you and your wife were to ride ahead, have warm, dry beds waiting on us.”
Seth had to laugh and shake his head. “You would, huh?”
“Yep, bet the entire lot of us would,” the man said, grinning. “I reckon we’ll look close to drowned rats by the time we get these mules to town. Those horses of yours, though, they might make it before the rain hits too hard.”
“Well, then, Sergeant,” Seth said, once again thankful for the capable men in his unit, “I’m leaving you in charge while I find shelter for my wife. Rooms are waiting for everyone at Brewster’s. I’ll see you there.”
“Aye, aye, Major, you’ll see us there.”
Seth rode back then to the other wagon, where the conversation was relatively the same. Jack Roberts made the same suggestion Rex had before Seth could open his mouth, and the four lieutenants riding flank had the same sentiments.
Farther back, Per-Cum-Ske gestured before Seth made it far enough to turn his horse around. “Go. Take woman. Storm coming.”
Seth waved, then kneed his mount, galloping back to the front. Reining in next to her, he asked, “Feel like a race?”
She frowned, but there was a flash of excitement in her eyes. “A race?”
“Yup, to town. It’s about five miles.”
Lifting a trim eyebrow, and the corners of her mouth into a smirk, she asked, “What do I get if I win?”
“Anything you want,” he said.
Her smoldering gaze roaming him from boots to hat lit a fire in him not even the rain would be able to dowse. “Anything?” she asked in a sultry tone.
“Anything,” he repeated, with a glance that somehow landed on her breasts before her face.
“Ready, set, go,” she shouted in a single breath, already slapping her reins against the buckskin’s rump.
Seth set his horse into a plunge and then a full gallop, catching her within no time. The animals couldn’t run the entire way to town, but they could put some distance between them and the storm. Glancing over, seeing the determined way she lay low over the animal’s neck, he settled himself more firmly in the saddle.
Side by side, they soared over the land, and even with the storm fusing the air, he felt the connection of their hearts as they rode in tandem.
* * *
Millie was filled with glee, a bright, brilliant joy that not even the rain, plastering her hair to her head and her dress to her skin, could dampen. “I won,” she insisted as Seth pulled her out of the saddle.
“Only because you shot in front of that wagon,” he said, rushing her under the awning of the hotel. Once there he took her face between his hands. “You scared the life out of me! Don’t ever do that again.”
His growl didn’t scare her. There was too much love in his eyes for that. “I had plenty of room.”
“That wagon almost crashed, careening out of your way.”
“Oh, it did not,” she insisted, wiping at the water dripping into her eyes. Her hat had flipped off her head and now hung between her shoulder blades by the strap. “Did it?” She attempted to turn, glance through the pouring rain to see if there was a wreck down the road they’d just traversed.
“Come on,” he said, “I gotta get you inside before you float away.”
“You’re always saying that,” she said.
“I was raised in Boston. My mother always thought we’d float away if we swam in the bay,” he said, leading Millie to the door.
At night, while snuggled together inside the tent or back home in their bed at the fort, he’d told her about his childhood, his mother and brother, father and uncles. She loved every tale, but always sensed he wanted her to tell him more than the few clipped answers she’d shared about her own childhood. She was walking a more dangerous path than ever, for he really did make her forget she was living a lie.