The Major's Wife - Page 72

“I know.”

“I’ll be back as soon as I can,” he said.

Her smile was about the saddest one he’d ever seen.

Cupping her cheek, he kissed the tip of her nose. “I love you.” The first time he’d said those words they’d just tumbled out, but now when he said them, emotions filled the statement, and him.

Tears glistened in her eyes and she pinched her lips together as she nodded again.

“I’ll be back,” he said, too choked up to say more.

Millie watched him leave through a blinding haze of tears. She couldn’t find the strength to say goodbye, or raise a hand. Instead, she sat there, as lifeless as the pillow behind her. She should have told him.

It could have been hours or minutes, she had no way of knowing, but she was still sitting there, not really thinking, not really seeing, when the door opened again. Too raw, too spent to react, she simply asked, “What are you doing here?”

Martin shut the door with the back of one heel before he carried a tray across the room and set it down on the table near the wardrobe closet. He crossed his arms then, stared at her somberly. “You’re going to tell me everything, Millie. Everything.”

Shrugging, she shook her head. “What’s there to tell?”

“Why are you pretending to be married to Rosemary’s husband?” He started to pace. “Of all the things you’ve done for your sister, this is the most outlandish. The craziest. What the hell were you thinking?”

Never, not once in all the years she’d known him, had Martin ever shown anger toward her, but right now he was furious.

The once numb emptiness inside her erupted with enough force that the contents of her stomach hit the back of her throat. She slapped a hand against her lips, but it didn’t help. Thankfully, Martin had pulled out the chamber pot from beneath the bed and held it in front of her.

When she was done, with nothing left inside her, he handed her a glass of water. “Rinse and spit,” he said.

She did and then he took the water and the chamber pot, hid them from her view and sat down beside her. “You’re so upset you’ve made yourself sick, Millie.”

Closing her eyes against the tears, she nodded.

“I’m not leaving this room until you tell me everything,” he said. “And we both know Seth Parker will be back soon.”

Injustice erupted inside her, but she was so spent it couldn’t go anywhere, except to burst forth in a new set of tears. It all had to end, she knew that, but she didn’t know where to start.

“Aw, Millie,” Martin said, folding an arm around her.

“I had to do it, Martin,” she sobbed. “I had to pretend to be Rosemary. She said she’d kill herself if I didn’t.”

“Oh, Millie, not that again,” he groaned.

“She meant it,” Millie insisted. “I know she did.”

He sighed heavily. “Start at the beginning and tell me everything. I’ll need every detail if I’m going to help you. If that’s even possible this time.”

Martin had helped her in the past, more than once, when she’d found herself in too deep, and though she doubted there was anything he could do this time, she told him every last detail.

Afterward, while she was shaking her head at the fiasco she’d created, he bolted off the mattress. “Are you loco?” He took off his hat and ran a hand through his straight brown hair. “Do you have any idea who Seth Parker is?”

“Of course I know—”

“No,” he said, with eyes wide and his arms flapping at his sides. “I’m talking about Major Seth Parker.” Pacing the floor, he continued, “The man half the Indian Nation is afraid of—if not all of it. He’s not in charge of Fort Sill by accident. Have you ever noticed how big he is? He was building ships at the age of ten. Carrying beams twice as long and heavy as he was, and running his own crew by the time he was fourteen. Criminy, Millie, Major Parker can hold a man off the ground by the neck with one hand while punching him in the gut with the other.”

She sighed at Martin’s overinflated antics. “Seth would never—”

“There are men who say they saw it.”

“Martin—”

“He’s been in wars, Millie.”

Martin’s eyes were somber, serious, and that had her nerve endings coming to life.

“Battles where people died, yet he came out unscratched.” Kneeling in front of her, holding her hands, Martin said, “How do you think the army went from fighting the Indians to befriending them? Men like Seth Parker, that’s how. He’s a good man, Millie, don’t get me wrong. I respect him, as does most every man he encounters. But along with that respect comes a touch of fear.”

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