The Major's Wife - Page 76

She was crying. He hadn’t turned, couldn’t see the tears, but heard them, felt them. He closed his eyes. Waited.

“I’m not Rosemary,” she said, sounding stronger than he felt. “I’m her sister, Millie.”

For an unknown reason, he noted how she said that. Tagging herself as Rosemary’s sister before saying her name, almost as if the sister part was more important. It wasn’t, and it shouldn’t goad him the way it did.

“I know,” he finally said.

“You know?”

He turned, which was a mistake. She wasn’t sobbing, but the tears glistening on her long lashes hurt worse than if she had been. He couldn’t focus on that. Wouldn’t. “Did you really think you had me fooled? I told you when you first arrived at the fort that I knew you were Millie.”

Her chin quivered as she nodded. “Yes, you did.” She closed her eyes, shook her head. “There were so many times I wanted to tell you everything. Explain...”

She was struggling against her tears, and his hands were balling into fists, wanting to comfort her.

“I never meant to hurt you. I’m so sorry, so very sorry.” Her sigh sounded laborious. “I know Rosemary is, too. She was lonely and she’s always needed more attention than others. I was just supposed to...” Millie shook her head and sniffled. “Papa’s money is all gone and—”

“That’s what this is all about?” His blood turned cold. “Money?” He should have known. Rosemary was the one who’d brought it up in the “marriage negotiations” all those years ago.

“No.”

Her eyes were begging him to listen, and damn if he didn’t want to.

“No,” Millie repeated, pointing toward the table, where several papers lay. “I scratched out the part about the money. I’ll find another way to get it.” She took a step forward. “You have to understand, our mother—”

“Your mother?” He took a step back, not able to be any closer. “This has nothing to do with your mother. She’s been dead for years.”

“Yes, she has been, and Rosemary’s baby...”

His hearing failed as the pieces slammed together in his head. Even McPhalen made sense now. “Rosemary’s baby,” Seth growled. His insides grew uglier by the moment. He’d nursed a futile hope that Millie hadn’t been involved in whatever games Rosemary had been playing. That she’d been an innocent bystander. In reality, he’d been duped by not one, but two sisters. One cuckolding him and the other seducing him so he’d never learn about it. “Has already arrived, Millie,” he finished, with all the bitterness inside him. “She gave birth to Senator McPhalen’s baby well over a week ago.”

Millie’s face turned ghostly and she wobbled, and he cursed his feet. Told them he’d cut them off if they took a step toward her.

Millie stared at him blankly for several long moments with a hand pressed to her chest, as if it hurt to breathe. “But his wife, Nadine, is Rosemary’s best friend.”

“And you’re her sister,” he said.

Chapter Fourteen

Spinning, before he lost his courage, Seth picked up his hat. He’d never walked away from a battle before, never even shied away from marching head-on into whatever came his way, but this time he didn’t have the fight in him. Retreat was all he could manage.

Seth was still running the next morning, from himself, anyway.

After he’d seen to errands, which included telling the council members they could court-martial him for desertion, he truly didn’t care—in the end they chose to cancel meetings for the day—he made his way back to the hotel, set on completing the plan he’d put in place.

One look at her, wearing the dress he’d bought her, almost made him change his mind. But that couldn’t happen.

Rising from her chair, she smoothed the material over her stomach. “Sergeant Moore said you asked me to be ready by ten.”

The habit of kissing her every time they met had him clenching his hands into fists. Not trusting his voice, he gestured toward the door, and didn’t offer his arm. Couldn’t. Her touch would open a vulnerable spot in him, one he couldn’t afford to have exposed right now. He’d never known how empty a bed could be until he’d lain in the one across the hall, and the longing it had left in him had him wanting to ask her why. That would be useless. Talking at all would be useless. Besides, he knew. Knew everything now.

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