The disgust, ire and revulsion he’d acquired upon their first meeting was just as strong now, making him wonder how he’d ever buried them. “Trust me, Rosemary,” he growled. “You don’t want to spar with me on this.” Leaning close so she could feel the loathing he felt, he glowered directly into her eyes. “If you do, I won’t stop until you’re ruined from here to England. I have the means, and the ways, and would be more than happy to see you groveling.” For added assurance, he said, “I’m sure Senator McPhalen, or his wife, won’t take kindly to being dragged through the mud beside you.”
Huffing, with steam practically coming out her nose, she glared at him as if she could win the standoff. In the end, she grabbed the pen from his hand. “Fine.”
Just as she was about to touch the pen to the paper, he clutched her wrist and nodded toward the open doorway. “What’s the Negro woman’s name?”
“Lola Burnett, why? She’s just the maid.”
“Miss Burnett,” he called into the house. “Could you step out here, please?” The woman appeared seconds later, and he nodded a greeting. “I need someone to witness Rosemary signing this document. Would you mind?”
“No...yes, sir. I’ll watch.”
He let loose Rosemary’s hand, and after she’d scrawled her name, he took the pen and handed it to the maid. “Could you sign it, as well, please?”
Once the paper was back in the envelope, and the maid had returned inside, Seth smiled, feeling an ounce of victory. “By the way, Rosemary, those weren’t divorce papers.”
A spark glistened in her eye, one that galled him to no end. “They weren’t?”
“No, they were annulment papers. You and I were never married.” He turned then, walked down the steps, while her growling scream echoed in the air and the slam of the door ricocheted against the porch roof.
From the upstairs window, Millie watched Seth climb into the buggy that had brought them from the rail station. Numb beyond feeling, she remained standing at the window until the road was empty and there was nothing left to prove he’d ever been there. Nothing to prove he’d ever been a part of her life.
It was over. Something she’d wished for not so long ago. Well, now she had it. None of it came as a surprise. Her dream had forewarned her, yet the ache, the pain, felt as if something treasured had just been unexpectedly stolen from her.
In some ways, it had been.
The one thing that didn’t surprise her was that he’d known she wasn’t Rosemary. She’d tried to analyze that, both last night and this morning, but her pain was too strong for rational thought. Somewhere deep inside she just knew. Had always known.
Eventually she moved across the room, climbed onto the bed and, exhausted inside and out, simply lay there. Not thinking. Not seeing. Not living.
Lola came in sometime later, with tea. Millie sat up, took the cup handed to her. Feeling returned to her body, like stinging needles, and she set the cup down. “Where’s the baby?”
Lola patted her knee gently. “With his father. He’s just fine, so don’t worry about that.”
Senator McPhalen. That had shocked her. It shouldn’t have. Rosemary never cared who she hurt. “A boy,” Millie said, with longing tugging at her heart.
“Yes. Good size and healthy.”
“He came earlier than I expected.”
“Does that surprise you?” Lola asked, her brown eyes full of sympathy.
“No,” Millie had to admit.
The housekeeper sighed heavily. “She wants to see you downstairs.”
“I could guess, but I won’t.” Lola patted Millie’s knee again. “I’ll tell her you’re tired.”
“No,” she said, standing up. “What good will that do?”
“I’m glad you’re home, Millie,” the woman said sadly. “I’m happy to see you, but I wish you’d never come back.”
“Where else was I supposed to go?”
Millie shook her head. “Is a good friend, but...” Memories were trying to come forward, and she couldn’t deal with them just yet. “I’m going to go see what Rosemary wants.”
Lola snatched up the tray, rattling cups in her hurry. “Wait, I’m coming with you.”
They stopped in the kitchen and then made their way through the parlor into what used to be Papa’s office. Rosemary claimed it as hers, but Millie still imagined her father sitting there, and would always think of it as his. Her sister was pacing the floor in front of the massive stone fireplace, and other than a flashing glare, she didn’t acknowledge that anyone had entered the room.