The Major's Wife - Page 81

“You’ve changed,” Rosemary whispered.

“I know,” she answered, just as softly. “And you can, too.”

For the first time ever Millie believed the tears glistening in her sister’s eyes were real. Those same tears appeared again the next day when they hugged goodbye on the dock. Leaving Richmond and the life she’d always known had been what Millie had needed, and she prayed the same would be true for Rosemary.

Later in the day, as Millie walked toward the front door, her heart did a little flip-flop, wishful thinking at who might be knocking. Seth was on her mind nonstop, more poignantly after her trunk and traveling bag had been delivered from the hotel in Washington, along with a note saying her other items would be shipped from Fort Sill upon his arrival there.

It wasn’t him, of course, as she knew it wouldn’t be, and seeing Nadine McPhalen on the stoop, Millie voiced the only thought that formed. “Rosemary isn’t here.”

“I know,” the woman said. “I watched her board the steamer this afternoon. I’ve come to talk to you, if I may.”

“Of course, come in.” Millie stepped aside, and gestured for the woman’s light shawl, for the unseasonably warm November didn’t require heavier garments. Yet. The weather would change, just like everything else had. Chasing aside the thought, she said, “I’m sorry, I didn’t see you at the dock today.”

“I wasn’t there to be seen,” Nadine said. “I was there to see with my own eyes that she left.”

A chill rippled Millie’s skin. Nadine and Rosemary, though complete opposites, had been friends for years. Cautious, because her willpower to let her sister’s mess stay her sister’s problem might be challenged, she waved a hand toward the parlor. “Please, make yourself comfortable. I’ll just go ask Lola to bring us some tea.”

“Could I ask Lola to do so? I have another favor to ask of her.”

Swallowing at the thickness in her throat, Millie nodded. “All right, I’ll be in the parlor.”

“Thank you.”

Nadine returned within seconds. Millie had just sat down on the white sofa, the one she and Lola had carried in from the office and repositioned in its rightful place this afternoon. The other woman didn’t sit, but paced back and forth, the skirts and slips of her yellow dress swishing loudly.

“Goodness,” she finally said, stopping near the sofa. “I don’t know where to begin.”

Millie drew in a fortifying breath. “Well, Nadine, just say it. There’s nothing worse than keeping it bottled up.” She knew that so well. So very well.

“Oh, Millie,” the woman said, dropping onto her knees in front of the sofa. “I’m so sorry. I hope you can forgive me.”

“Forgive you?”

Nadine wrapped both hands around one of Millie’s. “Yes. It was wrong of us to have you do such a thing, but there was no other choice.”

Her heartbeat was accelerating, pounding at the base of her throat like a woodpecker on a dead stump. “I’m afraid I don’t know what you’re talking about, Nadine.”

The woman’s blue eyes took on a startled look. “You don’t?”

When Millie shook her head again, she sat down beside her.

“My life is now complete because of you, Millie.”

An eerie sensation settled around Millie’s shoulders.

“You see, Millie, my husband, Senator Louis McPhalen, is the father of your nephew.”

Millie made no outward sign that she’d already known that.

“It’s startling, I know. I myself was enraged when I first heard,” Nadine said. “Then again, that’s what Rosemary wanted. She was delighted to throw it in my face.” The woman smiled then. “But it all worked out so splendidly, I might even forgive her. Someday.”

Refusing to jump to her sister’s defense, despite her old habits, Millie offered a slight smile.

“I can’t have children,” Nadine said. “After five years of us trying, the doctor said it just isn’t going to happen.”

A wave of anguish took Millie’s breath away, for just this morning her monthly had arrived. She’d hoped it wouldn’t, for then she’d have a reason for Seth to listen to her, had even imagined what he’d do when she traveled to Fort Sill to tell him. That had been a dream, shattered by reality, and now the pain renewed itself all over again.

“I told Louis,” Nadine said, “that I’d forgive him for his little indiscretion with Rosemary—for we all know she’s free with her favors—if he found a way to get me the baby. Rosemary then tried to say the child wasn’t Louis’s, and who knows, maybe it’s not, but that doesn’t matter. He’s my son now.”

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