The Major's Wife - Page 84

Seth frowned, wondering who she missed so.

“Your father,” she said. “Sean Parker.” Smiling, she patted Seth’s knee, sitting beside him on the long couch. “I love Ralph and the children we have together as much as I do you and Sam, but that doesn’t mean I stopped loving Sean.” Tears shimmered in her eyes. “Oh, he was a good man. A wonderful man, and you remind me so much of him.”

Pride swelled in Seth’s chest, so much a hint of embarrassment warmed his cheeks.

“But land sakes, he was stubborn. Always had to be in charge. Get the last word in.”

Seth now wondered if her compliments were insults.

“I have to go upstairs and get something,” she said, standing up, “but while I’m gone, do me a favor?”

“Sure,” Seth answered, glancing at the wood box. Hauling some in would give him something to do besides think about Millie and how he wanted to go to Richmond. Beg her to forgive him. The box was full, though, so he turned, wondering what else his mother needed.

“While I’m gone, I want you to think about one thing, so you can answer a question I have.”

More questions. He should have known. “All right, Mother, what’s that?”

“Why are you here?”

“Becau—”

His mother pressed a finger against his lips. “Think about it while I’m gone.”

Seth wanted to growl. He was here to see his family. Hadn’t seen them in years. Frustrated all over again, he moved to the window, stared at the nothingness.

When his mother returned empty-handed, which made him believe she’d simply wanted to give him time to think, he tried to fathom the answer she wanted.

“So, why are you here?”

He grinned, though it was so false it hurt. “To see my family.”

Smiling, she shook her head.

Seth shook his head in turn and asked, “Then why am I here?”

“You’re here because what you really want is to go to Richmond and ask Millie to marry you, but just like when you wanted to go to West Point, you feel you can’t. That you’ll be letting others down if you do that. What you really want is for me to tell you to do it.”

His heart slammed against his rib cage. She was right. That was exactly what he’d hoped.

“I won’t tell you what to do this time, Seth. This is between you and Millie. You’re the only ones who can figure this out.”

Frustrated, he stood, walked across the room. In that, too, she was right. “Millie...” He pressed both hands against the fireplace mantel. “There were a million times she could have just told me the truth.”

“And a million times you could have told her you already knew it.”

He spun around, tried to come up with a reason why he hadn’t.

“Love isn’t a curse, Seth. It’s a blessing.”

Bitterness bubbled in his throat. It felt much more like a curse. Always had.

“Does it really matter who was right or wrong?” she asked.

His mind and heart were being torn in two.

“I’m not saying forget the past,” his mother whispered. “Just accept it and move on.”

Frozen for a moment, Seth’s mind flashed to Per-Cum-Ske, the battle in the Wichita Mountains and the aftermath, him staring at the silent faces of friends and family. We cannot help it. I did my duty. The leader, who now had three wives, had definitely moved on. So why hadn’t Seth?

“Here.”

He glanced at the small box his mother held. “What’s that?”

“Just a family heirloom I saved for you.”

Lifting the lid revealed a woman’s ring, a circle of diamonds around a sapphire.

“It’s the one your father gave me.”

Seth ran a finger over the jewels. “I thought you weren’t going to tell me what to do.”

“I’m not. You can do whatever you want with that ring. It’s just something I wanted you to have.”

What he wanted was Millie. Forever. “She opened things inside me I didn’t know were closed,” he admitted.

“It takes a powerful love to do that.”

Seth nodded. More powerful than anything he’d ever known. “What if she can’t forgive me?”

His mother shrugged. “It’ll take courage to find out, and you were born with more courage than any man I’ve ever known.”

“Maybe when it comes to battling Indians, but...” His spine stiffened. He’d retreated that night from their hotel room, but he hadn’t declared defeat. That word wasn’t in his vocabulary. Never had been.

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