The Major's Wife - Page 86

“The train leaves town at ten tomorrow night, miss,” the railroad agent said.

“I know that, sir,” she responded, keeping the desperation that the train might leave without her from her voice. “When can I board?”

“Well, it’ll be hooked up and ready to roll by eight in the morning, so—”

“Fine, I’ll be here by eight-fifteen.”

Frowning, he removed his wire-rimmed glasses and rubbed the lenses on his vest. “That’ll make a long day, sitting on the tracks, miss.”

“As well the next five after that,” she said. “Now, could you tell me where I might find a room for the night? Not too far away, please?”

“Half a block up the road,” he said, gesturing to the north. “The Railroad Inn. It’s clean and has good food.”

“Thank you, I appreciate that. I’m assuming I can leave my trunk here, and just take my bag with me?”

“Yes, miss. I’ll see it’s loaded in your car.”

A smile of satisfaction tugged on her lips. “Thank you again. You have a wonderful evening.”

“You, too, miss.”

Feeling lighter than she had in several days, she picked up her bag and almost skipped down the road. Missing Seth still had her heart heavy, but she was determined to find a way to make him listen to what she had to say, and if he couldn’t forgive her... She shook her head and kept walking. There was no room for doubt.

* * *

As Seth hurried up the walkway of the general’s house, Millie’s home, his heart was thudding so hard in his throat each beat threatened to strangle him. A November clipper had kicked in, swirling leaves and tugging on his hat. He may have brought it south with him from Boston, for the weather had dropped several degrees since he’d last been here.

He shivered, not from the wind, but wondering if that was a sign, a premonition of the welcome he’d receive here. Chilly. Cold. Unwelcomed.

Needing a moment, he paused, stared at the porch before him. Trellises framed the steps, and vines, withering in the season, fought to hold on as the wind raced through the wooden lattice work. Something caught his attention and he suddenly found a lump blocking his airway.

Stepping closer, he stretched on his toes and reached as high as he could. His fingertip caught the leather and he untangled it from the wood and vines, and then lowered the necklace to dangle before his face. The bride’s necklace. The one he’d placed over Millie’s neck before leaving Fort Sill.

Glancing up, he stared at the windows of the second story. Was one of those rooms Millie’s? Had she thrown the necklace out, wanting nothing to remind her of him, of their time together?

His hold on the leather tightened.

“Major?”

He turned to the front door. “Miss Burnett,” he said, recognizing the black woman. “I’m looking for Millie.”

“I assumed as much.” She gestured toward his hand. “I see you found her necklace.”

“Yes, it was caught on the trellis,” he explained. Manners told him he should give it to the woman, but he couldn’t. He wanted to be the one to give it to Millie.

“She’ll be glad to see it, searched for it for hours on end.”

It took less than a second for his heart to leap back into his throat. “She did?”

“Yep.” The housekeeper planted both hands on her hips. “Didn’t want to leave without it.”

A gust of wind caught him, made him wobble, or maybe just her statement had done that. “Leave? Where’d she go?” To Texas? With Martin Clark. Seth hadn’t remembered that little piece until just now.

Lola Burnett was eyeing him thoughtfully.

“It’s imperative that I talk to her, ma’am. My train for Tulsa leaves tonight.”

“Tonight?”

“Yes, I switched trains so I could come here. Talk to her.” Neither Per-Cum-Ske nor the men had minded one more day of visiting. Actually, Per-Cum-Ske was so busy trading it might be hard to get him on a train.

“Oh, no,” the woman whispered.

“Why? What’s wrong?”

“She left for Washington yesterday, to catch the same train as you heading west.”

A mixture of joy and frustration filled him. “Yesterday?”

Lola nodded.

Imagining Millie arriving in Tulsa, without him, of all the dangers she might face, had Seth’s insides rolling.

“She’ll be fine, Major,” Lola said. “She’s full of strength and determination.”

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