“Yes, please, I’d appreciate that very much. I’m looking forward to arriving.”
“The soldiers are happy to be almost home, too,” the porter said. “The one major’s practically jumping out the window—the one I told you about. He’s with the Indian who traded his feathers for a white wig after seeing a picture of George Washington.”
She nodded, smiled, mainly because her heart was flapping against her breastbone. There was more than one major in the army, and several in the Indian Territory. She understood that, but there was only one she couldn’t wait to see.
The smile remained on her face while she ate breakfast, and after Mr. Williams delivered the promised water, a bucketfull, still steaming, she made sure all the curtains were secure before stripping down to her bare essentials. With a small towel she washed herself, remembering the last time she’d been in Tulsa, and Seth had washed her hair.
Another thought flashed into her mind, making her hand stall near her throat. Everyone back here, from Mrs. Brewster in Tulsa to Briggs Ryan at Fort Sill, knew her as Rosemary. What would they think of her and her deceit?
Bits and pieces of her breath caught in her lungs. Explaining to Seth was one thing, having to explain it to everyone else was a whole different issue. He might be scorned or discredited by what she’d done.
Why hadn’t she thought of this before? Why hadn’t she taken the repercussions of her behavior into consideration?
“Well, Millie,” she told herself aloud, “you are just going to have to face it. That’s all there is to it. There’s no turning back.”
By the time the train sounded its whistle, announcing their arrival in Tulsa, she was so nervous she almost jumped out of her boots. Holding on to the door handle, ready to exit as soon as the wheels rolled to a stop, she glanced around the car. Her trunk was packed, ready to be unloaded, and Mr. Williams promised it would be set near the wall. An extra dress was rolled up inside her traveling bag.
She set the bag down, smoothed the velvet over her uneasy stomach and picked the bag back up. Only to set it down again to run a hand over her hair and make sure the ribbon securing the end of her braid was tight.
Then she took a deep breath and picked the bag up yet again, just as the whistle repeated and the train started jolting as the brakes caught and released. Mrs. Ketchum had said being an army wife wasn’t always easy, and Millie knew she was about to face just how hard it could be.
The last jolt left the car gently rocking, and she opened the door, rushed down the steps. The private car was near the end of the train, and people started exiting the other cars by the dozens. Hurrying around blue uniforms and bare chests, though with the cooler weather more were covered than when she’d arrived two months ago, she kept her gaze on the main street of town. Mrs. Brewster would know if Seth had already left, and the hotel was her destination. Her only focus.
When her foot caught, brought her to an abrupt stop and sent her flying forward and downward at the same time, one thought occurred.
A pop echoing over the platform had Seth, as well as several others around him, drawing guns and scanning the area for the shooter. The whole station had gone still, with everyone looking at everyone else.
“There’s a woman down,” a man shouted.
“Her heel caught in a knothole,” another said.
“That happened once before,” someone else said.
Seth had to smile, recalling Millie’s story, and though it was probably a spectacle to see, his sights were set on the hotel. Mrs. Brewster would know where Millie was. Curiosity had him glancing to where a crowd was forming, around the woman, no doubt.
His feet stopped so fast someone bumped into his back.
“Excuse me, Major,” a faceless person said. Faceless because Seth’s eyes were on the brown material of the dress the woman on the ground was wearing. He couldn’t see much, just a flash of skirt between bystanders’ legs, but he recognized the velvet.
He elbowed, shouldered and flat-out shoved men aside until he was the one bending over her, and then a tremor shot through him, hitting every muscle.
Her little shoulders were shaking as she lay belly down on the wood. Someone had already freed her foot, and he took her arms, turning her over slowly. “Millie?”
The smile on her lips grew, but then faded as her big, adorable brown eyes locked with his. “Seth?”
“Are you hurt?” he asked, willing himself not to pull her into his arms.
She closed her eyes, pinched her lips together as she shook her head. “No,” she said, opening her eyes again. “Just my pride.”