“I thought you were crying,” he admitted.
“No, I was laughing. I couldn’t believe it happened to me again.” She sat up, folded one knee to examine her boot. “My heel caught in the knothole and broke off, again.” Her eyes came back to him and that charming little grin appeared on her lips. “The opposite boot this time.”
“Here, let me help you up.” His body was alive, pounding and throbbing, all because his fingers were touching her.
Gazes locked, they stood there for a few minutes before he let her loose. They still had to talk. He had to set things straight before he could kiss her. That was the little voice in his head, and he listened to it, wanted to make sure he did things right this time.
She bent down, picked up a bag, and that made him frown. “That’s your traveling bag.”
“Yes, I just got off the train and was—”
“Just got off the train?” he repeated, sure he hadn’t heard right.
“Yes, I missed our scheduled train, and—”
“You missed our scheduled train?” he interrupted, checking his hearing again.
He spun, glanced at the engine still letting off steam. “You were on that train?”
Comprehension hit him, made him say, “You were the rich woman in the Pullman car.”
Her eyes grew wide, glancing at the train and then back to him. “You were the major with the Indians?”
“We were on the same train?”
“Yes,” he repeated, wanting to pull her forward into his arms. The urge was growing so strong he folded his fingers around one of her wrists. “Millie, we need to—”
“Seth, I want to—” she said at the same time.
“Come on.” He took the bag from her hand. “Let’s go to the hotel, where we can talk.”
She nodded, spinning around to walk beside him, but when they took a couple steps, her uneven gait had him stopping. Scanning the crowd, he caught sight of Rex Moore.
“Please retrieve...” He paused, almost saying “my wife’s.” “Please find the lady’s heel and have that board replaced.”
“Yes, sir.” Tipping his hat, the man added, “Good to see you, ma’am.”
“You, too, Sergeant Moore,” she replied.
“Major, would you like the wagons prepared to leave in the morning?” The man’s grin showed his teeth.
Seth’s insides reached a new plateau of excitement. “Yes, Sergeant, tomorrow morning will be fine,” he replied. Holding her arm, he kept his pace slow to accommodate her high-low steps. It reminded him of another walk they’d taken, back at the fort, and a part of him wished he could go back to that day, start over.
“Seth, I’m sorry, I—”
“Excuse me for interrupting, but I’d prefer we wait to begin our discussion at the hotel.”
She nodded, and the haze of sorrow overtaking her eyes had him rubbing the inside of her arm.
“Just so we aren’t interrupted,” he whispered.
A shine replaced the haze and a glow covered her cheeks. She nodded again, while bowing her head bashfully. Seth was fighting the desire to scoop her into his arms and carry her the rest of the way to the hotel. He almost did, except for her bag in his opposite hand.
“Oh, Major, I had my dates mixed up. I expected you yesterday,” Mrs. Brewster said, opening the door as they approached. She frowned then. “Goodness, dear, what happened? Are you hurt?”
“No, Mrs. Brewster,” Millie said, “I broke my heel. It caught it a knothole.”
“Oh, that happened once before.” The woman moved toward the desk, gathering a key. “Don’t know to whom. A woman traveling through, I think.”
Seth, meeting Millie’s gaze, returned her smile, enjoying their shared knowledge. “Thank you, Mrs. Brewster,” he said, taking the key the woman held out.
“Would you like lunch in your room? I could—”
“We’ll let you know,” he said, already leading Millie up the stairs.
Millie. A beautiful name indeed. Stopping at the door of the same room they’d used before, he unlocked it, swung it open. She walked in and stopped in the middle of the room, glanced around as if nervous.
He knew the feeling. Turning, he shut the door and set her bag on the floor, then twisted the key in the lock.