The Major's Wife(3)

By: Lauri Robinson



 Shaking his head, Seth stared at the beamed ceiling. Cutter and Wilson were good men, but they’d probably never forgive him for hauling Rosemary St. Clair—or Parker, if she was using his name—across Indian Territory. Five days of her attitude...

 What did she want? They hadn’t seen each other for five years. Their so-called marriage had been a sham from the start. His ire hadn’t lessened in the years since she’d crawled into his bed and lied about what had happened the next morning, and it grew now as he lay here remembering it.

 The conniving little wench. He’d been so exhausted a herd of buffalo could have stampeded through the room and he wouldn’t have awakened that night. Since then, though, he slept with one eye open.

 Lesson learned.

 Throwing back the covers, Seth swung his legs over the edge of the bed. What could she possibly hope to gain by coming out here? Why hadn’t she just signed the divorce papers and put an end to this misery? He’d sent her five sets. One a year. Every time an army lawyer visited the post, he filed another petition, and not once had she sent them back—signed or unsigned.

 He pushed off the bed and crossed the room, lifting his clothes from the chair and pulling them on with all the joy of a man heading to the gallows.

 Marriage was the last thing he’d ever wanted, and he wanted this one dissolved. Had since the day it had happened.

 She should, too. Her father, General St. Clair—a man Seth had held in high esteem—had passed away four years ago, so she had no reason to continue the pretense.

 Dressed, Seth made his way to the ladder and climbed down the rungs. She wasn’t going to like the living quarters, that was for sure. Besides the simple accommodations, a rough-hewn three-room cabin with a loft, there was the desolation of the fort, the weather, the landscape. None of it was going to be to Rosemary’s liking. She’d lived in the general’s posh Richmond home her entire life.

 “Morning, Major,” Corporal Russ Kemper said, carrying two cups of coffee through the open doorway.

 “Morning.” Seth took a cup and went to lean against the doorjamb as the rising sun erased the darkness of the cabin. His office had a window, but neither this room—the kitchen, dining room and parlor all rolled into one—nor the bedroom behind it did.

 The living quarters, or barracks, as the army called them, were two rows of cabins facing each other, with the large open courtyard of the fort between them. As a major, the man in charge, Seth was assigned officers’ quarters, one of the four houses flanking the fort’s headquarters building, and was entitled to move in there, especially now that his wife would be living with him. But hell would freeze over first. If Rosemary wanted to live here so bad, she’d have to do it right here, in this little cabin, with Russ Kemper snoring the roof off every night.

 A shiver zipped up Seth’s back, so sharply he stiffened, and he had to step onto the covered wooden walkway running the length of the row of cabins to shake it off.

 Russ slept in one bed, him in the other. Where would Rosemary sleep?

 A smile formed, the first one he’d felt in days. The first one he’d felt since getting the telegram telling him to pick her up in Tulsa.

 She’d have to figure out her own sleeping arrangements. His house was full.

 Seth finished his coffee and walked back into the cabin. “Ready for some breakfast?”

 A young man, barely eighteen, with big eyes and long legs, Russ nodded. “Always.”

 Together they angled across the courtyard to a building along the back where all the single men ate. Which was most of the forty-five men at the fort. Only four had wives, not counting Seth, of course. Six more had Comanche wives, but they lived outside the compound. The only Indians allowed to reside inside the fort on a regular basis were the four Comanche maidens who assisted the cook, Briggs Ryan. That was four more than army rules allowed, but Seth liked to keep his men happy, and hungry men weren’t happy. And Briggs, a six-and-a-half-foot-tall Swede with hands that could wrap around a cannonball as if it was a marble, wasn’t happy without his maidens.

 After breakfast, a hearty meal that sat in Seth’s stomach like lead with all the commotion going on inside him, he ordered the M troop to mount up for drills. It would suit him just fine to be gone when Rosemary arrived. It’d suit him fine to be gone the entire time she was here.

 That wasn’t his luck. He’d barely arrived back at the fort, having spent three hours in the hot September sun—which in Indian Territory was as hot as the August sun most days—when the sentry in the guardhouse signaled a wagon was approaching.

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