Yankee Wife

Yankee Wife by Linda Lael Miller Page A

Book: Yankee Wife by Linda Lael Miller Read Free Book Online
Authors: Linda Lael Miller
caught the scents of saltwater and pine sap on the night breeze. As always, those things were a comfort to Brig, because his soul had rooted itself in this land crowded with trees and shining with bright waters. He had long since given his heart to the place, in the same way a husband pledged himself to his wife. “Damn it, Lydia,” he said presently, in an effort to redeem himself to his own standards, “if you're keeping back something I need to know to help my brother, I'll never forgive you.”
    She touched her wild, beautiful hair self-consciously. “Good night, Mr. Quade,” she said in stiff tones. Then she turned and marched herself into the house without another word.
    â€œGood night,” he said tersely, long after Lydia had disappeared and he was alone with the frogs and the crickets.
    The light of the rising sun was dazzling on the water when Polly approached the framework of Devon's building the next morning. He hadn't returned to their f room in the big house the night before, after she'd told him of her deception, and she'd known he would be here.
    Sure enough, Devon had built a small campfire in the clearing beside the beginnings of his mercantile, and he was sitting next to it with his back to a large, porous rock. He sensed her approach, looked at her. The expression in his ink-blue eyes, so full of laughter and love before her confession, was flat, defiant, cold.
    â€œYou're going,” he said, in a voice that had no inflection at all, the words comprising both a statement and a query.
    Polly's throat tightened. She heard her father's voice, in the forefront of her mind, quoting his beloved Bible. Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free . In this case, the truth had set only Devon free, but she might well remain its prisoner forever.
    â€œDo you want me to go?” she managed, after a long interval of painful, throbbing silence.
    Devon was watching the sunlight dance upon the water, and though his voice was low, and directed elsewhere, Polly heard his response clearly. “I'll pay your passage back to San Francisco.”
    First her father had made all the decisions about her life, then Nat Malachi, and now Devon. Polly was weary of compliance, but she didn't know exactly what to say. She pretended, just for a moment, that she was Lydia McQuire, who struck her as bold, brave, and decisive.
    â€œI won't be going to San Francisco,” she said firmly, surprising herself as much as Devon. “Since it's plain that I'm not wanted here, I'll be traveling to Seattle on the next mail boat. Surely I'll be able to find myself a good husband there, since there is such a dire shortage of women.”
    She saw Devon's fists clench at his sides, and knew a moment of sweeping satisfaction. When he shot to his feet, she was both frightened and exulted.
    But Devon did not come to her, take her by the shoulders, shout that he wouldn't allow her to leave him. He restrained himself, visibly, and set his jaw in a callous, almost cruel fashion. “Go, then,” he said hoarsely. “And good riddance.”
    He turned away, his broad shoulders rigid beneath the smudged, wrinkled fabric of his shirt.
    Polly's very soul shriveled within her; she started toward him, stopped herself. Devon was her mate, despite the fraud of their marriage; with him she had discovered what it meant to love and be loved. Now, too soon, it was over, and she was waking from the dream.
    She'd wanted to have children by this man, to massage his back and rub his feet when he was weary, to laugh when he made a jest and cry when he felt pain. She would be denied those things, those sweetest of pleasures, because of her own foolishness and deceit.
    â€œI'm sorry,” she said, so softly that she couldn't be sure he'd heard her.
    Polly went back to the big house on the hill, encountering no one on the way, back to the room where she'd lain with Devon,

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