Miranda swallowed. She should leave. She should slap him again and then leave, but she was a wretch, and she couldn't help herself when she said, "I'm sorry she made you so unhappy."
His eyes flew to hers. "Gossip travels all the way to the schoolroom, does it?"
"No!" she said quickly. "It's just that…I could tell."
She chewed on her lip, wondering what she should say. There had been gossip in the schoolroom. But more than that, she'd seen it for herself. He'd been so in love at his wedding. His eyes had shone with it, and when he looked at Leticia, Miranda could practically see the world falling away. It was as if they were in their own little world, just the two of them, and she was watching from the outside.
And the next time she saw him…it had been different.
"Miranda," he prodded.
She looked up and gently said, "Anyone who knew you before your marriage could tell that you were unhappy."
"And how is that?" He stared down at her, and there was something so urgent in his eyes that Miranda could only tell him the truth.
"You used to laugh," she said softly. "You used to laugh, and your eyes twinkled."
"Now you're just cold and hard."
He closed his eyes, and for a moment Miranda thought he was in pain. But in the end he gave her a piercing stare, and one corner of his mouth tilted up in a wry mockery of a smile. "So I am." He crossed his arms and leaned insolently against a bookcase. "Pray tell me, Miss Cheever, when did you grow so perceptive?"
Miranda swallowed, fighting the disappointment that rose in her throat. His demons had won again. For a moment- when his eyes had been closed- it had almost seemed as if he heard her. Not her words, but the meaning behind them. "I've always been so," she said. "You used to comment on it when I was little."
"Those big brown eyes," he said with a heartless chuckle. "Following me everywhere. Do you think I didn't know you fancied me?"
Tears pricked Miranda's eyes. How could he be so cruel to say it? "You were very kind to me as a child," she said softly.
"I daresay I was. But that was a long time ago."
"No one realizes that more than I."
He said nothing, and she said nothing. And then finally-
His voice was hoarse and pained and full of heartbreak.
And in her diary that night, she wrote nothing.
* * *
The following morning, Miranda woke with one clear objective. She wanted to go home. She didn't care if she missed breakfast, she didn't care if the heavens opened and she had to slog through the driving rain. She just didn't want to be here , with him, in the same building, on the same property.
It was all too sad. He was gone. The Turner she'd known, the Turner she'd adored- he was gone. She'd sensed it, of course. She'd sensed it on his visits home. The first time it had been his eyes. The next his mouth, and the white lines of anger etched at the corners.
She'd sensed it, but until now she had not truly allowed herself to know it.
It was Olivia, fully dressed and looking charming, even in her mourning black.
"Unfortunately," Miranda muttered.
"What was that?"
Miranda opened her mouth, then remembered that Olivia wasn't going to wait for an answer, so why expend the energy?
"Well, hurry up," Olivia said. "Get dressed, and I'll have my maid do the finishing touches. She's positively magical with hair."
Miranda wondered when Olivia would notice that she had not moved a muscle.
"Get up , Miranda."
Miranda nearly jumped a foot. "Good heavens, Olivia. Has no one told you it's rude to bellow in another human being's ear?"
Olivia's face loomed over hers, a little too close. "You don't look quite human this morning, to tell the truth."
Miranda rolled over. "I don't feel human."
"You'll feel better after breakfast."
"I'm not hungry."
"But you can't miss breakfast."
Miranda clenched her teeth. Such chirpiness ought to be illegal before noon.
Miranda shoved a pillow over her head. "If you say my name one more time, I will have to kill you."
"But we have work to do."
Miranda paused. What the devil was Livvy talking about? "Work?" she echoed.
"Yes, work." Olivia wrenched the pillow away and tossed it on the floor. "I've had the most wonderful idea. It came to me in a dream."
"Very well, I'm joking, but it did come to me this morning as I was lying in bed." Olivia smiled- a rather feline sort of smile, actually, the sort that meant she'd either had a flash of brilliance or was going to destroy the world as they knew it. And then she waited- it was about the only time she ever waited- and so Miranda rewarded her with "Very well, what is it?"
For a moment, Miranda couldn't speak. Then- "You're mad."
Olivia shrugged and sat back. "Or very, very clever. Think of it, Miranda. It's perfect."
Miranda couldn't imagine thinking of anything involving gentlemen just at the moment, much less one with the Bevelstoke surname, even if it wasn't Turner.
"You know him well, and you're of an age," Olivia said, ticking the items off on her fingers.
Miranda shook her head and escaped off the other side of the bed.
But Olivia was nimble, and she was by her side within seconds. "You don't really want a season," she continued. "You've said so on numerous occasions. And you hate making conversation with people you don't know."
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