"Oh. I- I- " Miranda blinked. She hadn't the faintest idea what to say. It was a compliment, and not even a backhanded one at that, but still, it fell a bit flat. She didn't want him to rave about all her stellar qualities if the only reason was to pair her with his brother.
And she didn't want to be sensible . For once she wanted to be beautiful, or exotic, or captivating.
Good heavens. Sensible . It was a miserable designation.
Miranda realized he was waiting for her to finish her halting reply, so she muttered, "Thank you."
"I do not wish for my brother to make the same mistakes that I did."
She looked to him at that. His face was pinched, his eyes pointed determinedly at the road, as if a single glance in her direction might send the world crashing down around them. "Mistakes?" she echoed softly.
"Mistake," he said, his voice clipped. "Singular."
"Leticia." There. She'd said it.
The curricle slowed, then stopped. And finally, he looked at her. "Indeed."
"What did she do to you?" she asked softly. It was too personal, and highly inappropriate, but she could not stop herself, not when his eyes were focused so intently on hers.
But it was the wrong thing to say. Clearly, because his jaw tensed, and he turned away as he said, "Nothing that is fit for a lady's ears."
He whirled back to face her, his eyes flaring. "Do you know how she died?"
Miranda was shaking her head even as she said, "Her neck. She fell."
"From a horse," he bit off. "She was thrown from a horse- "
"- riding to meet her lover."
That, she hadn't known.
"She was also with child."
Good God. "Oh, Turner, I'm so s- "
He cut her off. " Don't say it. I'm not."
Her hand covered her open mouth.
"It wasn't mine."
She swallowed. What could she say? There was nothing to say.
"The first wasn't mine, either," he added. His nostrils flared, and his eyes narrowed, and there was a twist to his lips- almost as if he were daring her. Silently daring her to ask.
"T- " She tried to say his name, because she thought she ought to speak, but the truth was, she was blessedly thankful when he cut her off.
"She was carrying when we married. It's why we married, if you must know." He laughed caustically at that. " If you must know ," he said again. "That's rich, considering I didn't know."
The pain in his voice cut through her, but not nearly as much as the self-loathing. She had wondered how he had come to this, and now she knew…and she knew she could never hate him.
"I'm sorry," she said, because she was, and because anything more would have been too much.
"It wasn't your- " He cut himself off, cleared his throat. And then, after several seconds, he said, "Thank you."
He picked up the reins again, but before he could set them in motion, she asked, "What will you do now?"
He smiled at that. Well, not really, but the corner of his mouth moved a little. "What will I do?" he echoed.
"Will you go to Northumberland? To London?" Will you remarry?
"What will I do," he mused. "Whatever I please, I imagine."
Miranda cleared her throat. "I know that your mother was hoping that you would make yourself present in London during Olivia's season."
"Olivia doesn't need my help."
"No." She swallowed. Painfully. That was her pride sliding down her throat. "But I do."
He turned and assessed her with raised brows. "You? I thought you had my little brother wrapped up neatly with a bow."
"No," she said quickly. "I mean, I don't know. He's rather young, don't you think?"
"Older than you."
"By three months," she shot back. "He's still at university. He's not going to wish to marry soon."
His head tilted, and his gaze grew penetrating. "And you do?" he murmured.
Miranda fought the urge to leap over the side of the curricle. Surely there were some conversations a lady shouldn't have to endure.
Surely this had to be one of them.
"I would like to marry someday, yes," she said haltingly, hating that her cheeks were growing warm.
He stared at her. And he stared at her. And then he stared at her some more.
Or maybe it was barely a glance. She really couldn't tell any longer, but she was beyond relieved when he finally broke the silence- however long it had lasted- and said, "Very well. I shall consider it. I owe you that, at least."
Good Lord, her head was spinning. "Owe me what?"
"An apology, to begin with. What happened last night…It was unforgivable. It's why I insisted upon escorting you home." He cleared his throat, and for the barest of moments looked away. "I owe you an apology, and I thought you'd rather I did it in private."
She stared straight ahead.
"A public apology would require that we tell my family just what exactly I was apologizing for," he continued. "I didn't think you'd want them to know."
"You mean you don't want them to know."
He sighed and raked his hand through his hair. "No, I don't. I can't say I'm proud of my behavior, and I would rather my family didn't know. But I was also thinking of you."
"Apology accepted," she said softly.
Turner let out a long, weary sigh. "I don't know why I did it," he continued. "It wasn't even desire. I don't know what it was. But it wasn't your fault."
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