She shrugged, marveling at how he'd managed to make her feel so carefree and happy in such a short time. "Don't tell your mother. She thinks me a saint."
"Compared to Olivia, I'm sure you are."
Miranda wagged her finger at him. "Nothing bad about Olivia, if you please. I'm quite devoted to her."
"Faithful as a hound you are, if you'll excuse my less than attractive simile."
"I adore hounds."
And it was then that they arrived at Miranda's home.
I adore hounds . That would be her final comment. Wonderful. For the rest of his life, he would associate her with dogs.
Turner helped her down and then glanced up at the sky, which had begun to darken. "I hope you don't mind if I do not walk you in," he murmured.
"Of course not," Miranda said. She was a practical girl. It was silly for him to get wet when she was perfectly able to let herself into her own home.
"Good luck," he said, hopping back up into his curricle.
"London, life." He shrugged. "Whatever you wish."
She smiled ruefully. If he only knew.
19 May 1819
We arrived in London today. I swear I have never seen the like of it. It is big and noisy and crowded and actually rather smelly.
Lady Rudland says we are late. Many people are already in town, and the season began over a month ago. But there was nothing to be done- Livvy would have looked dreadfully ill-bred to be out and about when she is meant to be mourning Leticia. As it is, we cheated a bit and came early, although only for fittings and preparations. We may not attend events until the mourning is complete.
Thank heavens only six weeks were required. Poor Turner must do a year.
I have quite forgiven him, I'm afraid. I know I should not, but I cannot bring myself to despise him. Surely I must hold some kind of record for the longest stint of unrequited love.
I am pathetic.
I am a hound.
I am a pathetic hound.
And I waste paper quite dreadfully.
Turner had planned to spend the spring and summer in Northumberland, where he could decline to mourn his wife with some degree of privacy, but his mother had employed an astonishing number of tactics- the most lethal being guilt, of course- to force his hand and compel him to come down to London in support of Olivia.
He had not given in when she had pointed out that he was a leader in society and thus his presence at Olivia's ball would ensure attendance by all the best young gentlemen.
He had not given in when she had said that he shouldn't molder away in the country, and it would do him good to be out and about among friends.
He had, however, given in when she had appeared on his doorstep and said, without even the benefit of a salutation, "She's your sister ."
And so here he was, at Rudland House in London, surrounded by five hundred of, if not the country's finest, at least its most pompous.
Still, Olivia was going to have to find a husband from among this lot, Miranda, too, and Turner was bloody well not going to allow either one of them to make a match as disastrous as his own had been. London was teeming with male equivalents to Leticia, most of whom began their names with Lord This or Sir That. And Turner quite doubted that his mother would be privy to the more salacious of the gossip that ran through their circles.
Still, it didn't mean that he would be required to make too many appearances. He was here, at their debut ball, and he'd squire them about now and then, perhaps if there was something at the theater he actually cared to see, and beyond that, he'd monitor their progress from behind the scenes. By the end of summer, he'd be done with all this nonsense, and he could go back to-
Well, he could go back to whatever it was he'd been thinking about planning to do. Study crop rotation, perhaps. Take up archery. Visit the local public house. He rather liked their ale. And no one ever asked questions about the recently departed Lady Turner.
"Darling, you're here!" His mother suddenly filled his vision, lovely in her purple gown.
"I told you I would make it in time," he replied, finishing off the glass of champagne he'd been holding in his hand. "Weren't you alerted to my arrival?"
"No," she replied, somewhat distractedly. "I have been running about like a madwoman with all the last-moment details. I'm sure the servants did not wish to bother me."
"Or they could not find you," Turner remarked, idly scanning the crowd. It was a mad crush- a success by any measure. He did not see either of the guests of honor, but then again, he'd been quite content to remain in the shadows for the twenty minutes or so he'd been present.
"I have secured permission for both girls to waltz," Lady Rudland said, "so please do your duty by both of them."
"A direct order," he murmured.
"Especially Miranda," she added, apparently not having heard his comment.
"What do you mean, especially Miranda?"
His mother turned to him with no-nonsense eyes. "Miranda is a remarkable girl, and I love her dearly, but we both know that she is not the sort that society normally favors."
Turner gave her a sharp look. "We both also know that society is rarely an excellent judge of character. Leticia, if you recall, was a grand success."
"And so is Olivia, if this evening is any indication," his mother shot back tartly. "Society is capricious and rewards the bad as often as the good. But it never rewards the quiet."
It was at that moment that Turner caught sight of Miranda, standing near Olivia by the door to the hall.
Near Olivia, but worlds apart.
It wasn't that Miranda was being ignored, because she surely was not. She was smiling at a young gentleman who appeared to be asking her to dance. But she had nothing like the crowd surrounding Olivia, who, Turner had to admit, shone like a radiant jewel placed in its proper setting. Olivia's eyes sparkled, and when she laughed, music seemed to fill the air.
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