"I'm not certain I see the connection," Turner murmured.
"It's not Shakespeare," Miranda said.
Olivia shook her head. "Who else would it be?"
"Well," Miranda said, "any one of thousands of notable writers of the English language."
"Was this why you, er, tapped her in the ribs?" Turner inquired.
"Yes," Miranda replied, seizing the opportunity. Unfortunately, Olivia beat her by one half second with "No."
Turner looked from one to the other with an amused expression.
"It was about Winston," Olivia said impatiently.
"Ah, Winston." Turner looked about. "He's here, is he not?" Then he plucked Miranda's dance card from her fingers. "Why has he not claimed a dance or three? Aren't the two of you planning to make a match of it?"
Miranda gritted her teeth together and declined to answer. Which was a perfectly reasonable choice, as she knew that Olivia would not allow the opportunity to pass her by.
"Of course there is nothing official," she was saying, "but everyone agrees that it would be a splendid match."
"Everyone?" Turner asked softly, looking at Miranda.
"Who wouldn't?" Olivia replied with an impatient face.
The orchestra picked up their instruments, and the first strains of a waltz floated through the air.
"I believe this is my dance," Turner said, and Miranda realized that his eyes had not left hers.
"Shall we?" he murmured, and he held out his arm.
She nodded, needing a moment to regain her voice. He did things to her, she realized. Strange, shivery things that left her breathless. He need only to look at her- not in his usual, conversational way, but to really look at her, to let his eyes settle on hers, deeply blue and insightful, and she felt naked, her soul bared. And the worst of it all was- he had no idea. There she was, with her every emotion exposed, and Turner most probably saw nothing but the dull brown of her eyes.
She was his little sister's little friend, and in all likelihood, that was all she ever would be.
"You are leaving me here all alone, then?" Olivia said, not petulantly, but with a little sigh nonetheless.
"Have no fear," Miranda assured her, "you shan't be alone for long. I think I see your flock returning with lemonade."
Olivia made a face. "Have you ever noticed, Turner, that Miranda has quite the driest sense of humor?"
Miranda tilted her head to the side and suppressed a smile. "Why do I suspect that your tone was not precisely complimentary?"
Olivia gave her a dismissive little wave. "Off with you. Have a nice dance with Turner."
Turner took Miranda's elbow and led her out onto the dance floor. "You do have a rather odd sense of humor, you know," he murmured.
"Yes, but it's what I like best about you, so please don't change."
She tried not to feel absurdly pleased. "I shall contrive not to, my lord."
He winced as he put his arms around her for the waltz. "'My lord,' is it now? Since when have you grown so proper?"
"It's all this time in London. Your mother has been beating etiquette into me." She smiled sweetly. "Nigel."
He scowled. "I believe I prefer 'my lord.'"
"I prefer Turner."
His hand tightened at her waist. "Good. Keep it that way."
Miranda let out a little sigh as they lapsed into silence. As waltzes went, this one was fairly sedate. There were no breathless whirls, nothing that would leave her dizzy and spinning. And it gave her every opportunity to savor the moment, to relish the feel of her hand in his. She breathed in the scent of him, felt the heat from his body, and simply enjoyed.
It all felt so perfect…so perfectly right. It was almost impossible to imagine that he did not feel it, too.
But he didn't. She did not delude herself that she could wish his desire into being. When she looked up at him, he was glancing out at someone in the crowd, his gaze just a little bit clouded, as if he were working through a problem in his mind. It was not the look of a man in love. And neither was what followed, when he finally peered down at her and said, "You're not bad at the waltz, Miranda. In fact, you're really quite accomplished. I don't see why you were so nervous about it."
His expression was kind. Brotherly.
It was heartbreaking.
"I haven't had much practice recently," she improvised, since he seemed to be waiting for an answer.
"Even with Winston?"
"Winston?" she echoed.
His eyes grew amused. "My younger brother, if you recall."
"Right," she said. "No. I mean, no, I haven't danced with Winston in years."
She looked up at him quickly. There was something odd in his voice, almost- but not quite- a faint note of pleasure. Not jealousy, unfortunately- she didn't think he would care one way or another if she danced with his brother. But she had the strangest sensation that he was congratulating himself, as if he had predicted her answer correctly and was pleased by his astuteness.
Good heavens, she was thinking far too much. She was over thinking- Olivia was forever accusing her of it, and for once, Miranda had to concede that she was right.
"I don't often see Winston," Miranda said, hoping that a conversation would stop her from obsessing about completely unanswerable questions- such as the true meaning of the word really .
"Oh?" Turner prompted, adding a touch of pressure to the small of her back as they turned to the right.
"He's usually at university. Even now he's not quite done with his term."
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