"Your nerves?"

He gave her A Look. "You try them."

"Turner!" Olivia exclaimed. She turned to Miranda. "Miranda!"

But Miranda was still focused on Turner. "Could we go now?" she asked him, giving every impression of not having heard a word of their squabble. "I don't want that bookseller to forget about me."

"Judging from Olivia's rendition of your adventure," Turner said wryly, "I doubt that is likely to happen."

"But could we please go today? Please. Please ."

"You do realize you're begging."

"I don't care," she said promptly.

He pondered this. "It occurs to me that I could use this situation to my advantage."

Miranda gave him a blank look. "What would be the point of that?"

"Oh, I don't know. One never knows when one might want to call in a favor."

"Since I have nothing you could possibly want, I advise you to forget your nefarious plans and simply take me to the bookshop."

"Very well. Let's be off."

He thought she might jump with glee. Good Lord.

"It's not far," she was saying. "We can walk there."

"Are you certain I cannot come with you?" Olivia asked, following them into the hall.

"Stay," Turner ordered benignly as he watched Miranda charge the door. "Someone will need to call the watch when we don't return in one piece."

* * *
Ten minutes later, Miranda was standing in front of the bookshop from which she'd been ejected earlier that day.

"Gad, Miranda," she heard Turner murmur beside her. "You look a bit a frightening."

"Good," she replied succinctly, and she stepped forward.

Turner placed a restraining hand on her arm. "Allow me to enter before you," he suggested, an amused glint in his eye. "The mere sight of you may send the poor man into an apoplectic fit."

Miranda scowled at him but let him pass. There was no way the bookseller would best her this time. She'd come armed with a titled gentleman and a healthy dose of rage. The book was all but hers.

A bell jingled as Turner entered the shop. Miranda followed right behind him, practically stepping on his heels.

"May I assist you, sir?" the bookseller asked, all fawning politeness.

"Yes, I'm interested in…" His words trailed off as he looked around the store.

"That book," Miranda said firmly, pointing toward the display in the window.

"Yes, that's the one." Turner offered the bookseller a bland smile.

"You!" the bookseller spluttered, his face turning pink with ire. "Out! Get out of my shop!" He grabbed Miranda's arm and tried to drag her to the door.

"Stop! Stop, I say!" Miranda, not one to let herself be abused by a man she considered to be an idiot, grabbed her reticule and thwacked him on the head.

Turner groaned.

"Simmons!" the bookseller yelled out, summoning his assistant. "Fetch a constable. This young lady is deranged."

"I'm not deranged, you overgrown goat!"

Turner pondered his options. Really, there could be no good outcome.

"I'm a paying customer," Miranda continued hotly. "And I want to buy Le Morte d'Arthur !"

"I'll die before it reaches your hands, you ill-mannered trollop!"

Trollop? That was really too much for Miranda, a young lady whose sensibilities were usually more modest than one might have guessed from her current behavior. "You vile, vile man," she hissed. She raised her reticule again.

Trollop? Turner sighed. It was an insult he really couldn't overlook. Still, he couldn't let Miranda attack the poor man. He grabbed the reticule from her hand. She glared daggers at him for his interference. He narrowed his eyes and gave her a warning look.

He cleared his throat and turned to the bookseller. "Sir, I must insist that you apologize to the lady."

The bookseller crossed his arms defiantly.

Turner glanced at Miranda. Her arms were crossed in much the same manner. He looked back at the older man and said, a little more forcefully, "You will apologize to the lady."

"She is a menace," the bookseller said viciously.

"Why, you- " Miranda would have launched herself at him if Turner had not pulled her back with a quick grab to the back of her dress. The older man balled his fist and assumed a predatory stance that was quite at odds with his bookish appearance.

"You be quiet," Turner hissed at her, feeling the beginnings of fury uncurl in his chest.

The bookseller shot her a triumphant look.

"Oh, that was a mistake," Turner said. Good God, did the man have no common sense? Miranda jolted forward, which meant that Turner had to hold on to her dress even more firmly, which meant that the bookseller assumed even more of a smirk, which meant that the whole bloody farce was going to spiral into a full-blown hurricane if Turner did not settle the matter then and there.

He gave the bookseller his iciest, most aristocratic stare. "Apologize to the lady, or I will make you very sorry, indeed."

But the bookseller was clearly a raving idiot, because he did not accept the offer Turner had, in his estimation, so generously offered. Instead, he jutted his jaw belligerently and announced, "I have nothing for which to apologize. That woman came into my store…"

"Ah, hell," Turner muttered. There was no avoiding it now.

"…disturbed my customers, insulted me…"

Turner balled his hand into a fist and swung, clipping the bookseller neatly next to his nose.

"Oh my good Lord," Miranda breathed. "I think you broke his nose."


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