Turner shot her a scathing glance before looking down at the bookseller on the floor. "I don't think so. He isn't bleeding enough."
"Pity," Miranda muttered.
Turner grabbed her arm and hauled her up close to him. The bloodthirsty little wench was going to get herself killed. "Not another word until we get out of here."
Miranda's eyes widened, but she wisely shut her mouth and allowed him to pull her out of the store. As they passed by the window, however, she caught sight of Le Morte d'Arthur and burst out, "My book!"
That was it . Turner slammed to a halt. "I don't want to hear another word about your damned book, do you hear me?"
Her mouth fell open.
"Do you understand what just happened? I struck a man."
"But wouldn't you agree he needed striking?"
"Not half as much as you need throttling!"
She drew back, clearly affronted.
"Contrary to whatever it is that you think of me," he bit off, "I don't go about my days pondering when and where I might next be reduced to violence."
"But nothing , Miranda. You insulted the man- "
"He insulted me!"
"I was handling the matter," he said between clenched teeth. "That's why you brought me here, to handle everything. Isn't that so?"
Miranda scowled and moved her chin in a sharp, reluctant nod.
"What the devil was the matter with you? What if that man had had less restraint? What if- "
"You thought he showed restraint?" she asked, dumb-founded.
"At least as much as you did!" He grabbed her shoulders and almost began to shake. "Good God, Miranda, you do realize that there are many men who would not blink an eye before striking a woman? Or worse," he added meaningfully.
He waited for her answer, but she was just staring at him, her eyes huge and unblinking. And he had the most unsettling feeling that she saw something that he did not.
Something in him .
And then she said, "I'm sorry, Turner."
"For what?" he asked less than graciously. "For making a scene in the middle of a quiet bookstore? For not keeping your mouth shut when you should have? For- "
"For upsetting you," she said quietly. "I'm sorry. It was not well done of me."
Her soft words cut cleanly through his anger, and he sighed. "Just don't do anything like that again, will you?"
"Good." He realized that he was still clutching her shoulders and loosened his grip. Then he realized that her shoulders felt quite nice. Surprised, he let go altogether.
She tilted her head to the side as a worried expression crossed her face. "At least I think I promise. I shall certainly try not to do anything to upset you like that."
Turner had a sudden vision of Miranda trying not to upset him. The vision upset him. "What has happened to you? We depend upon you to be levelheaded. Lord knows you've steered Olivia out of trouble more than once."
Her lips pressed together, and then she said, "Don't confuse levelheaded with meek, Turner. They're not the same thing at all. And I am certainly not meek."
She wasn't being defiant, he realized. She was simply stating fact- one that he suspected his family had overlooked for years. "Have no fear," he said wearily, "if ever I entertained the notion that you were meek, you have certainly disabused me of it this afternoon."
But God help him, she wasn't done. "If I see something that is so obviously wrong ," she said earnestly, "I can hardly sit by and do nothing."
She was going to kill him. He was sure of it. "Just try to stay away from obvious mischief. Could you do that for me?"
"But I didn't think this was particularly mischievous. And I did- "
He held up his hand. "No more. Not another word on the topic. It'll take ten years off my life just talking about it." He took her arm and steered her toward home.
Dear God, what was wrong with him? His pulse was still racing, and she hadn't even been in any danger. Not really. He doubted the bookseller could have got a good punch in. And furthermore, why the devil was he so worried about Miranda? Of course he cared about her. She was like a little sister to him. But then he tried to imagine Olivia in her place. All he could feel was mild amusement.
Something was very wrong if Miranda could make him this furious.
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"Winston will be here soon." Olivia sailed into the rose salon on that statement, bestowing upon Miranda her sunniest of smiles.
Miranda looked up from her book- a dog-eared and decidedly unglamorous copy of Le Morte d'Arthur she'd borrowed from Lord Rudland's library. "Really?" she murmured, even though she knew very well that Winston was expected that afternoon.
"Really?" Olivia mimicked. "Is that all you can say? Pardon, but I was under the impression you were in love with the boy, oh, excuse me- he's a man now, isn't he?"
Miranda returned to her reading. "I told you I'm not in love with him."
"Well, you should be," Olivia retorted. "And you would be, if you would deign to spend some time with him."
Miranda's eyes, which had been resolutely moving over the words on the page, slammed to a halt. She looked up. "I beg your pardon. Isn't he in Oxford?"
"Well, yes," Olivia said, waving off the comment as if the sixty miles' distance was of no consequence, "but he was here last week, and you barely spent any time with him."
"That's not true," Miranda replied. "We rode in Hyde Park, went to Gunter's for ices, and even took a boat out into the Serpentine that one day it was actually warm."
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