She gave him that owlish stare of hers, and then she blinked, and- it was the strangest thing- it was almost as if she were clearing her head before she said, in quite the most conversational tone, "It does seem that everyone is trying to make a match of us."
"Hardly the person I'd turn to for romantic advice."
"So you don't think I should set my cap for Winston," she said, leaning forward.
Turner blinked. He knew Miranda, and he'd known her for years, which was why he was quite certain that she had not adjusted her position with the intention of showcasing her surprisingly lovely bosom. But rather distractingly, that had been the end result.
"Turner?" she murmured.
"He's too young," he blurted out.
"For anyone. Good God, he's barely twenty-one."
"Actually, he's still twenty."
"Exactly," he said uncomfortably, wishing very much there was some way to adjust his cravat without looking like a fool. It was starting to feel rather warm, and it was getting difficult to keep his attention focused on something other than Miranda without being obvious about it.
She sat back. Thank God.
And she said nothing.
Until finally he could not help himself. "Do you intend to pursue him, then?"
"Winston?" She appeared to be pondering it. "I don't know."
He snorted. "If you don't know, then clearly you should not."
She turned and looked him directly in the eye. "Is that what you think? That love should be obvious and clear?"
"Who said anything about love?" His voice was slightly unkind, which he regretted, but surely she understood that this was an untenable conversation.
He had the unpleasant sensation that she'd judged him, and he'd come up lacking. A conclusion that was reinforced when she returned her attention to the book in her lap.
And he sat there, like an idiot, really, just watching her read her book, trying to devise some sort of cunning remark.
She looked up, her face irritatingly placid. "Do you have plans for the afternoon?"
"None," he bit off, even though he had had every intention of taking his gelding out for a trot.
"Oh. Winston is expected soon."
"It's why we were talking about him," she explained, as if that mattered. "He is coming for my birthday."
"Yes, of course."
She leaned forward again, God help him. "You did remember?" she asked. "We are to have a family supper tomorrow evening."
"Of course I remembered," he muttered, even though he had not.
"Hmmm," she murmured, "thank you for your thoughts, anyway."
"My thoughts," he echoed. What the devil was she talking about now?
"About Winston. There is much to consider, and I did wish for your opinion."
"Well. Now you have it."
"Yes." She smiled. "I'm glad. It is because I have such great respect for you."
Somehow she was managing to make him feel like he was some kind of ancient relic. "You have great respect for me?" The words slipped distastefully off his tongue.
"Well, yes. Did you think I wouldn't?"
"Frankly, Miranda, most of the time I have no idea what you think," he snapped.
"I think about you ."
His eyes flew to hers.
"And Winston, of course. And Olivia. As if one could live in the same house with her and not think about her." She snapped her book shut and stood. "I imagine I should go seek her out. She and your mother are at odds over some frocks Olivia wishes to order, and I promised to aid the cause."
He stood and escorted her to the door. "Olivia's or my mother's?"
"Why, your mother's, of course," Miranda said with a laugh. "I'm young, but I'm no fool."
And with that, she departed.
10 June 1819
Odd conversation with Turner this afternoon. It was not my intention to try to make him jealous, although I suppose it could have been interpreted that way, if anyone knew of my feelings for him, which of course they do not.
It was my intention, however, to inspire certain notions of guilt as pertains to
Le Morte d'Arthur. In this, I do not believe I succeeded.
Later that afternoon, Turner returned from a ride in Hyde Park with his friend Lord Westholme, only to find Olivia loitering in the main hall.
"Shush," she said.
It was enough to pique anyone's interest, and so Turner immediately went to her side. "Why are we being quiet?" he asked, refusing to whisper.
She shot him an angry glare. "I'm eavesdropping."
Turner could not imagine upon whom, as she was edged up against the stairwell that led down to the kitchens. But then he heard it- a lilt of laughter.
"Is that Miranda?" he asked.
Olivia nodded. "Winston just arrived, and they have gone downstairs."
Olivia peered around the corner, then snapped back to face Turner. "Winston was hungry."
Turner yanked off his gloves. "And he needs Miranda to feed him?"
"No, he's gone down for some of Mrs. Cook's butter biscuits. I was going to join them, as I hate being left alone, but now that you're here, I believe I'll let you keep me company instead."
Turner glanced past her down the hall, even though he couldn't possibly see his brother and Miranda. "I'm rather hungry myself," he murmured thoughtfully.
"Abstain," Olivia ordered. "They need time."
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