Miranda waited through the exchange and then said to Winston, "It has been quite lovely. I only wish you were here more often to enjoy it with us."
Winston turned to her with a lazy smile that ought to have made her heart skip. "As do I," he said, "but I'll be down for part of the summer."
"You won't have much time for the ladies, I'm afraid," Turner put in helpfully. "If I recall, my summer holidays were spent carousing with my friends. Great fun. You won't wish to miss it."
Miranda looked at him oddly. He sounded almost too jolly.
"I'm sure it was," Winston replied. "But I'd like to attend some of the ton events, too."
"Good idea," Olivia said. "You'll want to acquire some town polish."
Winston turned to her. "I have sufficient polish, thank you very much."
"Of course you do, but there is nothing like actual experience to, er, polish a man."
Winston flushed. "I have experience, Olivia."
Miranda's eyes widened.
Turner stood in one smooth movement. "I do believe this conversation is rapidly deteriorating to a level that is not fit for gentle ears."
Winston looked as if he might like to say something more, but luckily for the cause of familial peace, Olivia clapped her hands together with a cheerful "Well said!"
But Miranda should have known better than to trust her- at least when matchmaking was on the table. And sure enough, she soon found herself on the receiving end of Olivia's most devious smile.
"Miranda," she said, rather too prettily.
"Didn't you tell me that you wanted to take Winston to that glove shop we noticed last week? They've the most amazingly well-made gloves," Olivia continued, directing this to Winston. "For both men and women. We thought you might need a pair. Weren't sure what sort of quality was available up at Oxford, you know."
It was quite the most obvious speech, and Miranda was sure Olivia knew it. She stole a glance at Turner, who was watching the proceedings with an air of amusement. Or maybe it was disgust. Sometimes it was difficult to discern.
"What do you say, dear brother?" Olivia said in her most charming voice. "Shall we go?"
"I can't think of anything I would enjoy more."
Miranda opened her mouth to say something, then saw the futility and shut it. She was going to kill Olivia. She was going to sneak into her bedroom and skin the meddling girl alive. But for now, her only choice was to agree. She did not wish to do anything that might lead Winston to believe she had romantic feelings for him, but it would be the height of insensitivity to attempt to wiggle out of the outing right in front of him.
And so, when she realized that three pairs of eyes were focused expectantly on her, there was nothing to do but say, "We could go today. It would be lovely."
"I'll join you," Turner announced, rising rather decisively to his feet.
Miranda turned to him with surprise, as did both Olivia and Winston. He had never shown interest in accompanying them on any of their outings back in Ambleside, and in truth, why should he have done? He was nine years their senior.
"I need a pair of gloves," he said simply, his lip curling slightly as if to say- Why else would I come along?
"Of course," Winston said, still blinking at the unexpected attention from his older brother.
"Good of you to suggest it," Turner said briskly. "Thank you, Olivia."
She did not look as if she were very welcome.
"It will be lovely to have you along," Miranda said, perhaps a touch more enthusiastically than she'd intended. "You don't mind, do you, Winston?"
"No, of course not." But he looked as if he did. At least a little bit.
"Are you almost done with your milk and biscuits, Winston?" Turner asked. "We ought to be on our way. It looks like it might cloud over in the afternoon."
Winston perversely reached for another biscuit, the largest one on the table. "We can take a closed carriage."
"I'm going to fetch my coat," Miranda said, standing up. "The two of you can decide on carriages and such. Shall we meet in the rose salon? In twenty minutes?"
"I'll escort you upstairs," Winston said quickly. "I need to retrieve something from my traveling case."
The pair left the kitchen, and Olivia immediately turned on Turner with an expression that was positively feline. "What is wrong with you?"
He regarded her blandly. "I beg your pardon?"
"I have been working with every breath in my body to make a match of those two, and you are ruining it all."
"Do try not to be such a thespian," he said with a brief shake of his head. "I am merely purchasing gloves. It won't stop a wedding, if indeed one is imminent."
Olivia scowled. "If I didn't know better, I'd think you were jealous."
For a moment, Turner could do nothing but stare. And then he found his sense- and his voice- and bit off, "Well, you do know better. So I will thank you not to make unfounded accusations."
Jealous of Miranda. Good Lord, what would she think of next?
Olivia crossed her arms. "Well, you were certainly acting strangely."
Turner had, in his lifetime, treated his younger sister in a number of ways. Generally speaking, he employed benign neglect. Occasionally, he adopted a more avuncular role, surprising her with gifts and flattery when it was convenient for him to do so. But the gap in their ages had ensured that he had never treated her as an equal, never spoken to her without first considering her a child.
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