Then his hand reached her thigh, and she very nearly screamed.
"Shhh," he crooned, silencing her with a kiss. "You'll wake up the neighbors. You'll wake up my…"
It was like a bucket of cold water being dumped over him.
"Oh, my God ."
"What, Turner?" Her breath was coming in ragged gasps.
"Oh, my God. Miranda ." He said her name with all the shock that was flooding his mind. It was as if he'd been asleep, in a dream, and he'd been woken and-
"Turner, I- "
"Quiet," he whispered harshly, and he rolled himself off her with such force that he landed on the carpet beside her. "Oh, dear God," he said. And then again, because it bore repeating.
"Oh. Dear. God."
"Get up. You have to get up."
He looked down at her, which was a big mistake. Her nightgown was still gathered near her hips, and her legs- good God, who would have thought they'd be quite so lovely and long- and he just wanted to-
He shuddered with the force of his own refusal.
"Now , Miranda," he ground out.
"But I don- "
He yanked her to her feet. He didn't particularly wish to take her hand; frankly, he did not trust himself to touch her, however unromantic the grasp. But he had to get her moving. He had to get her out of there.
"Go," he ordered. "For love of God, if you have any sense, go ."
But she was just standing there, staring at him in shock, and her hair was mussed, and her lips were swollen, and he wanted her.
Dear Lord, he still wanted her.
"This will not happen again," he said, his voice tight.
She said nothing. He watched her face warily. Please, please don't let her cry.
He held himself ferociously still. If he moved, he might touch her. He wouldn't be able to help himself. "You'd better go upstairs," he said in a low voice.
She nodded jerkily and fled the room.
Turner stared at the doorway. Holy bloody hell. What was he going to do?
12 June 1819
I am without words. Utterly.
Turner woke up the next morning with a blistering headache that had nothing to do with alcohol.
He wished it had been the brandy. Brandy would have been a hell of a lot simpler than this.
What the hell had he been thinking?
Nothing. He obviously hadn't been thinking at all. At least not with his head.
He had kissed Miranda. Hell, he had practically mauled her. And it was difficult to imagine that there might exist anywhere in Britain a young woman less suitable for his attentions than Miss Miranda Cheever.
He was going to roast somewhere for this.
If he were a better man, he supposed, he would marry her. A young woman could lose her reputation for far less than this. But no one had seen , a little voice inside him insisted. No one knew but the two of them. And Miranda wouldn't say anything. She wasn't the sort.
And he wasn't a better man. Leticia had seen to that. She had killed whatever was good and kind inside him. But he still had his sense. And there was no way he was going to let himself anywhere near Miranda again. One mistake might be understandable.
Two would be his undoing.
Good God, he shouldn't even be thinking about three.
He needed distance, that was it. Distance. If he stayed away from Miranda, he couldn't be tempted, and she'd eventually forget about their illicit encounter and find herself some nice jolly fellow to wed. The image of her in another man's arms was unexpectedly distasteful, but Turner decided that was because it was early in the morning, and he was tired, and he'd kissed her only six or so hours earlier, and-
And there could be a hundred different reasons, none of them important enough to examine further.
In the meantime, he'd have to avoid her. Maybe he should leave town. Get away. He could go to the country. He hadn't really meant to remain in London very long, anyway.
He opened his eyes and groaned. Had he no self-control? Miranda was an inexperienced chit of twenty. She wasn't like Leticia, wise to all of her womanly skills, and willing to use them to her advantage.
Miranda would be tempting, but resistible. Turner was man enough to keep his head around her. All the same, he probably ought not to be living in the same house. And while he was making changes, perhaps it was time to inspect the women of the ton this year. There were many discreet young widows. He'd been far too long without female company.
If anything could help him forget one woman, it was another.
* * *
"Turner is moving out."
"What?" Miranda had been arranging flowers in a porcelain vase. It was only through agile hands and tremendous good luck that the precious antique did not go crashing to the ground.
"He's already gone," Olivia said with a shrug. "His valet is packing his things right now."
Miranda set the vase back on the table with achingly careful fingers. Slow, steady, breathe in, breathe out. And then finally, when she was certain she could speak without shaking, she asked, "Is he leaving town?"
"No, I don't believe so," Olivia said, settling down on the chaise with a yawn. "He'd not meant to remain in town this long, so he is taking an apartment."
He was taking an apartment? Miranda fought against the horrible, hollow feeling that was sinking in her chest. He was taking an apartment. Just to get away from her.
It would have been humiliating if it weren't so sad. Or maybe it was both.
"It's probably for the best," Olivia continued, oblivious to her friend's distress. "I know he says he will never marry again- "
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