"He said that?" Miranda froze. How was it possible she did not know this? She knew he'd said he wasn't looking for a wife, but surely he had not meant forever.
"Oh, yes," Olivia replied. "He said so the other day. He was quite adamant. I thought Mother would have a fit over it. As it was, she very nearly swooned."
"Your mother?" Miranda was having difficulty imagining it.
"Well, no, but if her nerves were less constitutional, surely she would have done."
Most of the time Miranda enjoyed her friend's meandering manner, but just now she wanted to throttle her.
"Anyway," Olivia said, sighing as she settled into a reclining position, "he said he will not marry, but I am quite certain he will reconsider. He must simply get past the grief." She paused, glancing over at Miranda with a wry expression. "Or the lack thereof."
Miranda smiled tightly. So tightly, in fact, that she was fairly certain it ought to be termed something else altogether.
"But despite what he says," Olivia continued, settling back down and closing her eyes, "he certainly will never find a bride whilst living here. Goodness, how could anyone court in the company of a mother, father, and two younger sisters?"
"Well, one, of course, but you might as well count as a second. He certainly cannot behave in any manner he might like to behave while you are in his presence."
Miranda did not know if she ought to laugh or cry.
"And even if he does not choose a bride anytime soon," Olivia added, "he ought to take a mistress. Surely that will help him forget Leticia."
Miranda did not see how she could possibly comment.
"And certainly he cannot do that while he is living here ." Olivia opened her eyes and propped herself up on her elbows. "So really, it is all for the best. Wouldn't you agree?"
Miranda nodded. Because she had to. Because she felt too stunned to cry.
19 June 1819
He has been gone a week now, and I am quite beyond myself.
If he had just left- that, I could have forgiven. But he has not come back!
He has not called upon me. He has not sent a letter. And although I hear whispers and gossip that he is out and about and being seen in society, he is certainly never seen by me. If I am in attendance at an event, then he is not. Once I thought I saw him from across a room, but I cannot be certain, as it was only his back as he made his departure.
I don't know what I may do about all of this. I cannot call upon him. It would be the height of impropriety. Lady Rudland has forbidden even Olivia from visiting him; he is at The Albany, and it is strictly gentlemen. No families or widows.
"What do you plan to wear to the Worthington ball tonight?" Olivia asked, splashing three sugars into her tea.
"Is that tonight?" Miranda's fingers tightened around her teacup. Turner had promised her he'd attend the Worthington ball and dance with her. Surely he wouldn't renege on a promise.
He would be there. And if he wasn't…
She would simply have to make sure he was.
"I'm wearing my green silk," Olivia said. "Unless you want to wear your green dress. You do look lovely in green."
"Do you think so?" Miranda straightened. Suddenly it was imperative that she look her absolute best.
"Mmm-hmm. But it wouldn't do for both of us to wear the same color, so you'll have to decide soon."
"What do you recommend?" Miranda wasn't hopeless when it came to fashion, but she would never have as good an eye as Olivia.
Olivia tilted her head to the side as she examined her friend. "With your coloring, I do wish you could wear something more vivid, but Mama says we are still too new. But maybe…" She jumped up, snatched a pale sage green pillow from a nearby chair, and held it up under Miranda's chin. "Hmmm."
"Are you planning to redecorate me?"
"Hold this," Olivia ordered, and she backed up several steps, letting out a ladylike "Euf!" when her foot caught on a table leg. "Yes, yes," she murmured, catching her balance with the arm of the sofa. "It's perfect."
Miranda looked down. And then up. "I'm to wear a pillow?"
"No, you will wear my green silk. It is precisely the same color. We shall have Annie take it in today."
"But what will you wear?"
"Oh, anything," Olivia said with a wave of her hand. "Something pink. The gentlemen always seem to go mad for pink. Makes me look like a confection, I'm told."
"You don't mind being a confection?" Because Miranda would hate it.
"I don't mind them thinking it," Olivia corrected. "It gives me the upper hand. There is often benefit in being underestimated. But you…" She shook her head. "You need something more subtle. Sophisticated."
Miranda picked up her tea for one last sip, then stood, smoothing out the soft muslin of her day frock. "I should go try it on now," she said. "To give Annie time to make the alterations."
And besides that, she had some correspondence to attend to.
* * *
Turner was discovering, as he tied his cravat with nimble fingers, that his talent for the invective was broader and deeper than he'd realized. He'd found a hundred things to malign since he'd received that blasted note from Miranda earlier that afternoon. But most of all, he was cursing himself, and whatever sodding sense of honor he still possessed.
Attending the Worthington ball was the height of folly- quite the most asinine thing he could possibly do. But he couldn't bloody well break a promise to the chit, even if it was for her own good.
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