She came running back around front. "I'm right here." She hurried into the house and shut the door behind her.

"What the devil were you doing out there?"

"Being a far kinder person than you could imagine," she muttered, now wishing she'd gone through the window.


"Just looking around," she said. "Did you damage the door?"

"Not very much. The deadbolt is broken, though."

She winced. "Did you hurt your shoulder?"

"It's fine." He peeled off his sodden coat and hung it on a peg on the wall. "Take off your…" He motioned to her light pelisse. "…whatever it is you call that."

Miranda hugged her arms to herself and shook her head.

He gave her an impatient look. "It's a bit late for missish modesty."

"Someone could come in at any moment."

"I doubt it," he said. "I imagine they're all safe and warm in Lord Chester's study, gazing upon all of the heads he's got mounted on the wall."

Miranda tried to ignore the lump that had just sprouted in her throat. She'd forgotten what an avid hunter Lord Chester was. She quickly scanned the room. Turner was correct. Not a white envelope in sight. No one was likely to stumble across them anytime soon, and from the looks of it outside, the rain had no intention of letting up.

"Please tell me you're not one of those ladies who chooses modesty over health."

"No, of course not." Miranda shrugged off her pelisse and hung it on the peg next to his. "Do you know how to build a fire?" she asked.

"Provided we've dry wood."

"Oh, but there must be some here. It's a hunting lodge, after all." She looked up at Turner with hopeful eyes. "Don't most men like to be warm while they hunt?"

"After they hunt," he corrected absently as he looked around for wood. "And most men, Lord Chester included, I imagine, are sufficiently lazy that the short trip back to the main house is far more preferable than putting in the effort to build a fire here."

"Oh." Miranda stood still for a moment, watching him as he moved about the room. Then she said, "I'm going to go into the other room to see if there are any dry clothes we can use."

"Good idea." Turner watched her back as she disappeared from sight. The rain had plastered her shirt to her body, and he could see the warm, pink tones of her skin through the wet material. His loins, which had been unbelievably cold from the soaking, grew hot and heavy with remarkable speed. He cursed and then stubbed his toe as he lifted the lid off a wooden chest to look for wood.

Dear God, what had he done to deserve this? If he had been handed a pen and paper and ordered to compose the perfect torture, he would never have come up with this. And he had a very active imagination.

"I found some wood in here!"

Turner followed the sound of Miranda's voice into the next room.

"It's over there." She pointed to a pile of logs near a fireplace. "I reckon Lord Chester prefers to use this fireplace when he's here."

Turner eyed the large bed with its soft quilts and fluffy pillows. He had a fairly good idea why Lord Chester preferred this room, and it did not involve the somewhat portly Lady Chester. He immediately put a log in the fireplace.

"Don't you think we ought to use the one in the other room?" Miranda asked. She, too, had seen the large bed.

"This one has obviously seen more use. It is dangerous to use a dirty chimney. It could be clogged."

Miranda nodded slowly, and he could tell that she was trying very hard not to look uncomfortable. She continued to look for dry clothing while Turner attended to the fire, but all she found were some scratchy-looking old blankets. Turner watched as she draped one over her shoulders.

"Cashmere?" he drawled.

Her eyes widened. She hadn't, he realized, been aware that he had been looking at her. He smiled, or really, it was more of a baring of his teeth. Maybe she was uncomfortable, but damn it, so was he. Did she think this was easy for him? She'd said she loved him, for God's sake. Why the devil had she gone and done that? Did she know nothing about men? Could it be possible that she didn't understand that that was the one thing guaranteed to terrify him?

He didn't want to be entrusted with her heart. He didn't want the responsibility. He'd been married. He'd had his own heart crushed, stomped upon, and tossed in a flaming rubbish heap. The last thing he wanted was custody of someone else's, especially Miranda's.

"Use the quilt on the bed," he said with a shrug. It had to be more comfortable than what she'd found.

But she shook her head. "I don't want to muss it. I don't want anyone to know we were here."

"Mmm, yes," he said unkindly, "I'd have to marry you then, wouldn't I?"

She looked so stricken that he muttered an apology. Good Lord, he was turning into someone he didn't particularly like. He didn't want to hurt her. He just wanted to-

Hell, he didn't know what he wanted. He couldn't even think more than ten minutes into the future, just then, couldn't focus on anything beyond keeping his hands to himself.

He busied himself with the fire, letting out a satisfied grunt when a tiny orange flame finally curled around a log. "Easy now," he murmured, carefully setting a smaller stick near the flame. "There we are, there we are…and- yes !"


"Got the fire burning," he mumbled, feeling a trifle foolish for his excitement. He stood and turned. She was still clutching the threadbare blanket around her shoulders.


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