"A fine lot of good that'll do you once it's soaked from your shirt," he commented.
"I don't have much choice, do I?"
"That's up to you, I suppose. As for me, I'm drying off." His fingers went to the buttons on his shirt.
"Maybe I should go to the other room," she whispered.
Turner noted that she didn't move an inch. He shrugged, and then he shrugged his shirt off entirely.
"I should go," she whispered again.
"Then go," he said. But his lips curved.
She opened her mouth as if to say something, then closed it. "I- " She broke off, a look of horror crossing her features.
"I should go." And this time she did, leaving the room with alacrity.
Turner shook his head as she left. Women. Did anyone understand them? First she said she loved him. Then she said she wanted to seduce him. Then she avoided him for two days. Now she looked terrified.
He shook his head again, this time faster, his hair spraying water across the room. Wrapping one of the blankets around his shoulders, he stood in front of the fire and dried himself off. His legs felt damned uncomfortable, though. He shot a sidelong look at the door. Miranda had shut it behind her when she left, and given her present state of maidenly embarrassment, he doubted she'd enter without knocking.
He peeled off his breeches with great haste. The fire began to warm him almost immediately. He glanced again at the door. Just to be on the safe side, he lowered the blanket and tucked it around his waist. It looked a bit like a kilt, actually.
He thought again about the expression on her face just before she'd run from the room. Maidenly embarrassment and something else. Was it fascination? Desire?
And what had she been about to say? It hadn't been "I should go," which was what she did say.
If he had stepped up to her, taken her face in his hands, and whispered, "Tell me," what would she have said?
3 July 1819
I almost told him again. And I think he knew it. I think he knew what I was going to say.
Turner was so busy thinking about how much he'd like to touch Miranda- anywhere and everywhere- that he completely forgot that she must be freezing her backside off in the other room. It was only when he realized that he was finally toasty warm that it occurred to him that she was not.
Cursing himself up and down and ten times for an idiot, he stood up and strode to the door that she had shut between them. He yanked it open and then uttered another stream of curses when he saw her huddled on the floor, shaking with near violence.
"You little fool," he said. "Are you trying to kill yourself?"
She looked up, her eyes widening at the sight of him. Turner suddenly remembered he was barely dressed.
"Bugger it," he muttered to himself, then shook his head in exasperation and hauled her to her feet.
Miranda snapped out of her daze and began to struggle. "What are you doing?"
"Shaking some sense into you."
"I'm perfectly fine," she said, though her shivers proved her a liar.
"The devil you are. I'm freezing just talking to you. Come by the fire."
She looked longingly at the orange flames crackling in the next room. "Only if you stay here."
"Fine," he said. Anything to get her warm. With a slightly less than gentle prod, he pointed her in the right direction.
Miranda stopped near the fire and held her hands out. A low moan of contentment escaped her lips, traveling across the room and punching Turner right in the gut.
He stepped forward, mesmerized by the pale, almost translucent skin of the back of her neck.
Miranda sighed again, then turned around to warm her back. She jumped away an inch, startled by the sight of him standing so close. "You said you'd leave," she accused.
"I lied." He shrugged. "I haven't the least bit of faith that you'll dry yourself off properly."
"I'm not a child."
He glanced down at her breasts. Her day dress was white, and plastered to her skin as it was, he could just make out the dark blush of her nipples. "Clearly, you are not."
Her arms flew to her chest.
"Turn around if you don't want me looking at you."
She did, but not before her mouth fell open at his audacity.
Turner stared at her back for a long moment. It was nearly as lovely as the front of her had been. The skin on her neck was somehow beautiful, and a few tendrils of her hair had escaped her coiffure and were curling from the damp. She smelled like wet roses, and it took all his strength not to reach out and slide his hand down the length of her arm.
No, not her arm, her hip. Or maybe her leg. Or maybe-
He took a ragged breath.
"Is something wrong?" She didn't turn around, but her voice sounded nervous.
"Not at all. Are you warming up?"
"Oh, yes." But even as she said that, she shivered.
Before Turner could give himself the chance to talk himself out of it, he reached out and unfastened her skirt.
A strangled yelp emerged from her mouth.
"You'll never get warm with this thing clinging to you like an icicle." He started to pull the fabric down.
"I don't think…I know…This really…"
"This is a very bad idea."
"Probably." The skirt fell to the floor in a sodden heap, leaving her clad in her thin chemise, which clung like a second skin.
"Oh, my God." She tried to cover herself, but she obviously didn't know where to start. She crossed her arms, then moved one hand down to cover where her legs met. Then she must have realized that she wasn't even facing him, so she reached around and put her hands on her backside.
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